The news was about as exciting as a touchdown at a state championship football game.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced last week that the Oregon Health Authority ban on football would be lifted, meaning normal football — complete with helmets, pads, tackles, sacks and more — will be allowed to resume.

It was an announcement that came about 48 hours after the Oregon School Activities Association said it was going to proceed with Season 2 for volleyball and cross-country, and kept the door for football open.

Both decisions come with some caveats, mainly for football, that there are extra stipulations in place that need to be met in counties that are high or extreme risk, and for the other sports, that they can proceed so long as they are not in extreme-risk counties. Wallowa County, thankfully, has been a low-risk county for weeks now, so these sports will begin in earnest next month to the fullest extent allowable.

This is a very right move to make, as it not only marks a move back — hopefully — toward some normalcy, but provides youths who thrive on and need athletics an outlet that has been missing in a large way for nearly a year.

That said, one has to wonder why this decision from the state took so long to make. Professional and major college sports have been allowed to play, yet in the same breath, at the high school and small college level, they were somehow not okay.

The ins and out of why that may be is for another column. For now, we are excited that there will be pads popping yet again around Wallowa County. That volleyballs will be dancing back and forth across the net in gymnasiums. That feet will be churning as runners navigate courses ahead of them.

To be certain, there still are issues to be resolved. As of this writing, cross-country is limited to two teams competing at once, which makes holding meets a severe challenge. Guidance is still being awaited from OHA on exactly what football will look like. Other sports, like basketball and wrestling, are still banned.

It’s not perfect. And it won’t be perfect for a while. And extra COVID safety measures will still be in place.

But for today, we can celebrate with athletes locally who, after months of waiting and wondering, will have a needed outlet — one stripped away because of this pandemic and some potentially unbalanced decisions — returned.

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