We’ve seen it coming, as colleges refused to let infected football players and their inflamed hearts deter football seasons and those sweet, sweet television dollars. And we’ve seen how cautious leagues like the NBA and WNBA were able to let science lead to success.
But this was finally the week when the NFL lost its grip.
The NFL started with a cautious approach to this season but it appears to have bent to the reality that a 16-game season has exactly one bye week, and if six teams have to use it early because of possible infections, then the Super Bowl might have to be moved and THAT CANNOT HAPPEN.
Commissioner Roger Goodell might want to remember that the goal of this season is to actually play a season, not a week, not a game, and to keep as many players and communities as possible from contracting a deadly virus.
The goal is not filling Jerry Jones’ football palace with as many fans as Texas Governor Greg Abbott can wink and nod at, which was an absolutely viral 25,021 on Sunday. The goal is avoiding a surge in Dallas infections because the line for the bathroom wasn’t socially distanced.
So the NFL front office, rather than making socially responsible rules designed to keep grandparents from getting sick, looks over at the Cowboys’ potential super-spreader event and does the equivalent of “If you’re good, we’re good.”
Seriously, the NFL is going to fine coaches for not wearing masks – something it absolutely should be doing – and yet look the other way while Dallas fans risk their health to watch their team lose, badly, TO THE BROWNS.
It’s as if God came down to the field and gave Cowboys spectators a sign that even they could understand – and that sign was 49-38, Cleveland.
After Tampa Bay’s resurgent yet elderly quarterback Tom Brady was derailing the Justin Herbert train, something even more nonsensical happened.
Bored coronavirus patient Donald J. Trump announced in a video that he’d learned a lot about the virus at Walter Reed, and he apparently wanted to share it.
Not the knowledge so much, but perhaps the virus by getting into a sealed car with two secret service agents to wave at the supporters outside of the hospital, which at one point reportedly included ex-Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes. Trump is at the point in his disease where he still might be a little virus factory, with only a cloth mask covering his chimneystack in a car with recirculating air.
Dr. James P. Phillips, an attending physician at Walter Reed, was a total buzzkill when he noted that the sad attention-seeking joyride might also mean two agents who have devoted their lives to protecting presidents may have to quarantine for 14 days and hope the duty doesn’t make them sick.
From grown men playing games to teams playing with community health, the NFL wisely decided to postpone the Titans game after an outbreak unspooled over the course of six days. But then the league decided to break from sobriety when ESPN reported Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive on Friday. In defiance of both the germ theory of disease and all known data about how long it takes to go from exposure to infection, the NFL scheduled the Patriots for Monday night because no one else was positive two days later.
And with that, the inflexibility of the NFL’s seven-day week became apparent.
In a tacit acknowledgement of the fact that transmission could still happen, the Patriots plan to take TWO planes to Kansas City, according to Pro Football Talk, one for those with possible coronavirus exposure and the other for the people less likely to be infected.
Will airline staff, restaurant workers, transport staffers, and locker room attendants know whether they are working with the covid plane or the control group? Is this an experiment in community spread? The league got very lucky last week when the Vikings didn’t have any positive cases after playing the Titans, but that doesn’t mean every week the league has to tempt fate and potentially expose workers who didn’t get a chance to opt out of this season.
And Monday morning, Patriots owner Bob Kraft unloaded a big piece of DraftKings stock, which suggests either he’s not so confident this season will continue apace, or perhaps he knows something we don’t.
The national rate of transmission is going up and epidemiologists are warning Americans of a second wave. New York City, which has been way more conscientious than most state after suffering the first outbreak in March, is starting to talk about shutting neighborhoods down again.
But instead we get quarantine joyrides and COVID planes and tens of thousands of fans streaming through the gate in Texas and other NFL and college stadiums across the country.
If the NFL didn’t want to do a bubble, that’s a choice, but the league still has an obligation to communities struggling under the burden of this virus.
You might argue that if people want to risk their health, all good. But that’s not what happens with this virus, the riskiest people might not get sick, but could spread the virus to people who don’t have the luxury of being tested every day and calling the Regeneron CEO for a batch of their magic elixir.
The NFL recognizing that responsibility is actually the most likely way to get us all to the Super Bowl.