A nation of football fans watched for three hours Thursday night as the NFL released its tinfoil-clad 2020 schedule in the midst of a global pandemic whose own timetable remains unknown, unpredictable and leak proof.
Yes, even the NFL has a higher power it can’t control. Try as it might.
The, um, excitement officially started at 7 p.m. local time. For those who couldn’t wait, the trickling in of BREAKING NEWS!! began much earlier.
In less contagious times, this ballyhooed day and all its over-caffeinated accessories were useful for Vikings fans and Twin Cities media looking to get the draw on the price gougers who rule over the Kingdom of Green Bay’s hotels and airspace.
Pull the online trigger first and reasonable passage and lodging back east can be had. Blink twice and the bounty becomes three of your finest offspring for two nights and one performance by Sir Aaron of Brown County.
Go ahead and book early if you want. Just make sure to read those COVID-19 refund policies real closely.
Be wary of that 256-game schedule. The Sept. 10 start date. The Feb. 7 Super Bowl in Tom Brady’s new backyard. The bye weeks. All those prime-time must-see games as Brady marches toward a seventh Super Bowl ring … or pratfalls like a 43-year-old sporting a new team, virtually no real offseason and the formidable jinx that comes with being a preseason media darling.
When the NFL went ahead with free agency, that was OK. Throwing around bundles of cash while turning one team’s trash into another team’s treasure does not require being within 6 feet of anyone else.
When the NFL went ahead with its draft, that was more than OK. Technology made it possible and interesting while raising $100 million for COVID-19 relief efforts. And, bless you, Roger, it also ended the mock draft season on time.
As for releasing the schedule May 7, that seems considerably premature at first glance. After all, it was only a day earlier that the league notified teams of a May 15 deadline to have protocols established in anticipation of reopening club facilities.
Who knows when those facilities actually will be able to open in unison? Who knows if there will even be training camps or a preseason?
But, alas, what we do know is season-ticket payments are coming due. Most teams pushed those deadlines into June.
With that in mind, Thursday’s release date makes more sense. For the public to open its wallet, the NFL needed to close on a schedule and make it look as certain as possible in very uncertain times.
“We plan to start on time,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said recently. “If we have to make adjustments, we will be prepared to do so based on the latest guidance from our medical experts and public health officials and current and future government regulations.”
Few, if any, in the league anticipate business as usual. That’s why so many contingency plans are in play. A mid-October start date. Fewer games. Ditching bye weeks. And, yes, moving the Super Bowl to the end of February.
How will all of this unfold? Who knows? But one so-called solution — playing games without fans just to keep the season on schedule — seems shortsighted and ripe for disaster.
If science says it’s too early for fans to sit next to each other safely, what about all the big, sweaty, bloodied-up fellas mauling each other on the field?
These aren’t BattleBots. They’re humans with families and a youthful tendency to mingle in crowded hot spots on occasion.
What happens if Brady or some other superstar becomes ill? Will he be quarantined even if his symptoms aren’t serious?
How about a head coach? Do you bench a Mike Zimmer before the Packers game if he’s running a fever?
What if there’s an outbreak in one or more locker rooms? Will a team or teams have to forfeit games? Shut down entire seasons?
All these questions and many more are things to think about before the most unthinkable time in NFL history is allowed to proceed on time and as scheduled.