Unintended consequences sure to follow fan limit

Unintended consequences sure to follow fan limit

What are we doing?

Seriously, as we see parents and relatives of high school football players peeking over bushes and between holes in the fence, that is the only question that comes to mind. What in the heck are we doing?

Imagine waking up from a 10-month coma and going to Vigilante Stadium in Helena to see Butte High fans crammed together, stretching their necks to get a glimpse of the action as the Bulldogs open their season inside a mostly-empty stadium.

You would not believe the explanation. You would think you woke up in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode.

Yet, that is where we are.

When they saw the Bulldog fans outside the stadium in Helena, the safe and responsible thing for health officials to do would have been to invite them the fans in so they could space out safely and watch the game. That would have made it much less likely that any of them caught or spread the deadly virus.

Yes, health officials in Helena had the best interest of the entire community in mind when they made a rule to only allow two fans for each home player into the stadium. The same is true for the same rule in Butte.

However, it is kind of like the 24-hour stores deciding to close its doors at 8 p.m. in response to the virus. The intentions were good, but the crowded aisles and checkout lines that resulted actually created a more dangerous scenario.

A similarly potentially dangerous situation is certainly a possibility at Naranche Stadium Friday night when the Bulldogs play their first home game. The stadium has some places where fans can watch outside from Main Street and Wyoming Street.

Fans without tickets will surely fight for those spots.

The unintended consequences of the super-small crowd allowance will almost certainly cause an even bigger headache than if we would allow, say, 500 home fans and 100 road fans.

The last time the Bulldogs played inside that stadium, we saw a crowd of 10,000 pack the place for the Class AA state championship.

If we get a few hundred trying to watch it from outside — which is a definite possibility — then we have a potential for some real trouble.

Would it not be better if we let them inside so they do not stand so close to each other? Would it not be easier for the police, who have better things to worry about than pushing proud grandparents away from their football stars?

Throughout this coronavirus pandemic, the inconsistencies have been maddening. Those stem from an overall lack of leadership from the very top down coupled with a communal lack of discipline.

While some Class A football teams in Montana are playing in front of packed houses, Class AA schools only play in front of a handful of supporters.

While we should feel much safer living in a county where the health officials take the pandemic seriously, it is hard to wrap our head around the vast differences in high school football.

It is also very hard to overlook some serious flaws in the overall scheme of things.

For instance, how is it OK for us to send the athletes into the fire, without a mask, blocking and tackling athletes from other communities, yet it is not safe for masked and distanced fans to watch the game?

That is like letting the drivers of the Indy 500 race without wearing seat belts and helmets while forcing the fans to buckle up in the bleachers.

Surely the Class AA stadiums are all big enough to allow the parents of each home player, grandparents too, while allowing the parents of the opposition. They are also big enough to give the students — at least the seniors — an area to watch while keeping a safe distance and cheer on their friends.

It is, after all, OK for the students to be in a classroom together for six hours each day. That just might be more dangerous than the Dog Pound at Naranche.

There is also nothing, other than a strong suggestion, keeping those same students from gathering at the parks while the game is going on. At least at a football game, there would be administrators there to make them wear a mask.

Look, it is crazy for those Class A schools to allow such big crowds. It is grossly irresponsible of the leaders to allow it, and it is just as unwise for the fans to go a long and play Russian roulette with the lives of people they come in contact with.

It is also shortsighted for larger communities to not recognize that their strict limitations will lead to other problems.

The good thing about the games being played is that the student-athletes actually get to play. We should all be grateful for that, and we should all do everything in our power to keep the players safe and keep the games going on.

That means following the advice of the health officials, and ours have been better than most.

It sure would be nice, however, if every game did not feel like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

— Bill Foley, who swears there is something on the wing, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74 1 comment

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1 Comment

  • SubZero
    September 15, 2020, 3:09 pm

    Fans don’t need to be there. No one needs to watch sport. Go home and stay there.


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