In my final game as a high school athlete 25 years ago our baseball team won the third game of a state championship series to win our third straight state championship.
And I can tell you without hesitation that if my opportunity to play that game had been taken away from me, I would have felt cheated and angry beyond words.
That nightmare scenario is now a reality for the seniors in the class of 2020, and it’s a reality that is still difficult to fathom.
For those 46 senior athletes at the four county schools, the season did not end on the field. It ended with a press conference in Montgomery, when governor Kay Ivey and state school superintendent Eric Mackey closed schools statewide last Tuesday as part of the worldwide fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
For many this illness is a direct threat to their existence, a literal life and death struggle. As I type this over 40,000 people worldwide have died, and there is no minimizing that tragedy.
Fortunately, for the vast majority of us, our role in that life and death struggle amounts to nothing more than an unprecedented social experiment.
There is nothing in our lifetime that has universally shut down schools, ended sports seasons and created a prevailing social environment where everyone is encouraged and/or required to just stay home.
I say all that as a preface to this.
I think if there’s one thing that high school students want out of their senior years, it’s to create memories that will last a lifetime. Well what’s more memorable than a nationwide social shutdown that has literally never happened before in this country on this scale? Seniors are possibly going to be cheated out of their prom. Senior athletes will not be able to complete their seasons. Gatherings for graduation ceremonies are in jeopardy. And I know if I were a senior this year I would be grieved over the loss of those rites of passage that almost universally bond those of us who grow up in the American culture.
I went through all of those things 25 years ago, but you know what? I can’t remember who spoke at my high school graduation. I probably can’t even tell you everyone that was on that state championship baseball team without looking at the team picture. I got a ring for that title, and I have no earthly idea where it is.
Ten years from now you seniors could be talking about the things that you didn’t know you forgot, but instead, for better or for worse, you’ll be talking about what may be the most memorable senior year in the modern history of this country. Everywhere you go when people ask you what year you graduated from high school, your answer will become a conversation piece. And for those who graduate this year you will have a bond with all the other millions of high school seniors throughout the nation that only you will understand.
You didn’t ask for this, you didn’t bring it upon yourselves. This isn’t God’s judgment on our planet or your senior class. It’s just a crappy thing that has happened. But I guarantee you this. You’ll never forget the way your senior year came to an end, and it’s a safe bet you’ll be the only ones to have this unique experience.