5 Reasons Chippewa Valley schools should and shouldn’t play high school sports this Fall  (8/13/20)


5 Reasons Why


  1. Schools Open

School districts around the area are planning in-person education.  A few will go every

day while others will use a hybrid-model. Regardless, students are expected in physical

buildings.  If its deemed acceptable to put students in the classroom, extracurriculars

should be included.  This includes ALL extracurriculars such as music and theatrical along

with athletics.

2. Non-School Sports are Operating

Interscholastic sports don’t necessarily operate in a vacuum.  There are travel and club teams

along with private sports businesses that have and will continue to operate (in addition to private

dance instruction, private music lessons, area theatres, etc.).  Its unfair and an unnecessary swipe at

these entities to suggest interscholastic sports would take health measures more seriously.  That was a

gross suggestion made by some administrators at a July WIAA meeting but if these places can go ahead so

too should high school sports. Plus, if school sports are cancelled and these continue to operate its not as though kids won’t be out “spreading the virus” as the intention would be in schools didn’t offer them.


3. Sports are Fun


Sports build character, develop teamwork skills, cultivate leadership traits and mature lifestyle skills.  They do all of these things that are important and honestly essential.  They are also fun and that shouldn’t be discounted or be shunned as its equally important.  We’ve learned over the last several months that life is all the better when we have “toys” and the ability to do activities that are enjoyable is a “toy”.  We can live without, but its a life that is dulled.  Not to mention, we only have so many breaths in our life and its not as though we’ll get this time back.  Those of us past our athletic playing days had our moment.  The teenagers now are in that small window we all wish we had back!


4. Students/Parents Accept Risk


Those that don’t will opt out whereas the rest aren’t doing this naively.  They understand the risk and frankly, most (if not nearly all) would happily sign waivers placed in front of them. 


5. Other Extracurriculars


We keep coming back to this but if sports are cancelled so too will the focus be on other activities and vice-versa.  Allowing sports to go forward makes it easier to continue everything else. If sports are cancelled, then everything else must be no matter how much rationalization with numbers and infection rate one could massage from data.



5 Reasons Why Not


  1. We don’t know what we don’t know


Its been widely accepted virus doesn’t affect young people severely.  However, many experts began hinting in July that may not be accurate and as August has come sadly that is showing early signs it may be valid.  Remember, children were more or less “sheltered” in the spring.  As summer camps opened nationally and more kids have been out and about, more have in turn been getting sick to varying degrees.  If the risk is in fact higher than was assumed in March, is taking time to play sports worth that added risk of exposure?


2. Liability


Its not a matter of if, but WHEN there is a severe case.  What is the very real liability to all those involved?  Yes, waivers can be signed but that doesn’t necessarily stop inquisitions and investigations and so much mess that administrators have to wonder if it’s worth it.


Sometimes, those in authority must protect others from themselves.  


3. Remote Learning


Schools plan varying degrees of in-person education.  Some five days a week, but what about those that are using the hybrid-model.   If students aren’t in the classroom, is it safe for them to be in extra curriculars such as sports?

4. Lack of Bubble


We can’t live life in a bubble and what the NBA and NHL are doing is not sustainable.  MLB has also shown that, at least with baseball, spread isn’t common between competing teams.  Still, is it worth it to have a Memorial vs. River Falls soccer match on a Tuesday.  A few days later one of the schools has an “outbreak” of seven cases and another has five cases and contact tracing brings it back to an athlete on one of the teams.  Is it worth it?  While many of you immediately say yes or no, that is a difficult question to answer.

5.  County Health Guidance

As Dr. Eliopoulos, the new superintendent of schools explains on this week's Banker with a Beer, the Eau Claire County Health Department has guidances that need to be followed.  This isn't the same in every county.  So the decision that schools make in say Eau Claire, Altoona, Fall Creek will have to adhere to those and reading the tea leaves, it sounds like as of right now there is strong reason to believe interscholastic sports WILL NOT be allowed.  This can obviously change and at a minimum, likely more discussion will be had.  The country's  instructions which have made engaging in organized competitive sports difficult,  hasn't had much publicity (as it relates to sports) and thus, hasn't been something anyone can firmly say the citizens agree or disagree with in general. 




A Barking Problem (8/6/20)

A calming venting technique is to write so allow me to do that here.


The Montesano Estate, no doubt a tourist attraction for Eau Clarian visitors and grade

school field trips in the future, is located in a docile neighborhood.  We’re a block north

of South Middle School in an area every bit the Chippewa Valley suburbia community

but evidently the sidewalk budget ran out as they were building the houses here. 


Regardless, it’s a quiet peaceful neighborhood with one barking exception.  Our

neighbor’s dog. In fact, as I type, that dogs’ rhythmic grunts are rattling my nerves.


When we first moved into this house, the dog and the current neighbor weren’t there.  We

lived next to a solitary older gentleman whom we hardly had any contact with.  We learned a

few weeks after moving into our home that he was in fact a registered sex offender.  The story

of how we found out is somewhat humorous and again we didn’t have a single problem. Were

we shocked?  Yes, considering we live a fly pattern pass away from a school and church but moving on…


That neighbor passed away a few months after we moved in and eventually the home was sold to the current occupant who has been there for the last four summers. The owner is a sweet elderly lady who is a retired school teacher.  She is pleasant and friendly, even if a little hard to understand due to a thick eastern European accent.  There is just one problem…that demon dog!


Upon moving in, she erected a black chain link fence around her yard which was an ominous sign.  Sure enough out came this beast.  I’m not one for knowing dog breeds and we’ve never asked but it is a large, hairless dog.  Definitely not a Rottweiler but it’s clearly not a friendly golden retriever.  We’ve never gotten the full story but apparently she had to take the dog from someone else and this animal was used to being on an open farm with no neighbors.


Though not opposed to dogs, we don’t currently have one as a pet.  My wife had one for many years but it passed away a few years ago and she hasn’t wanted to bring another one in.


Immediately, this dog started barking and has been barking whenever it’s outside for four straight years.  If someone farts at ECDC in downtown Eau Claire the dog barks.  If a child drinks a cup of milk at River Prairie the dog barks.  If some opens the door at the Pablo Center, the dog barks.


Okay, that’s exaggeration but whenever we step outside the dog races to the fence banging into it and barks.  If someone walks on the street or a delivery person shows up the dog barks.


To the neighbor’s credit, she has tried muffling techniques over the years such as putting tarp around the fence hoping not seeing people would limit the barking fits.  She also reacts swiftly when the dog barks and ushers it back inside. I’m sure she may also have/has tried bark collars and some other devices but sadly they don’t work.


The neighbors on the other side of her have a toddler and their own dog (which is quiet) and have called authorities on her. On Super Bowl Sunday we were interrupted from watching the game by a police officer who stopped by to ask us questions concerning the dog.  I’ll never go that far.  Again, the lady is nice and we aren’t without sin ourselves.  We built a Whiffle Ball field (which existed before she moved in) and routinely hit balls into her yard that she retrieves for us.


There is little that can or will be done.  The dog is something many neighbors either talk about or at minimum give understanding glances to one another about.  The sweet lady with the mean doggy. With no recourse all we are left to do is suffer a small slice of Hell at the Montesano Estate.


                -Random Thoughts

                                - I miss going to the downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  Yes, it is open and yes we

should be supporting the businesses there but at least for us there hasn’t been that jolt of excitement pushing us to go. This applies to many things that even if they have operated the last several months, they are clouded by COVID-19.


  • This week’s Banker with a Beer guest is Joanne Palzkill who is the chair of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and the local owner of Draganetti’s and Za51.  The most interesting part of the conversation was the changing landscape of the food industry pre-Covid-19 (things were shifting before).  She referenced when she first was involved in the family-owned Draganetti’s in the 1980s the “two-martini lunch” was still in fashion and how people don’t drink as much as they once did. 


I found the answer intriguing. She went on to discuss how people are more mindful of what they eat now, but she zeroed in on the alcohol consumption. At first thought, it seems odd because hers is a place that seems on the outside to be a place specializing in food. However, the reality is places make their best margins off drinks. Her answer wasn’t rooted in culinary trends but budgetary ones. I found that fascinating.








Playgrounds  (7/30/20)

They’re dotted around the area.  Some in highly visible areas, others tucked into neighborhoods. 

Playgrounds!  I’ve taken to bringing my kids to playgrounds on the southside at least a few times

a summer and it’s an inexpensive way to entertain not only them but to experience that

“contact high” from their enthusiasm.  We’ve utilized the equipment at Manz Elementary and

Meadowview Elementary as well as the quaint structure at Mischer Park, a short walk from our



The kids explore, sometimes make new friends, and work up a sweat.  It’s a win-win. 

Meanwhile, I’ll roam around and occasionally slide into the entertainment myself by playing

four-square or dipping into whatever imaginative scenario they’ve concocted.


Our son is nine so his time on playgrounds is dwindling.  He already is much more conscious

of what is around him and doesn’t try as many new things. He’s a more passive with the

equipment then he was a few years ago as he has identified self-weaknesses and isn’t willing to

stretch beyond.  A “big boy” problem that once we all develop it, we know as adults it stays with

us to some degree forever. That fear of leaving our “safe zone”.


Meanwhile his six-year-old sister (who loves gymnastics) is all over everything still.


If you have a playground in your neighborhood, take advantage of it.  Let the children roam and maybe even take a ride on the slide yourself.  In 2020, a couple extra hand washing sessions may be needed but it’s worth it.


Sometimes we don’t have to always overthink things.  Sometimes the best choice is the simplest one…like taking kids to the playground.


Random Thoughts


  • The indefinite closure of The Children’s Museum in downtown Eau Claire is another needle poked into the wound of 2020. Operators had tried to run the building with duct tape and bubble gum through extensive (and necessary) restrictive measures.  It was a good try, but not enough money was saved to augment the decreased attendance.  It’s unfortunate and continues what has been a painful year.


Parents, grandparents and of course kids are all on the short end here.  There is no “pound of flesh” to be had. No one is at fault as it’s the circumstances of 2020.


We only have so many years in our lives and though 2020 has allowed us all to maybe try some new things there is no shame in admitting it’s been a waste too.


  • Will high schools have sports (and any extracurriculars)?  Honestly, I’d put the chances of them having them before the holidays at 70%. 


Why not higher?Well, it’s hard to ignore the grander issues that college and pro sports are facing let alone schools themselves won’t have daily in-person education to start. There will be some in-person at many schools, but virtual will be the norm. School districts may have a hard time reconciling doing virtual learning yet allow these activities.


Why not lower?  Sports (and again, all extracurriculars) serve a true purpose that is a potion of education, fulfilment, maturity and real-world knowledge.  They aren’t simply “fun”, though it’s not shameful to say that too.  Life is meaningless without joy.   


Already private extracurriculars are going on whether they be athletics, musical or theatrical.  School districts know this.  Even if schools cancel activities, some (but not all) kids may do them elsewhere thus any notion that cancelling school activities blunts potential spread may be mute.

How Many People are Wearing Masks?  I Counted!  (7/23/20)

Generalities simplify the complex. So that brings us to the whole mask-wearing debate, our latest

excuse to rattle the keyboards. When discussion does occur, people make assumptions on who

is wearing a mask and who isn’t. The key word being assumptions.  However, does anyone have

a true idea as to how many are wearing a mask in Eau Claire?  Has anyone actually counted?


No, I don’t mean your co-worker’s uncle you follow on Facebook because an algorithm

suggested you press “accept”.  I mean a trusted source, like, I don’t know…a longtime

valued member of the area’s community. 


Ah shucks, you’re making me blush.


With that in mind, I decided to see for myself. That’s right, I actually went out and decided to

see how we’re doing in our area in terms of wearing a face-mask.  I situated myself at a variety of

area locations and just counted.  No assumptions, no agenda.  I used my surveillance knowledge

gleaned from watching buddy-cop comedies with a pinch of borderline daylight voyeurism.


That sound bad?  Okay, let’s put it this way.  I was “people-watching” but with a pad of paper and a pen. Sound better?


There are some things to clear out first.  For starters, I didn’t count children.   Also, people I saw walking in or out of buildings with masks in their hands I counted as “mask-wearers”. I’d feel safe in extrapolating they didn’t just carry the mask like an accessory when inside.


Monday July 20th

                Downtown (10:30am-11:30am)

                                Mask-Wearers                  20  (22%)

                                No Mask                              70  (78%)


The key thing with downtown is many people are walking or jogging with no actual

destination point within the area. Many of those with masks were either heading into or out of a building as some require (and other encourage) their use.  Those who were simply moving about were almost universally mask-less but at the same time a lack of density and thus easy social-distancing is possible.


                Kwik Tri p on Harding Ave  (11:30am-12:15pm)

                                Mask-wearers                   12    (32%)

                                No mask                              25    (68%)


                                I only counted those who were going into the building and not those who simply stayed

at the pump.  Kwik Trip requires employees be masked but not customers.  Honestly, I was a bit surprised the number of those with a mask was as high as it was, even if it’s still well below majority. Kwik Trip has been a spot I’ve almost felt compelled to NOT wear a mask as I’ve “never” seen a customer with one.  This surveillance proving a noteworthy fact back at the researcher that assumptions shouldn’t be made. These people are doing it 100% as their own choice.



Tuesday July 21st

                Festival Foods on Mall Drive  (9:50am-10:20am)

                                Mask Wearers                                   80    (80%)

                                No masks                                            20    (20%)


Festival has enacted a mandatory mask policy starting this weekend but they were still voluntary when I stopped by to snoop on Tuesday.  Yes, many of the shoppers were of the experienced variety and of them probably nine out of 10 had a mask on.  Many of those who weren’t wearing a mask were (and remember I’m eye-balling here) 21-50, or at least looked those ages.  However, it wasn’t a clear split.  Some seniors didn’t have a mask while many under 50 did have them on.  There were even many children with them on (though again, I didn’t count them).


                Kwik Trip on Golf Road  (10:40am-10:50pm)

                                Mask wearers                                    5      (24%)

                                No mask                                              16    (76%)


                                I made a brief stop here and the disparity of masks vs. no-masks was much greater than

the Harding Ave. location.


                Oakwood Mall (11:00am-11:20am)

                                Mask wearers                                    57    (57%)

                                No masks                                            43    (43%


                                I went inside the mall and walked around.  The mall is an interesting cut out of the mask cake.  A few stores require masks but most don’t.  I walked around Scheels and Hobby Lobby (each of which don’t require masks) and the general sense that I had was mask wearers were in the strong majority.  However, walking around the interior concourse it became more of an even split.  Senior citizens were more likely to have a mask on than younger folks but again don’t take that assumption to the mental bank.  Many young folks did have masks on.



Final thoughts



                The lack of mask-wearing at Kwik Trip as compared to Festival Foods or even the Oakwood Mall is interesting.  Clearly the expected time inside of a building plays a role here.  With Kwik Trip people figure they’ll be in and out thus the risk associated is perceived to be lower.  Putting on a mask, much like taking your coat off when you visit someone, can be viewed as a mental cue that you’re going to invest some time.


                In the end, I bet more people are wearing masks than some of you thought or want to believe.  At the same time, it’s still lower than officials would want.  Is 75% obtainable?  Is it even realistic in a short-term?  Smoking at bars, wearing seat belts and other societal-norm/health changes came over time and were then expediated by legislation only after there was years of momentum.







Simplicity of Youth Sports (7/16/20)


The professionalization and “businessification” of youth sports (and for that matter many youth activities)

is a staple of the commentators topic cupboard. There are many angles to take and yes, it exists even

in our own area.


My feelings on all of that will wait for another day though as instead one of the few positives

to come out of the current interim normalcy we’re all under is in regards to some youth sports

in our area.  COVID-19 has at worst, cancelled many youth events.  However, I’ve found a

bright spot in all this in terms of my kids.


First our daughter.  She had her six-year-old level soccer, spring figure skating show and

T-Ball all cancelled but over the last few weeks somethings have returned. Gymnastics is

going on again at the YMCA Sports Center and this week she has resumed figure skating. 

All of it with smaller class sizes meaning more one on one attention and more space to operate. 

This has also allowed her and us to decide what she truly is passionate about and what she may

trim off the calendar in the future.


As for our eight-year old son he LOVES baseball. The good thing is, while some area leagues cancelled outright the

little league on the southside was able to start up again in early June.  Here is where it gets messy.  I know other leagues are playing actual games but within the Eau Claire city limits, restrictions have been in place to prevent “competitions” until just recently.  That has meant just practicing and quite frankly…it’s been the BEST baseball experience I’ve ever seen young ballplayer have.


Our son’s team is made up of about 10 kids total and for 90 minutes twice a week they get together and it’s an elaborate and supervised sandlot experience.  No uniforms, no score, no concession stands, no spectators (parents must leave and can come back in the last few minutes).  My son has had more fun playing this year than in any other and this is with a team he had no friends on to begin with.


All of this goes to show me that simple is better! Smaller groups with the emphasis on having fun.


Random Thought

  • I wish more businesses made face-masks mandatory.  “No mask, no service”.  I try to wear my mask as much as possible, but I’ll be the first to admit that I leave it in my car when I go into KWIK Trip.  I know I should wear a mask but no other customers are and this may surprise some…I don’t ALWAYS like to draw attention to myself.


I have a proposition out there for those who still want to find any reason to not wear a mask.


If we all wear masks and a few weeks from now cases are still soaring, us mask-wearers owe you a Diet Cola.


However, if we all wear masks and we begin to be able to lift restrictions, open schools and have football this fall…we promise not to say, “We told you so”.

It’s a win-win proposition for you to take.






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Eau Claire, WI  54701