Back on the field 16 hours later is the real safety issue

The next time I hear some school administrator mouth the words, "it's a safety issue," I'm going to stick a finger in each ear and make that loud "NANANANANA" sound until the blathering is over.

Safety issues.

Good one.

"Safety" is slowly becoming a glorified buzzword, a prisoner to the far more practical concepts of expedience, convenience and Cover Thy Own Ascot.

The latest example is tethered to the dreaded Eastern Equine Encephalitis scourge in Stonington that halted Friday night's high school football game at 5:45 p.m., 15 minutes shy of the school's deadline to end the game. The game was suspended after three quarters.

And then resumed Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

It gave a bunch of high school kids, who had their brains beaten in on a football field for two hours, virtually zero recovery time.

So we'll protect them from a bunch of obscure mosquitoes, but tell them it's permissible to get back on the field 16 hours later, in spite of the requisite bumps, bruises, sprains, cramps and discomforts the physicality of football games produce?

The game began at 4 p.m. Friday. Mass hysteria required the kids get off the field, inside and into their body armor by 6 p.m. I'm not sure who was dumb enough to think a high school football game could be completed in two hours. But since that was the prevailing wisdom, the game should have been declared over after three quarters.

There is no way — none — those kids should have been on the field 16 hours later.

THAT is not safe.

This comes at a time when football-related injuries have caused dizzying levels of decreased participation in the sport across the country. At a time when people act as though having the kids hit during practice is a bigger affront to humanity than Apartheid. Ah, but in the names of convenience and expediency, we trot them out there again. Sixteen hours later.

"There's a reason we don't play back-to-back days," Montville coach Tanner Grove said. "It's Week 1 so there's a lot of injuries and cramping. ... I've never seen anything like this. I know that the schools are trying to do what they believe is right. The problem I have is I think they set us up to fail.

"To play a high school football game in less than two hours? There was no way that was going to happen. It's definitely a very bizarre situation. I don't think it's great for either team."

Ya think?

Then there's this: Multiple attendees of Friday's game reported seeing kids on the Stonington campus still playing soccer and flag football — as the Montville buses left for home.

A more cynical fellow might go, "I'll take disorganized for 800, Alex."

But that's a more cynical fellow.

I'll stay here: I spoke to a number of trainers and doctors Friday night into Saturday afternoon. They were all in agreement that high school kids engaging in the typical rhythms of football contact with 16 hours' rest is a bad idea. Rest and recovery are paramount, they said, especially as young bodies, not fully developed, continue to mature.

And while we're here: I spent Friday night in the People's Republic of East Lyme. Got to the football field at 5 p.m. Left at 9. Didn't see one bug of any kind. Turfed fields, with no grass and no flowers, rarely attract bugs anyway. When I left it was 54 degrees. The mosquitoes were home either building a fire or laughing hysterically at their newfound influence.

And what mosquito in its right mind would want to be around a high school football player in full uniform, sweating and generally smelling like a port-o-potty at 5 p.m. on a 95-degree day?

I mean, could you imagine Morty the Mosquito flying up to some sweaty lineman and going, "dude ... really?"

But this is what happens when you're not expected to bring any sense of proportion to these stories. Just panic and lunacy, all wrapped in the cloak of "safety."

Ah, safety. That old thing. Where panic over the infinitesimal odds of a bug bite forces high school kids to start playing football again 16 hours later.

Worse, the people making these decisions probably make a lot more money than the rest of us do.

Oh, well. Beg your pardon, as the old song goes, nobody ever promised us a rose garden. Besides, there might be deadly mosquitoes in there anyway.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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