Bernadeau: Here’s hoping this winter isn’t like last spring for local sports

To get through COVID-related restrictions, we need to be smart

Patrick Bernadeau mug (4).jpg
West Central Tribune sports writer Patrick Bernadeau

As a person who has lived his last few years in this part of the country, I can’t believe I’m going to utter the following:

Gosh, I hope this upcoming winter isn’t like this past spring.

I’ll double down and say bring on a normal Minnesota winter, even if it means waking up on certain days where the high outside is minus-5 degrees.

Those sentiments are all pandemic related, of course. And more specific to the world I work in, I hope student athletes are allowed a safe and responsible opportunity to compete this winter.

But with coronavirus cases continuing to rise, I can’t help but have a sense of déjà vu dating back to the time when this pandemic hit our collective radar in this country.


Back then, when we were all trying to adjust our new normal, the girls and boys basketball seasons abruptly ended while spring sports never got rolling.

Last week, Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 across the state. Effective at 11:59 p.m. last Friday, the fall sports season prematurely ended before football finished its postseason and before volleyball closed its regular season. Additionally, the winter sports calendar was put on hold until Dec. 18, at least.

This all comes after a wild and strange fall in which schedule changes were frequent and many players and staff on our local teams tested positive for the virus.

Now, as we play the waiting game, a few questions remain.

Will Walz reopen youth sports? Will the Minnesota State High School League be forced to implement any more changes? Most importantly, have we, the public, learned enough over the last eight months to do our part to curb the spread?

The last question would be hard to believe.

Photo Gallery: Montevideo Thunder Hawks at New London-Spicer

There’s been too much disagreement and defiance about this subject. There’s a fair amount of people that don’t believe in masks and believe they do more harm than good. The election hysteria is to blame, but way too many people believed COVID-19 would disappear after election night.


That’s how widespread the views of a pandemic have been.

I wholeheartedly understand the strains this has put on all of us, financial and otherwise, but behavior and awareness is well within our control. You would think, having already experienced a state shutdown, that we’d all be more considerate of those two items.

However, it took one night after Gov. Walz’ announcement to confirm my doubts.

In the last volleyball match I covered this season, I sat in stands at a social distance to take photos.

About 10 feet to my right were a group of parents sitting together. One particular overzealous parent caught my attention. He was the type of parent that you don't want to be: the one that screams at the referees and stomps his feet like when a call doesn’t go his team’s way.

Photo Gallery: Watertown-Mayer Royals at Litchfield Dragons

After one child-like outburst, he took venom out of the opposing team’s fan section. As the opponents were set to take a two-set advantage, the fans began chanting “start the busses.” The grown man had a clunky, albeit fair response back: “At least we’re wearing masks.”

He was right in his criticism as some fans in that section didn’t bother with a mask. He had me in his corner until I looked at him. He had his mask on, but it wasn’t covering his nose, rendering it virtually useless. Also, many of the parents in that group weren’t wearing masks, either.


People stink and we have to do better.

Yet, coming from a vintage point of covering activities over the past three months, I still have faith for this winter.

Photo Gallery: Melrose Dutchmen at Montevideo Thunder Hawks

That one incident at that volleyball match does not represent the lengths most students, coaches, organizers and fans took to make the fall sports season possible.

I was impressed whenever I saw athletic directors walk through the stands to make sure fans were wearing their masks. I was further impressed by stories of athletes taking the lead in making sure fellow teammates were following protocols. From coaches barking out instructions through a mask to athletes sitting on the bench six feet apart, efforts were made to ensure that the games went on.

And the games were still canceled.

In the spring, I often was asked what it was like to be a sports writer during a pandemic. I replied with the same answer over and over again: it’s hard to be a sports writer when there’s no sports. I admit on the front end that my hope for a winter season is in part that it makes my life and my job so much easier.

It was a joy to cover games again. It was a pleasure to talk to athletes and coaches about what they were doing on their field of play. That’s much better than hearing their responses, sometimes through tears, of what it was like to be sidelined. That was something I appreciated, something I was thankful for.


Photo Gallery: Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted at Benson Braves

Safety should always be the priority, no matter what. With that, I hope that the winter isn’t a repeat of the spring. I just hope we all do our part to make the games a reality again.

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