Friday was a triumphant day, and also a pretty sad day, for Local Sports Journal.
A few weeks ago, when the Michigan High School Athletic Association left the door open to the possibility of having high school football this fall, we decided to go ahead and publish our annual football preview.
We did it because we love all high school sports, and prep football has a special place in our hearts. We did it because we saw the kids out on the practice fields, working hard to condition and get ready for a season they desperately hoped would happen.
We also did it as a fundraiser. Like most small businesses, LSJ has taken a big financial hit during the pandemic, so we decided to sell the previews for $5 apiece to help us get going again.
On Friday morning, we did the final proofreading of the football preview. On Friday afternoon we sent it off to the printer. About one minute after hitting the send button, an emailed press release came in from the MHSAA, announcing there will be no high school football this fall.
In one way that bad news did not bring us down, because we met our goal and completed the preview before the season was called off, if only by 60 seconds or so. The full-color 52-page magazine will roll off the presses early this week, and will be in the mail to everybody who ordered one.
Yet the cancellation of the season was still pretty devastating. A lot of people don’t fully understand what has been lost. High school football is a lot more than a fun game for kids to play and local folks to watch. It’s a huge character-builder for the young student-athletes.
Some friends of mine have a son who was struggling a little bit a few years ago. He was never a bad kid. He just had the type of attitude problems that are typical among teens, and struggled with respect for adults.
Then he joined his school’s football program, loved it right away, and the change in his personality was like night and day. Everyone noticed how he transformed into a helpful and respectful young man in just a few short years.
Football did that. The self-discipline, hard work and focus that the game demands, and the accountability that the coaches demand, made a huge difference for that kid.
The MHSAA is saying there will football in the spring. We certainly hope that’s true, particularly for the seniors, most of whom have been playing for years, and only have one more season left. The vast majority will not go on to play college football, and unlike college players, they won’t get an extra year of eligibility if they can’t play this school year.
Obviously there was nothing anyone could do to alter the decision of the MHSAA. The people who run it made the call they felt they had to make, and we respect that.
All we could do was fulfill our end of the bargain and publish our annual preview, about the teams that were ready to roll if the MHSAA had given them the green light. That didn’t happen, but we feel like we honored them by documenting who they are and what they were working toward. We believe it was worth it.
Now we will move to covering the fall school sports that apparently are going to be played – soccer, volleyball, tennis, golf, cross country and swimming. We are grateful those athletes will be allowed to compete, and we’re excited about giving them extra great coverage this fall.
We will be able to do that because of the money we raised from the football preview. We owe a HUGE THANK YOU to all the readers who ordered a copy, particularly those who gave quite a bit more than the minimum donation of $5. Their generosity meant a great deal.
We owe an even BIGGER THANK YOU to our many advertisers who stuck with us and purchased ads in the football preview, despite the uncertainty. Like us, they acted out of love for the schools, the students, and the sports they play. Our LSJ advertisers are the best, and very much deserve your patronage!