By Brian Hoffman – Sports Editor
I’m taking the mask off. I’m fully vaccinated and it’s time.
Ever since the coronavirus struck back in March of 2020 I’ve been counting the days since all sports shut down as we knew them. You remember. It was the second week of March last year and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly thereafter, the NCAA basketball tournament was cancelled and the NBA and Major League Baseball spring training was put on hold. NASCAR followed, and before you could say “Doctor Anthony Fauci” there was nothing going on in the sports world.
At that point everyone and the Lone Ranger was expected to wear a mask. My wife bought some cool material and broke out our old sewing machine and started making masks for our extended family members. I had my picture taken in a Philadelphia Phillies “powder blue” mask and I’ve been using that for my column head for well over a year.
Well, this week will be 476 days AG, or “After Gobert,” and we’re not totally back to normal, but we’re close. The Major League Baseball stadiums and Haley-Toyota Field here in Salem are back to 100 percent capacity again, and the big leagues are playing all 162 games. The NFL and college football are on pace to have normal seasons with normal fans, if painting your face maroon and orange is a normal thing.
You can eat inside without a mask, you can go to the movies again and I just passed the two-week mark where I didn’t wear a mask in the grocery store, and thought nothing of it.
I’m not saying we’re totally normal. The little stickers on the floor at the drugstore are still telling me to stay six feet back, but at least no one gives you a dirty look if you don’t. And if I get a peanut stuck in my throat and cough people still back away. But that’s nothing compared to last year at this time.
I’ve been busy here at the paper. For over a year I had little sports news to cover, writing features and columns and whatever photos I could find. Since the high school sports returned in January I’ve not only been busy, but swamped. As you know they stuck the fall high school sports, football, volleyball, golf and cross country, between the winter and spring sports. And Roanoke College did the same. You know, in a two-week span in March every single sports team at Roanoke College played some kind of game or scrimmage.
And I love it. I’d much rather be busy than sitting at home on the porch reading magazines and watching the birds. It took 476 days but I’m actually feeling normal enough to take the mask off the column head.
But let me warn you, don’t get too comfortable. I’m hearing about this Delta strain and how it’s worse and spreads faster, and you’re at serious risk if you don’t get vaccinated. I don’t want to go back to sitting on the porch and watching the birds again, so please consider getting the shot if you haven’t done so. If you believe the experts, and I do, it’s the best chance we have to keep things “normal” again.
And then if someone asks, “ Who was that masked man?” – it probably WAS the Lone Ranger.
Morgan Marshall honored
Morgan Marshall, a 2021 graduate of James River High School, has been selected as a recipient of an Allstate Foundation/VHSL Achievement Award. The $1,500 scholarship goes to students who our outstanding in athletics, academics and community service.
Marshall participated in volleyball, indoor track, outdoor track, soccer and even was a kicker on the Knights’ football team this past season. She was also crowned Homecoming Queen at halftime of one of the football games. Congratulations Morgan, you’re leaving big shoes (cleats) to fill.
Harper earns chance to play with the pros
Ashton Harper, a rising Lord Botetourt High junior golfer, has earned a chance to play in the Pro-Junior Amateur Division of the PGA Tour’s PURE Insurance Championship in Pebble Beach, Calif. in September. Harper will be paired with a tour professional for three competitions in the 54-hole event.
Ashton earned the trip by winning the First-Tee National Championship tournament last week in Clemson, S.C. He defeated 23 other hopefuls, winning in a playoff.
CORRECTION: In last week’s article about the Lord Botetourt softball team it mentioned that centerfielder Halle Reese threw a girl out at second base in the seventh inning of the Cavaliers’ Region 3D championship win over Cave Spring. It was actually right fielder Riley Shupe who threw the ball to get an assist on the big play.