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The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed more than a few lives and ruined a great many plans in the last three months, and it has now set its sights on one of Lebanon’s most popular summertime events.
Co-founder and organizer George Rodriguez said Wednesday that the 13th annual Sweep The Streets 5-on-5 playground basketball event, slated for the first weekend of August every year since its inception, will be forced to move to September or not be played at all, depending on how quickly Pennsylvania returns to ‘normal’ under Gov. Tom Wolf’s color-coded reopening plan.
The Sweep The Streets high school tourney, originally scheduled for later this month, has already been cancelled, but Rodriguez and fellow founders Robert Cleapor and Angel Cruz are still holding out hope that this year’s main event can be salvaged.
“We had to cancel the high school tournament based on the pandemic, and obviously schools being closed and coaches not being able to work with their teams, etc. It’s just a mess,” Rodriguez said. “The men’s, at this time, we’re looking to postpone until September. But things change every day. It’s all based on the governor.
“Right now, if we’re green phase (in August), they’re saying we can only have 250 people at an event, so that would not be suitable for us because our whole tournament revolves around the people, the spectators. That would mean we would have to have a tournament without spectators, because our players alone, there’s 180 basketball players. So you’re talking about only 50 spectators, it’s not worth it. Our concessions wouldn’t make money, our sponsors wouldn’t get a good deal out of it. “‘
But since it’s still only early June, Rodriguez isn’t willing to pull the plug just yet. Should Lebanon County progress through the reopening phase faster than it has to date, there could yet be a Sweep The Streets men’s tourney in 2020. But the emphasis is most definitely still on ‘could’ .
“As of right now, for the first time in 13 years the 5-on-5 Classic will not be held the first weekend in August due to the COVID-19, ” said Rodriguez, “and possibly be cancelled for the year if the green phase remains through September. If the green phase changes and we are able to have more people at the tournament, then of course we’ll have it.”
Needless to say, the tournament being in jeopardy is disheartening for Rodriguez and his fellow organizers, who have poured their heart and soul into the event over the last 13 years, taking it from a small tourney to a highly-anticipated event that draws players and fans from not only just Lebanon but also from a variety of areas along the East Coast.
“It’s a bummer man, ” Rodriguez said. “But it’s out of our hands.It’s a shame. Right now, people need unity and great events more than anything. It’s pretty unfortunate. We’ll have a better answer in July. By then it’ll be, ‘yes we’re going to have it in September or no, we’re not going to have it in September.'”
Unfortunately, Rodriguez’s life has also been touched by COVID-19. He lost an uncle to the disease a month ago, so he knows the importance of observing every possible precaution before Sweep The Streets can safely move forward.
“He caught COVID in a nursing home in Philadelphia and passed away about a month ago, so it’s touched us,” Rodriguez said.
Still, Rodriguez doesn’t want to disappoint all of the Sweep The Streets supporters that have accumulated over the years. But at this point, it’s pretty much out of his hands.
“You’re darned it you do and darned if you don’t right now, he said. “I’m getting calls and texts and emails from players. Everybody’s knocking down our door to get me to make a decision. But me and my co-founders, we cannot make a decision at this time due to the (reopening) phases right now. ”