Like many, I have been sitting on pins and needles for the better part of the summer, waiting for an answer to the question all of us have had: When will we have high school sports back?

And after sitting on said pins and needles throughout the summer and now into the fall months, I think I speak for all of us when I say: This hurts.

As the Maine Principals’ Association and various state agencies seemingly pass the buck back and forth, I continue to sit and ponder to myself, not how did we get here, but why has the decision taken so long?

Do not get me wrong. As the calendar has turned to September, it is clear the MPA and those various state agencies are now working diligently to try and put this square peg (the fall sports season) into a round hole (the state’s unwavering set of safety guidelines).

But, where was all this diligence and persistence throughout the summer? Why did the MPA wait so long to come to a decision to put fall sports in place? Why were the state and MPA not working together much earlier in the process? And why did the MPA seemingly have the authority to make the call, only for the state to jump in and “big brother” the entire operation?

Especially when most of the 49 states to the west of us — almost all of which have higher exposure rates to the virus than we do — have plans in place, with thousands of fall high school athletic contests already in the books under said plans?

Frustration increases daily as more and more states get their student-athletes back on the fields, while Maine is yards behind the line of scrimmage, constantly calling audibles instead of simply running the play.

Was the state banking on the MPA to cancel the season, and then when they did not, had to step in and intervene? It sure feels that way.

It is hard to say who is solely at fault here as clarity, transparency and strong communication about the issues between all parties has been difficult to ascertain, even as the green leaves on the trees begin to yellow.

That was never more evident than it was Aug. 27 when the MPA’s announcement it would allow high school sports for the fall season — seemingly the final hurdle — was tripped up by the announcement that the recommendation would then be sent to the state for final review.

It is frustrating to compete in a race when the finish line is continuously pushed back while the runners are on the course, is it not?

Now, all that being said, this is obviously a delicate and unprecedented situation many find themselves in. No one wants to be the bad guy that says sports are canceled, and no one wants to have their decision being armchair quarterbacked by the “experts” on social media.

Me? As a thirty-something with three children? I find myself torn on the issue, not just day to day, but hour to hour.

Professionally, I want nothing more than to have high school sports back on the field.

I remember my last high school sports assignment, 131 days ago — or so Alexa tells me — traveling to Turner to cover the Leavitt Duathlon on Feb. 26.

My final competitive high school sports assignment — the Leavitt Duathlon was a race just for fun after the conclusion of the season among high school Nordic skiers — was 138 days and counting ago when I saw the Cony of Augusta boys basketball team bounce Medomak Valley from the Class A North playoffs on Feb. 19 at the Augusta Civic Center.

These events feel like not weeks, not months, but years ago. So much has happened in this country since that time when the most important thing many worried about from town to town was whether or not their school teams won an athletic competition.

Now, while professionally I want those sports back more than anyone, personally, I feel like not having high school sports would decrease the chances of a potential outbreak, keep our families and schools safer and increase the chances our schools will stay open.

But, I feel the numbers are so small in our state, that I want to simply err on the side of “Well, we have to live our lives. We can’t live in a bubble.” I want to say let us at least give it a go, and if any problems pop up, we shut it down immediately and we can say “Well, at least we tried.”

However, the reality of the outbreak at a small wedding in rural Millinocket continues to loom, with nearly 150 people contracting COVID-19 and three deaths being reported.

What if something similar happens at a high school football game in a highly-populated area? In say, Lewiston? Against another school with a large population? Let us say Bangor? And we see firsthand what happens when a small outbreak in a small community that has touched people throughout the state like in Millinocket becomes a statewide catastrophe in larger cities?

Or, maybe nothing happens at all.

Still, no matter what other states are doing, it would be foolish not to admit it is a gamble. And who wants to be championing the wrong side of that scenario?

The narrative is, of course, if you don’t want sports, you don’t care about the student-athletes. And, if you want sports, than you don’t care about the health and welfare of others.

Strangely, the sides are similarly as divisive as the political climate in the country where sides are usually spending their time berating the opposition’s point of view rather than simply promoting its own.

But I digress.

I see the posts from parents on social media, and I honestly do feel their pain. As parents we want every opportunity possible available to them, and look for who to blame when those opportunities are taken away.

But those opportunities need to be presented in a way that does not put others in danger or jeopardize education.

Parents are frustrated, and they should be. We should not be, on Sept. 8, where we are. But facts are facts. No matter what the state decides, sports will be significantly different this fall.

And if football or volleyball — the two sports that seem to be in the most in danger of being canceled — are indeed halted, I hope that we can redirect any negative energy in a positive way.

Maybe your football player always has wanted to try out for golf? This could be their year. Perhaps your volleyball player has the stamina for distance running? Cross country would be available to them.

This year has been one for the record books in many ways, and we are not just talking about high school sports. We will be bouncing our grandchildren on our knees years from now talking about the year 2020.

And, for me at least, I hope when it comes to high school sports, no matter what happens, participants from all sports will be able to at least look their grandchildren in the eye and say, “We gave it a go.”