Oak Mountain's Evan Smith drives past Wenonah's Tyler Woods during the inaugural Chick-fil-A Birmingham Classic High School Showcase at the BJCC Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. (Dennis Victory | preps@al.com)

DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion-based article by Grant Foree. This article in no way reflects the views of BirminghamSports and other staff members of BirminghamSports.

The Birmingham Bulls opened up their 42-game season on Saturday, December 26, in front of a sold-out crowd of 75% of the Pelham Civic Center’s capacity. Yeah, 75%, in a pandemic, when state health officials have mandated that the AHSAA isn’t allowed more than 20% capacity in its gyms for basketball. This brings up so many questions, the first of which being, why is the rule different for professional teams?

Think about it, Alabama, Auburn, UAB, and every other team in the state has been playing in front of crowds of less than 25% capacity all season long. High Schools were allowed 50% capacity during football season, but in a new letter from Alabama State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris to the AHSAA, Dr. Harris “strongly encourages” schools to reduce the total number of spectators to “less than 20% of usual capacity,” in order to help facilitate social distancing and reduce COVID-19 exposure. This letter, which is posted on the AHSAA website, was received on December 11, 2020, and was effective immediately. I’ll attach this letter so you can read it for yourself.

The other SPHL team in Alabama, the Huntsville Havoc, are limmiting capacity of the Von Braun Center to around 40% of the seats, with seats tied down to facilitate social distancing.

The Bulls do have their own Covid guidelines in place, which work to keep symptomatic individuals from enter the PCC. To gain entry to the facility, fans must wear a mask and have their body temperature below 100°F (checked at the doors).

To me, this brings the question of why the rules are different for professional teams and teams from your local high school. Why can thousands of people attend a hockey game in Shelby County, but some high school games can’t even be attended by grandparents or the students that attend the schools, PLAYING IN THE GAME?

I understand the financial impact for the Bulls of not playing in front of large crowds, but we should consider the psychological impacts of athletes not being able to play in front of their friends and family. That has certainly been considered at the college level. The “Granddaddy of them All,” the Rose Bowl, is being played in Dallas instead of Pasadena because California’s government would not allow family and friends to attend a College Football Playoff game. It might not be on the same magnitude for high school games, but we see the same fundamental ideas.

I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way hating on the Bulls, AHSAA, or ADPH. Instead, I am advocating for the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and fellow students that want to watch their kids and friends play the games they love. It just doesn’t make sense to me how people from all over the state can convene on college campuses or medium sized arenas for sporting events, but some students could miss out on an opportunity to watch their team play at their school, where they likely were just hours before tip, because the crowd size has been reduced so dramatically for high school events. What do you think? Leave a comment down below or mention me on Twitter @gforee16. I’d love to hear from you!

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