You’ll have to excuse me, but I woke up in a bit of a bad mood this morning (to give you some context, the morning in question is Thursday, April, 2, 2020).
The reason for my foul mood has to do with Coronavirus fatigue. No, not fatigue from actually having it (and if that seems insensitive, that certainly isn’t my intent), but from it being my, and our, reality 24/7 for the past three weeks or so. I can’t see friends. I can’t see family. I haven’t touched another soul in almost a month. I feel like I’m breaking some sort of restraining order if I come within 5’11” of anyone. People cross the street when they see me coming. I worry about breaking some social media code of ethics whenever I go out for a walk by myself. My fingertips actually hurt as I’m typing this article from all the hand-washing I do each and every day. Is this keyboard clean enough? Should I wash my hands after I use the self-checkout touch-pad at the supermarket? Yes? OK, but should I actually wait until after I consume the snack I just purchased from said supermarket? After all, who knows who touched this can of Bing energy drink that is currently sitting on my desk as I type away on my laptop that may or may not be contaminated. Now that I think of it, I wonder if I should sanitize my desk after placing this can of Bing energy drink on it.
What really reinforced my irritated mood this morning was a sports report I heard on the radio that included news that Wimbledon had officially been cancelled due to the pandemic and that the British Open golf tournament was expected to announce the same.
I’m not sure if you know anything about tennis, but Wimbledon wasn’t supposed to kickoff (or however tennis tournaments start) until the end of June, while the first pitch of the Open wasn’t supposed to be thrown out until mid-July.
And that’s when it hit me: The 2020 NFL regular season may not start on time. Actually, the way things are going, it may not start at all.
I don’t know why tennis and golf each decided to cancel one of their major grand slam events three months out—maybe it was logistics; maybe it was out of fear that this pandemic will still be a major problem in July; maybe it was done in the face of public pressure—but if those dominoes have already fallen, why should we have any sort of confidence that the Steelers will be reporting to Latrobe, Pa. for training camp just two weeks after those tournaments were to take place?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve spent the past few weeks or so feeling fairly confident that the NFL will be safe to resume its regularly-scheduled business model by no later than the end of July, which is when most teams report to training camp.
But now I’m not so sure.
As you saw in March with the mass cancellations of the St. Patrick’s Day parades, along with the simultaneous shutdown/cancellation of every major sport, once those dominoes begin to fall, it’s hard to stop them.
People—including NFL insider Adam Schefter—are still publicly criticizing the league for moving forward with its plans to conduct the 2020 NFL Draft later this month. And it’s not because it might put people in danger physically (it will be a virtual event). As I’ve said before, it’s because it’s seen by some as insensitive and a bit tone deaf, considering what’s going on in the world (even if what’s going on in the world hasn’t stopped people from distracting themselves with something called the Tiger King).
And to reiterate, that's scrutiny over a virtual event.
Back to physical events.
If the world isn’t planning on holding tennis or golf matches in July—even without fans in attendance—why would the world see it fit to allow professional football teams to conduct training camps?
Even if people aren’t allowed to attend, I can’t see the public—citizens, the media, politicians, etc.—not raging over the sight of football players banging into one another day after after day under the hot sun (as you know, you can’t tackle anyone from six-feet away unless you’re Deion Sanders).
Heck, folks on social media are already criticizing football players for posting pics and videos of themselves working out with other football players.
I can’t see that sort of public scrutiny dying down by the summer.
And if training camp isn’t allowed to start on time, what will that mean for the regular season? It could mean the NFL might not have a regular season.
I can’t envision a world where every major sporting event is compromised by the Coronavirus in some form or fashion, while the NFL comes out smelling like a rose.
And I think that’s a reality we as football fans better come to grips with fast.