Sure, it’s game day…but when is it showtime?

Wine recommendation for this post:
For a post about the arts I have to recommend something zesty with a fair bit of flair. Frontera ‘After Dark’ Malbec 2019 is a natural choice not only for it’s flavor profile and very approachable price point, but also because it’s a member of a wine collection partnered with Spotify to provide curated playlists for your wine drinking experience. No need to decant this Malbec, as it’s smooth and balanced right out of the bottle with notes of dark stone fruit and blackberry paired with mild spiciness and a smooth and smokey finish. Available widely through major distributors including Total Wine and Trader Joe’s at around $5, it’s not going to break the bank either! As for the playlist, it’s an interesting idea to curate music to go with the wine drinking experience. This one features artists from Justin Timberlake to Prince to Gladys Knight. Don’t ask what particular aspect of the wine the music relates to, though it’s not a bad set to jam with

I was an athlete in high school…

I played four years of golf and ran four seasons of track. I was a captain. I was awarded six varsity letters. I was offered a place in a Division Three golf program that might have been fun had I not routinely suffered from performance anxiety rooted in other people’s expectations and my own perfectionism.

Instead I became an obscure athlete in college. I took up doubles badminton and won two university intramural championships with my partner. As I faced the stresses of my semester of student teaching, I gradually took up distance running.

Post marathon 2019

The summer before I started my first full school year of teaching, I ran my first two half marathons. The next summer, I ran my first two triathlons. There have been three additional triathlons, 18 half marathons, and three full marathons since then.

All this to say, I get it! I get the draw of sports as a move towards something “normal” in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. I get how the threat of losing college game day on Saturday, and a packed slate of NFL matchups on Sunday felt like a final straw of sorts in a year that has been one slap in the face after another. I get the heartbreak of weekend warrior athletes, training for their goal road race only to find that their marathon, half marathon, or 5k moved to a virtual format. I get it. No one qualifies for the Boston Marathon hoping they can run it in their own neighborhood! I get that college athletes worried about scholarships and future professional opportunities. I get that it’s healthy for high school athletes to have an outlet for the energy, frustration, and anxiety of adolescence.

And because I get it, it shouldn’t really surprise me that people were willing to move heaven and earth to make sure sports would go on. They created bubbles, developed multi-million dollar testing schemes, and emptied stadiums to protect their athletes. In Minnesota, high school volleyball and football were cancelled because of the risks, but at the first opportunity of what looked like a slightly safer season with fewer spectators and masks on the sidelines, they reinstated both sports at the beginning of October. Keeping those high school stadium lights off on Friday night was simply untenable. The COVID-19 pandemic had touched everything, changed everything, but when it came to sports, well we just weren’t willing to let that go with some kicking and screaming.

I don’t blame the athletes or coaches or managers that fought for their seasons, nor do I blame the doctors and trainers and officials that made it possible for them to go out and play.

But I do resent, at least slightly, that this is what was prioritized in “reopening.”

In my own experience this fall played out like this, a small microcosm compared to how it’s playing out in other parts of the country.

Pre-musical 2019

As a high school theater director, this fall provided the same back to school challenges that many coaches faced. Could we have a show? Could we have an audience? Could we sing? Would we need to wear masks on stage? How many students could participate? How would we keep set pieces, costume pieces, props, microphones, and stage equipment safe and clean?

Music programs faced the same questions. Marching bands, pep bands, choirs, and ensembles, all worked to navigate a season of socially distanced, masked and virtual rehearsal and performance options.

Few people were banging down the door for the arts the way they banged down the door for sports. When the Minnesota State High School League reinstated the football and volleyball seasons later than they normally would have run, nobody asked or discussed what those seasons might now interrupt. No one considered that not only was the outdoor production that my high school was planning for the end of October now in conflict with a football game, but also that the football and volleyball players that had auditioned for our unusual production now had near nightly rehearsal conflicts with a practice schedule.

And while on our very small high school scale, we’ve worked to adjust and reschedule and plan a new production that will hopefully still allow everyone to participate, on a much larger scale, there just hasn’t been the championing of the arts the way there has been for sports.

The NBA bubble was novel, no doubt. But where’s the Broadway bubble?

Hours of debate ensued over how college sports could be played. Where was the equal concern over college actors and musicians?

In moments of national heartbreak and tragedy, we’ve often turned to sports for solace. It’s fitting that the NY Yankees went to the world series the October after September 11th. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl just a few years removed from Hurricane Katrina was seen as the triumph of the city’s rebirth. The Houston Astros did the same for their city just months after Hurricane Harvey.

But championships and physical victories are merely one measure of resilience. In that first Yankees game post 9/11, it wasn’t the inspired play of the pitcher that brought tears to American’s eyes, it was the vocal performances of the national anthem and “God Bless America.” And a whole lot of people are watching the Super Bowl purely for the spectacle of the half time show!

The biggest thrill of my pandemic summer wasn’t that baseball returned, it was that Hamilton made it to Disney+. Josh and I had a “date night” at the “theater,” and halfway through the show, I felt a mounting sadness that the stage on which they performed so passionately…was dark right now.

A clean stage after set strike, fall 2019

So many stages are dark right now!

So don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched football games, checked box scores, and celebrated victories with the student athletes in my classes who are thrilled to have a small semblance of normalcy in their lives again. But I’ve also commiserated with my colleagues in the arts, tried to reimagine how my own program can run this year, and mourned the opportunities we looked forward to, particularly with our senior members, who won’t get the final bows and applause they deserve.

We all miss going places…but I miss calling places five minutes before the lights go down and the curtain goes up.

And so while I get that it’s great to have game day back…

…I hope we’ll all fight to get showtime back too.

Published by Kate

A former Wisconsinite, Kate now resides in southeast Minnesota with her husband where she teaches high school English and theater. She has a master's degree in learning design and technology and has continued graduate-level work in equity, reading and writing instruction, and student/staff self-care and mental wellness. A recipient of the RISE America grant for high school theater, Kate works to expand arts opportunities for her own students and is an advocate for expanded arts programming across the state and country. An avid distance runner, pianist, and would-be wine aficionado, Kate describes her blog "Bin 33" as, "An easy, and occasionally snarky, conversation with a good friend over a glass of wine!"

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