It was reported last week that the 2020 Hall of Fame Game which was to match the Steelers against the Cowboys on August 6, along with that weekend’s Class of 2020 induction ceremonies, were canceled due to concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Was this a surprise? Not really, especially with recent comments by Ohio governor Mike DeWine who said there was no way he could see the game, or anything involving Hall of Fame Weekend, taking place in front of large crowds. And if there weren’t a lot—or any—people on hand to take in the Hall of Fame Game and the subsequent enshrinement ceremonies that would have immortalized former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and former Steelers players Donnie Shell and Troy Polamalu, what would have been the point?
You can have a draft without fans around, but a Hall of Fame induction ceremony? Yuck. As for the game, itself, if any preseason game was meant to be played with fans in attendance, it’s that one. It’s a nice little event which kicks off a great weekend. As a fan, you’re not there so much for the game, but the experience.
When it comes to all other preseason games, however, they’re more for evaluating players than they are for entertaining the fans. This might be a mean thing to suggest considering so many fans who don’t normally get to see football in person go to these games. Also, there’s the matter of the ticket price, which up until recent years was the same as a regular-season matchup.
I get all that, but I guess the point I’m trying to make with this article is the chances of the Hall of Fame Game ever happening were pretty slim because fans play an integral part in the whole weekend of events. As for what the cancellation of all things Hall of Fame Weekend means for the start of the 2020 NFL season? I wouldn’t read much into it.
Speaking of chances, the chances of any sporting event taking place with fans in the stands for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year started out pretty slim once the pandemic hit in March, and with the continued surge in Coronavirus cases around the country, it looks like they’ll remain that way for the foreseeable future. The cancellation of the Hall of Fame ceremonies may have been a signal to the NFL that its desire to have games with full stadiums this fall may be a foolish one. In other words, the league may just have to bite the in-stadium revenue bullet and have all of its games without fans in the stands in 2020.
That’s what the other three major professional sports leagues in the United States—the NBA, NHL and MLB—are planning on doing.
Speaking of those other three major professional sports leagues, if you want a true barometer of whether or not there will be an NFL season that starts on time, or at all, watch what happens around the end of July. This is about the time all three leagues are expected to resume play. After months of planning and preparation, if one or all still deem things too unsafe and too risky to continue, you can pretty much bet on the NFL coming to the same conclusion.
As big as the NFL is, it's not so big it can ignore how its competitors are handling the pandemic.
As I've been saying, the NFL has been the one league that's been granted the gift of time. And in time, the NBA, NHL and MLB will tell it how to proceed with its 2020 regular season.