- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

Drew Singletary, a middle linebacker for Washington's Dunbar High School, is sidelined. So are senior classmen elsewhere in the city, and in suburban Maryland and Virginia. And who knows when we'll get another glimpse of the standouts in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. On Wednesday, the conference postponed its games indefinitely.
So goes prep sports in the Washington region since the sniper attacks. Dark and quiet football fields. Hopes dashed. Dreams of college deferred.
Isn't there some way to restore fields of dreams?
To be sure, there are lot of reasons to be fearful these days. America is probably going to go to war with Iraq. White- and blue-collar workers are losing their jobs. What we thought were rock-steady investments are barely holding up. The shootings, meanwhile, have us looking over our shoulders, nervous that a gunman might be sitting beside us at a traffic light or peering at us through the dead-on scope of his high-powered rifle. We find measurable comfort in the words of Fairfax Police Chief J. Thomas Manger who said the sniper will be caught and in the immeasurable resources expended by local, regional and federal authorities.
But in the 13 months since the September 11 attacks, nothing has us more justifiably jittery than the ordinariness of the sniper attacks.
A man pumping gas. A woman sitting on a bench. A boy on his way to school. Victims, along with six others, of the piercing attacks.
One of the first signs of safety concerns showed itself on our outdoor playing fields, where football games and, in some instances, homecoming games, where wiped off school calendars. The postponed and canceled games will hit schools and the student-athlete hard for different reasons. The schools depend on ticket sales from prep sports to field teams, while the players depend on college recruiters and potential scholarships.
Many public and parochial schools have particular rivalries and games that are big draws. In Washington, for instance, the annual Turkey Bowl, played on Thanksgiving Day, is a longstanding tradition. About 6,000 students, families and alumni from the region attend the championship game, which pits the best of the west against the best in the east. The game is sponsored by the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association and grosses about $30,000. But this year, the postponements and cancellations threaten that tradition and, consequently, dampen school and community spirit.
Most unfortunate, though, are the senior student-athletes who depend on this season's play to help them win the attention of college scouts and earn scholarships.
Drew Singletary, for example, is from a city in coastal Georgia. He left family and friends in Kingsland, which has a community college, to live with an aunt in Washington and finish school at Dunbar. He certainly chose the right school to finish his senior year, since Dunbar is a four-time DCIAA champ. It and a few other powerhouses in the Washington area always draw college scouts. Similarly, more than a few seniors fulfill their dreams by winning athletic scholarships. Often, they are the first in the families to attend college.
Understandly, the real fears spinning from the sniper attacks and the perception that no school is safe are honest concerns. After all, games sometimes run long past sunset, and that leaves thousands of students left to find their way home safely in the dark.
But there's got to be a way.
As I mentioned earlier, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference has indefinitely postponed all games indoor and outdoor. That means we might not see the legendary Morgan Wooten and DeMatha Stags basketball team do their thing which would be a shame. We might not see the award-winning Bob Headen and H.D. Woodson's Lady Warriors of the DCIAA do theirs, either.
And, what about high school track and swim teams, which depend on concession sales during football season? Will some schools not be able to field teams or travel out of town now that those funds are lost?
I'm hardly one of those folks who thinks we should throw caution to the wind and say let the children play regardless of the potential danger. But we figured out how to ensure safety at the Olympics, World Series and Super Bowl. Surely we can figure out how to ensure the safety of our children at their school's games.
There's got to be a way.

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