What’s next?

The simple answer is I don’t know and no one else does.

This health emergency caused by the COVID-19 outbreak has caused everything to change.

Last week I had planned on covering El Campo vs. Needville, both massive games for baseball and softball. With wins for both softball and baseball, El Campo would have had the leg up in the race for the district championship. Wharton boys soccer are district champions and still have one game left to play. Under normal circumstances, their district season would be over and they’d be getting ready for the playoffs.

Those games along with everything else has been pushed back until May, at minimum.

Like the athletes around the county, coaches and fans, I too am waiting for the latest UIL update.

I think it’s safe to say we all want to know what’s next.

This has gone beyond a short-term problem, but are we nearing the end or is the finish line so far out in front that we still can’t even see it yet?

By order of the governor, schools will be closed until April 4, and the UIL has gone a step farther to not allow games until a month after that. However, they did say practices could occur when school gets going again, but no guidance has been given for that, as of press time.

Outside of playing some junior college basketball - you’ll have to ask me about it one day, I was never an athlete, but El Campo native and former Ricebird John Paul Appling was. The former Ricebird feels for the local athletes who put in the work and now wait for what’s next.

“I’d be thinking, when are we going to get back on the field to practice and play games,” Appling said. “It would be very frustrating (to not know).”

Appling, who’s been a supporter of the Ricebirds since the 1930s, is left, like the rest of us, to ponder what do we do now. During any normal year, you could find Appling, along with many other fans out in the bleachers cheering on the Ricebirds and Ladybirds at baseball and softball games. Now he watches re-runs of M.A.S.H. because there isn’t even pro sports on TV.

“This is very strange because there are no sports on whatsoever and you don’t know when they are coming back,” Appling said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

These indeed are strange times.

Not only is there nothing locally to support and go out and watch when you are home you can’t even turn on the TV to watch, the Rockets, or check out an Astros spring training game. I mean this is desperate times, I’ll settle for some tennis, or golf, really anything at the moment, but there is nothing by re-runs of classic games on TV.

With no sports, you and I sit and wait for a time when we can return to a little bit of normalcy. Sports for me isn’t just a job, it’s something I’m truly passionate about.

As an unbiased observer, wins or losses don’t really matter to me. I am a stories person and while I have no personal stake in the sports here, like Appling, I feel for the El Campo, Louise and Wharton seniors and athletes who thought they had a whole season to tell their story. But with each passing day, that story becomes smaller and smaller. If the world-wide COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t get under control, the season very well could just end and that would be a sad story for everyone.

As badly as I wish there were games not only being played but also some sports on TV to watch, I know this boredom will pass, eventually.

As of press time Tuesday, there are now three cases of COVID-19 in Wharton County.

Over a month is a long time to be without sports in El Campo. However, it’s a whole lot better than what some other countries are experiencing right now.

With a little hand-washing and social distancing, hopefully, Wharton County seniors will be able to take the field once again and finish the story, some have been watering their whole life.

Sports are fun and Wharton County needs fun back.

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