Depending on when you read this and where you are, you’re either cleaning up after a snowstorm (it’s currently snowing) or it’s going to snow tomorrow — and probably all three. Winter is finally here.
The snowstorms notoriously wreak havoc on the basketball schedule, and this year is no different. There’s already a large number of games waiting to be made up — some have already been rescheduled three times — and the storms are just now starting. I just started my snowblower for the first time Monday.
At the end of Monday night, there were, by my count, 64 games waiting to be made up. And that’s not including the dozens already rescheduled into the future. Most of these are from the past week or so, but there are games from December that haven’t been rescheduled and there’s at least a handful of Class D games that have vanished from the schedule entirely, hopefully to show up as a final score over the next couple of days.
It’s a mess.
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There’s a scene in “Cheers” where Carla makes fun of the regulars for being surprised every year by winter, and it really feels like that sometimes. Who could have guessed we’d get a run of snowstorms in late January? And yet every year, games get pushed from December to the last week of January for any number of avoidable reasons. They get pushed because there’s a power outage, the bus broke down,the roads aren’t ideal, there was no school but everything cleared up or one team’s best player has the flu.
Virtually all of these games should have been played by now, but they weren’t. And now you’ve got situations where teams have nine games to play, there’s 15 dates left on the schedule, and Keith Carson keeps coming up with more snowfall maps.
Some teams have played 14 games, while others have played nine. And it’s not because one exists in a special microclimate where it doesn’t snow. Different schools have different priorities. One school will postpone because they’ve only got eight varsity players and another school will call up junior varsity kids to put in the starting lineup because all of their starters are out. Some schools won’t schedule a back to back because apparently 16-year-old kids need load management. Meanwhile, Kents Hill just played a doubleheader separated by an hour-long bus ride.
It’s like the Wild West. But it doesn’t have to be.
In other states, if a game gets postponed due to the weather, it has to be played on the next available date. Not in three weeks. Tomorrow. By rule. That would certainly help, as there are plenty of open dates on the calendar in December and early January. That rule usually works in conjunction with a rule limiting how many games a team can play in a week, which means teams can’t let the schedule get to the point where they might have to play five games in the final week.
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But the most interesting rule is right next door in New Hampshire. In the Granite State, you aren’t allowed to reschedule a game into the last week of the season, and if for some reason you need to, both teams have to submit a letter outlining the reasons to the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association’s executive director. And if for some reason you can’t play a game on your schedule, you don’t just delete it and move on. It’s a forfeit. For both teams.
We don’t have to deal with this chaos every year.
Teams need to be more responsible and proactive in making sure games get played. As the great philosopher George Costanza would say, “we’re living in a society here.” But when they won’t, the Maine Principals’ Association should absolutely get involved. Requiring that games are made up the next day is a simple, common-sense solution.
But there’s no shortage of working models around the country and all of them are better than making kids squeeze five games into the final week of the regular season because the adults didn’t realize it might snow in Maine.