Parent speaks out about allowing high school sports during pandemic

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 5, 2020


WEST BLOOMFIELD — You can count local author Mike Isenberg as one who is not in favor of the decision to allow certain sports.

Isenberg’s work as an author includes two “If These Walls Could Talk” books, one featuring Detroit Tigers’ stories and the other centering on the Detroit Lions.

One of Isenberg’s points of contention is that West Bloomfield High School students are not currently getting an in-person education due to COVID, yet sports are still allowed.

“They’re getting a lesser education, there’s no two ways about it,” Isenberg said. “And if that’s what it has to be because we have to keep the kids safe, OK. But why in the world are we letting football players play, or other sports, too? Ludicrous.”

At press time, the MHSAA boys and girls basketball seasons were scheduled to go forward, and that decision has gotten Isenberg’s attention.

He shared his rationale for his disagreement with that decision.

“If I’m sweating, I wipe my face, and then you pass me the ball, now my sweat’s on the ball, and now it’s in your hands,” Isenberg said. “I think that there’s a lot of danger in basketball that people don’t realize. I would argue that basketball and football are the two biggest concerns. … It just seems ludicrous to me that we’re (going to) take a risk on that.”

WBSD Superintendent Dr. Gerald Hill said, “We’ve been going along with what the MHSAA guidance has been and following their protocols.”

“(The) MHSAA is getting a lot of feedback from various parties,” Hill said. “Right now, they’re saying we’re (going to) go forward with winter sports, starting sometime in November, but there’s been a lot of discussions, I’ll put it that way, statewide, with the Michigan High School Athletic Association. They continually analyze that aspect of it.”

The fact that winter sports are played inside has not escaped Hill’s attention.

“The challenge, of course right, now: most of the fall sports were outside,” he said. “The winter sports are inside sports. That presents a little different challenge.”

Isenberg’s daughter is currently a senior at West Bloomfield. He said she is “very involved” with high school theater but can’t currently participate “because the school’s not doing it.”

“It’s insulting. … You can do plays and you can distance the people. All we care about, though, is the sports. As long as they play, we don’t care. And that’s a lousy attitude,” Isenberg said.

Isenberg’s disagreement with the decision extends beyond a real or perceived double standard.

He said he’s concerned about the sports players. “These are student-athletes; they’re not athlete-students. … They are high school kids, and to expose them to this … I’m concerned about the athletes from a health standpoint. And from a fairness standpoint, I’m concerned about people like my daughter.”

Geoff Kimmerly, of the MHSAA, said players “have to have some sort of face covering” that covers both the nose and the mouth during game action and while on the bench.

Whether or not players test positive for COVID is information the MHSAA may not be privy to.

“The (county) health department makes certain decisions on if a team needs to quarantine the entire team or just a pot of players,” Kimmerly said. “There’s a whole bunch of factors. … Schools aren’t required to tell us that they had a COVID case.”

Stacy Brickman, who is the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education president, weighed in on the MHSAA’s decision.

“We know that extracurricular athletics and activities are important to our students, and in many ways, they are their favorite part of school,” Brickman wrote via email. “Our student-athletes and coaches know that following the strict safety measures both on and off the field will help to ensure that everyone will be able to safely play the sport that they love.”

However, with COVID-19, Isenberg prefers a “better safe than sorry” approach.

“I would at least delay everything until January and see what happens,” he said. From his perspective, it seems contradictory to allow sports but not school. “Anybody who would look at that would see that’s a hundred percent unreasonable.”