While many sports were in question this year due to COVID-19, there remains hope for the most beloved American sport: The National Football League.
In light of the pandemic the NFL is taking certain precautions to keep the season alive for the fans, while also making sure they keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.
The players and personnel close to the players must be tested daily, except on game days. The other personnel who are not directly in contact with the players at all times are tested at least once a week, according to Tadd Haislop from sportingnews.com.
If a player does experience symptoms they must be isolated immediately and cannot return to their team or the field until at least ten days have passed and 72 hours have passed since they last experienced symptoms.
Regarding other basic comparative protocols, the players are not in a bubble format such as the NBA or the NHL which has worked very effectively in keeping players and personnel healthy and safe. The NBA and NHL have had no cases during their regular season, although there was one case in the brief period before games began, proving the effectiveness of their COVID-19 protocols.
This is where I fear, the NFL may have unknowingly created a recipe for their downfall this year.
Players being allowed to travel and visit each other on days other than gameday without restrictions opens the door for inevitable cases. Without a controlled setting where contact tracing is always enforced, the spread of the virus is impossible to track, and players will undoubtedly become ill.
Players are obligated to stay with the team while travelling for games, but if travel is to occur outside of game associated activities there could be potential for disaster.
Maximizing testing is a major concern because if just one player gets the virus and goes unnoticed, countless players from either team in a game could potentially become infected, and if not controlled could spiral into the end of the season.
This has already happened with the Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz where the virus spread through the team unchecked because so many of the players were asymptomatic, and therefore not tested on a regular basis.
Another concern, possibly even more vital to the game of football than the players, is the fans.
Many teams are not allowing fans in their stadiums for the season, arguably a good decision. Other teams are requiring time-period restrictions on their fans’ arrival, and others are all together allowing fans to freely enter the stadiums, albeit at a much smaller capacity than normal.
The Kansas City Chiefs allowed fans in their stadium opening week, and if you watched the game, they were not successful at social distancing, from the players or each other. Large groups of people huddled up cheering for their favorite team and leaning into the field at the endzone seems great at first for the atmosphere, but completely goes against all pandemic guidelines.
The six NFL teams that are allowing fans into their game could ruin the virtual viewing experience we still have. The ability to still turn on the TV Sunday nights and watch the game we love is a joy, getting this experience taken away because people love their team but not enough to follow protocol would be terrible.
As a Gonzaga student I know many people in the GU community look forward to NFL games, especially because it’s our main source of pro-Football.
The atmosphere in the stadiums may be different, but the love for the game is still there. Being able to cheer for your team each game is still more rewarding than the season being gone entirely.
The season needs some work to stay strong in my opinion; cases are inevitable with their current plan for COVID-19, but to keep the game we love alive it’s a team effort from fans to players, to everyone in between.