The killings by the sniper in the white van have thrown the athletic lives of children and families into a holy mess of official overreaction and bureaucratic indecision.
The kids don't know from one day to the next whether they will be outside for recess, whether soccer practice will be canceled or whether the football game will be played at all.
The moment athletic directors and administrators consider restoring some kind of normality to our children's lives, the killer kills again and schools far and wide lock down.
Each new shooting results in a spasm of cancellations in two states and the District of Columbia, regardless of where the latest shooting occurred.
The result is disappointment and confusion for our athletes, their parents and friends.
Heated rivalries are played in some secret location with only a handful of fans to witness it.
Homecoming games are canceled, and with them the traditional convertible ride around the field for the homecoming king and queen.
There are no halftime shows, no cheerleaders.
Senior nights, when 12th-graders and their parents are honored with public address introductions, flowers, posters and camera flashes, are pushed back to 2 p.m. when few parents can even attend, or they are canceled altogether.
The playoff picture in every sport is hopelessly jumbled. Kids counting on athletic scholarships to attend college are not playing in front of recruiters.
Gate receipts and concession revenues that fund athletic expenses of every kind have been lost.
And I am not sure whether we are keeping our children safe or sending them the very clear message that we cannot.
There does not appear to be any principal, administrator or athletic director who wants to be the one who says, "Let the games go on."
Because, what if something happened? What if the killer choose that game, that night, to strike again?
This high-decibel disruption of our children's daily lives is worse for them than the nightly news because, when that news is bad, our children retreat into their routines for comfort and security. Have we adults forgotten how insulated the world of high school can feel?
Worse still, the rules change every day as school officials flinch with each news bulletin. There is no pattern. Games are canceled, rescheduled, moved up two hours or put off to the next day. Until we are certain that the sniper has been captured, how is today different from yesterday or last week? Can anyone say that the threat is greater, or lesser or closer to the neighborhood?
It would have been better if school officials had spoken once and with one voice: All outdoor activities of any kind are canceled until the sniper is caught.
And the sad fact is, I don't think our kids would be safer as a result.
Canceling after-school practices and games means our kids are loose on the world, free to ride around in cars and exercise poor judgment. But it does nothing to keep the sniper out of that particular community.
Moving a football game 100 miles away increases the chances that a fan or a player might be injured in an auto accident. Yet it does nothing to reduce the likelihood that the sniper will strike.
We are creating for our kids the impression of caution without the reality of safety.
Is it really more prudent to play an 18-hole high school golf championship than a 36-hole championship? Statistically speaking, is it half as dangerous?
For better or worse, the human animal seems to adapt to presence of danger. We take its measure and we make some kind of mental-emotional calculation and then we go on with our lives.
The sniper in the white van is particularly frightful because he shot a child outside of a school and because his targets are so random that any of us might believe we could be the next victim.
But he has been a part of our daily calculations for three weeks now, and we need to recognize that our student athletes are more likely to suffer serious injury in an auto accident than to be killed by a sniper's bullet.
Let the games resume.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times