Rolling into West Boise last week for my 12-year-old’s season-opening Friday Night Flag football game, I was armed with a mask.
And, within minutes, confusion.
Hundreds of spectators lined the fields next to Tree City Church, 3852 N. Eagle Road. They stood in groups. Cheered from camp chairs. Coaches huddled with kids to call plays.
Virtually nobody wore a mask.
It was like stepping back in time to 2019.
In an email five days later, Friday Night Flag informed parents that Central District Health had visited and warned the league. The email did not say where the visit took place. Friday Night Flag holds games at multiple Treasure Valley fields. The youth sports league is hugely popular in Boise, Meridian and Nampa. My family loves it.
“Save our season,” Friday Night Flag pleaded. “... PLEASE remember, we want these kids to be able to enjoy playing football, and we do not want Central District Health to shut the season down. CDH reassures us if we WEAR MASKS we should be fine. If the season is shut down early, there will not be any refunds since all expenses have already been paid.”
Christine Myron, CDH spokesperson, cleared things up in an email Friday afternoon, saying that one of the district’s environmental health inspectors visited a food establishment at — of course — Tree City Church.
The food vendor “had a great inspection with no violations,” Myron wrote. Then the inspector took a glance around the venue and “noted that many in attendance ... were not wearing masks or physically distancing. Our inspector took the time to talk with the person in charge on the field to share their observation and remind them that their organization had signed off on a safety plan. During that conversation, CDH’s inspector suggested it would be good to remind families of the benefits of masking and physical distancing.”
The city of Boise still has a mandate in place that requires people to wear a mask “that completely covers the person’s nose and mouth when the person is in a public place.” Boise also requires gatherings of 50 or more people to submit plans to Central District Health and the city to ”ensure the safety of the participants and the community.”
Friday Night Flag just wants to ensure that the games go on, according to the sports league’s email.
At this point, we shouldn’t need to be told to wear a mask, right? Not in large groups. Not over a year into the pandemic.
But we’re stupid. Tired. Annoyed. Ready to be done with it.
Last month, my wife and I drove an hour to Parma for a “no waste” vaccine. At Friday Night Flag, with that first dose flowing through my veins like a freedom drug, I caved to peer pressure. I tucked my mask into my shirt pocket. I was outdoors. I didn’t have to stand near anyone. Hardly anyone else had a mask. My son’s game didn’t start until 8:30 p.m. Crowds had thinned out.
Minutes later, I received a text from my wife at the Expo Idaho fields in Garden City. She was watching our 10-year-old’s Friday Night Flag game. “Pretty much the only person here wearing a mask is me,” she wrote.
My wife is a better person than I am. But we already knew that, right?
I want the pandemic to be done. To help that happen, I’ll endure the microscopic inconvenience of wearing a mask for the rest of the spring football season. Maybe it’ll keep me from yelling unhelpful advice at the teenage refs. My wife is insisting that both our kids wear masks on the sidelines, too, when they aren’t playing. Even our older son, who is six weeks into a children’s vaccine trial.
Maybe we will stand out wearing masks. Maybe we won’t.
Maybe the season will get canceled. Doubtful.
But no refunds on the league entry fee?
If the coronavirus doesn’t scare us, Boise, that should.