Mateo Vazquez ’21
The manner that the NFL has chosen to handle COVID within the league has been quite different and unusual compared to many other leagues. No doubt, this year people will look back and question the shortened conference season, lack of fans in attendance and numerous game cancelations as the season that is defined by COVID-19. The same thing occurred back in the day during World War II, when baseball had a limited season, the games were played at one stadium and the most unusual teams were the ones making it to the world series. However, for the NFL, what will stand out the most is how they managed the virus while attempting to play a full game season. One of the things that stands out most in the league is that they are still attempting to have “bye weeks,” which amidst the chaos of COVID-19 is not an option this season.
If one accounts for game cancellations and rescheduling the classic “bye week,” these decisions do not serve an effective purpose for the 2020 season, especially with it already being shortened. Within the NFL, each team has already been dealing with the virus in different ways.
The Tennessee Titans continue to retain positive test results and have not played a game since Sept. 27. The abrupt schedule changes and moving around of teams is more similar to a game of Whack-a-Mole, in trying to fit games in wherever they can in order to complete the season. The league is in a chaos and going through something that many other leagues have not experienced to this extent.
One of the questions circulating throughout the league at the moment is why they did not opt for the bubble system like the NBA, and what are the options as they continue through with the rest of the season. The league stated early on that they did not feel the bubble system would be effective or appropriate for the season and that the precaution of the bubble was unnecessary and went to extremes that were not rational to control the virus.
They suggested that the best option for the teams within the league would be to continue as is with other precautions in place, and still host games at their home stadiums. However, throughout this entire process there has been a lack of uniformity that Goodell has failed to establish within the league. For example, the difficult decision that every sports team has dealt with in opting for not allowing fans at games. There are still fans allowed at the Titans, Steelers, and Texans games.
A large concern amongst those is the Titans, who have not controlled the virus and allowed fans at the venue. They are not only putting the general public at risk, but the players and the rest of the league. Hence, there is no question that these last two weeks, there have been many eyes on Goodell to see what kind of leadership he is putting into place to protect the league and the rest of the season. At the front of the issue, teams are suffering and the top level of sportsmanship is not yet attainable. Cam Newton is still testing positive and must refrain from play, which ultimately puts the Patriots at a disadvantage on the field, and once again begs the question of what kind of season is 2020 if the best of athletes must refrain from playing due to COVID-19 concerns.
Given the large amount of prep time that the NFL had to prepare for the upcoming season Goodell has continually said that the situation is under control but the lack of preparation and failure to have uniform control is showing. The future of the league for the 2020 season is still up in the air and a push for a bubble is still something that many fans and coaches want to see implemented to ensure that they can carry on with the rest of the season.