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A simple request when Friday night football returns to normal this week — be respectful

  • Friday night will mark the opening of the 2021 high school football season.
  • This season, games will be held without fan restrictions, despite the COVID surge.
Central York vs St. Joseph's Prep during PIAA Class 6-A Football Championship action at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. St. Joseph's Prep would win the title game 62-13. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Friday night, high school football will return — in all its glory — for the first time in two years.

Yes, there was a York-Adams League football season last year, but it was a pale imitation of what we’ve come to expect. The pageantry was gone.

We can thank the COVID-19 pandemic for that.

Crowds were banned outright or severely restricted. The regular season was shortened and limited to just York-Adams League games. The number of playoff qualifiers was cut way back. And various teams had to deal with COVID outbreaks that caused games to be postponed or canceled outright.  

Return to normalcy: This Friday night, a return to relative normalcy is expected. There won’t be any fan restrictions and the stands will be crowded. The bands will be playing and the cheerleaders will be screaming. The players are again looking forward to full regular season and complete playoff brackets.

Some are certainly questioning the wisdom of returning to the full Friday night football experience, given our current COVID surge fueled by the delta variant. In fact, one area school, Biglerville, has already announced it won’t play its season opener because of a COVID issue within its program.

York-Adams team pauses football activities, loses season opener, because of COVID issue

Nevertheless, the debate about whether to go forward with a normal Friday night football experience has been decided. The games will go on, just as they have for decades.

We just ask one thing of everyone heading out on Friday night — be respectful.

Don’t shame the masked: It’s highly likely that the majority of the fans in the stands will be unmasked. That’s been the case at most local outdoor sporting events during the pandemic, which is hardly surprising in conservative York County.

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There will, however, likely be a few fans wearing masks, as a way to protect themselves and protect others. The masked folks may also seem a bit stand-offish as they try to maintain some social distance. Frankly, we wish more people would follow their leads. Other than vaccines, masks and social-distancing are our best defenses against the pandemic.

Still, the masked will almost certainly be significantly outnumbered. Given that likelihood, we are asking the unmasked majority to treat the masked minority with civility. No snide remarks about “chin diapers.” No jeers about “sheep” or “snowflakes.”

Remember, the masked among us are still our neighbors.

They also have the freedom to make their own health-care decisions, such as wearing a mask during a pandemic and maintaining social distance.

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That should resonate with the unmasked crowd, which likes to shout about their freedoms being impinged anytime anyone mentions any kind of pandemic protocol.

Leave the political talk at home: Also, let’s leave the political debates at home Friday night.

High school football should provide a welcome respite from the harsh rhetoric of our partisan divide.

Talk about the game. Talk about the players. Talk about the performances of the band and the cheerleaders. Talk about Aunt Betty and Uncle Bob.

Talk about anything but politics.

We can all use the rest from the never-ending war of words.

Let’s keep things friendly: Oh, and one other thing. Let’s put a real emphasis on sportsmanship.

Cheer for your team, but don’t boo the opponent. Don’t scream about the officials’ calls, the coaches’ decisions or the players’ mistakes.

Remember, the official, coach or player you are berating may have a mother, father or spouse sitting within earshot.

Instead, let’s make this Friday a true celebration of community.

Hopefully, for one night, we can all remember our common human decency.