You are starved for football. And I get it, I’m right there with you.
Personally, I’m about one more ‘bad news’ tweet from Adam Schefter away from performing daily ritualistic shaman rain dances to bring about the NFL season.
But I’m also a realist, and from time to time I enjoy playing Devil’s advocate.
Across the world, from soccer in Europe to baseball in Asia, a number of sports leagues are currently re-starting with different COVID precautions. But, of course, these precautions have ranges.
Focusing on America, we have the NBA and the NHL that are currently finishing out their respective seasons, and the MLB starting theirs.
The NBA has figured it out to the 99th percentile. No player has tested positive the entire time in the bubble. The games have an atmosphere and an enjoy-ability level that I certainly did not expect.
Why aren’t they absolutely perfect?
Because of those damn ‘chicken wings’ at Magic City.
The NHL, on the other hand, has completely figured it out. They share all the positives with the NBA bubble, but the difference is they curbed player urges.
I imagine executives gathering around in a luxury boardroom talking about the NHL bubble.
“Ok, we need to come up with the host city for the bubble, any suggestions?”
“How about Los Angeles? Plenty of areas to do it there.”
“Are you crazy? Way too populated.”
“How about Toronto?”
“That’s a good option, but there are still too many temptations there. We don’t want every team there just in case. Let’s add a city without temptations. We want these players to refuse to leave the bubble even if they could.”
“How about Edmonton then?”
The MLB, on the other hand, seems to be the journalist from ‘Scarface.’ Unknowingly driving a car with a bomb under it just waiting for Tony Montana and Alberto to flip the switch and blow it up.
There have been a number of positive COVID cases and other health-related issues, and the league seems poised to explode.
The NFL, meanwhile, seems to be following the same game plan as the MLB: roll the dice and hope for the best.
And there are three reasons why fans should be cautious about that heading into the season.
1. There Is No Contingency Plan
To date, we have no one coming forward, either from the NFL proper or reputable reporters, who have outlined what exactly will happen should COVID ravage a clubhouse. Or two. Or three.
The biggest sports league on earth waited roughly two months before the season to outline a day-to-day plan to the NFLPA.
· Players and coaches need to distance themselves during all team functions and travel
· Players and coaches cannot use any public or private transportation in other cities
· While on the road, everyone will get their own hotel room and they must not leave that room or have any visitors
Did you catch how ludicrous that last bullet point is?
An NBA player left the bubble, and while he was out he went to a strip club for “chicken wings” and the ONLY reason he was caught was because the rapper he was with posted a video of them on his social media.
You’re trying to tell me that during each road trip, every single one of the 53 wealthy to ridiculously rich 20-somethings are going to abide by those rules? Especially when there is seemingly no enforcement other than a paragraph on an NFLPA document?
Let’s be realistic.
(Yes, a rookie from the Seahawks just got cut for attempting to bring a female into the team hotel, but that’s a rookie. Veterans have been around the block a time or two and certainly know the tricks better than a first-year player with limited ambitions to actually play in the NFL. If anything, this incident shows this type of thing will happen many times this year.)
I’ll run through a scenario here:
One or two players from any number of the road teams breaks the rules and goes out to a bar or invites someone to his own personal hotel room. They go on the field to play in a day or two and infect everyone they come in contact with because:
A. Football is a close-quarters contact sport
B. No one knows they broke the rules
C. No one, not even them, know they are positive for COVID yet because even if they did get tested before the game, results won’t come out for a few days, and at that point it’s too late
So, great and mighty NFL, what is the plan when a number of teams are ravaged by COVID?
What is going to happen when there are 5, 10, 15 or more players sidelined from teams because they tested positive for the virus?
“Welcome to Sunday Night Football, I’m Al Michaels joined in the booth as always by Chris Collinsworth. Tonight we have the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Baltimore Ravens. As you all know, we have quite a few inactives tonight. Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Chris Jones, and a number of lineman are all out due to COVID protocol, and Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram, and “Hollywood” Brown are the major scratches for Baltimore.”
I know most people are so starved for football they would watch the CFL at this point.
But when the time comes, honestly, would you watch that game?
2. There Is No Semblance of A Bubble
For PR purposes, there is a “bubble” in place for the season. (see: article above)
But that “bubble” is just about as useful as an umbrella in a hurricane.
All we have to do is look at the MLB and their recent resume.
Star player for the Washington Nationals, Juan Soto, was ruled out for the very first game of the season due to COVID.
The Miami Marlins had 14 people test positive within their organization, and then had 4 more positive tests after this tweet.
How did they get so infected? Because, as it turns out (as I said above), when wealthy to ridiculously rich 20-somethings aren’t forced to quarantine, they have a tendency to bend the rules.
To make matters even richer, the Marlins KNEW they had positive tests in the clubhouse, and still played a game.
Since all this occurred at the end of July/start of August there have been a number of incidents that make onlookers very weary of the situation in baseball.
There is a video circulating of Los Angeles Dodgers’ bench coach Bob Geren PULLING OFF his mask to cough during an interview, thereby rendering the mask completely useless.
During a game between the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s on August 9th, there was a bench-clearing scuffle which left announces saying how this type of close contact isn’t allowed by the MLB’s plan.
Well guess what?
That type of close contact is the basis of NFL football. That type of close contact happens every single play of the game.
The NFL has a vastly larger amount of players and staff on the field at a time who are in much closer vicinity than baseball players.
If the MLB is having such troubles, how does the NFL have any hope?
3. The Season Is Going On Like Normal
As we have seen with the troubles of the MLB, and the success thus far from the NBA and the NHL, for sports to be effective there needs to be a bubble.
Now, it is impossible for all 32 teams and staff members to be contained within the same bubble playing the entire season. That is not feasible whatsoever.
But these are strange times, and maybe, just maybe, there needs to be a strange season for the NFL to play.
There can’t be a bubble for all teams, but what about four separate bubbles? Find small towns with a host of football fields (think: anywhere in Texas), and have four separate bubbles with two full divisions in each.
So, for example, in one bubble there could be the NFC North, and the AFC North, another bubble with the NFC South and the AFC South, and so on. Each team would play each other twice, and playoff seeding is the same with division winners getting an automatic spot, and perhaps with expanded wild card teams to account for the ‘weirdness’.
That is just one option that the NFL could explore that I thought of in five minutes with my morning coffee, but the league has either refused to explore other options, or are literally just rolling the dice heading into the season.
Players, coaches, and staff members are travelling (as of now) like a normal season. Constantly moving around in a country that has a freight train of a pandemic with no signs of slowing.
I am a diehard football fan and there’s nothing more I want than to sit down on a Sunday afternoon to watch a Vikings game, but I think it’s time to be realistic.
I would bet against a full NFL season.