The Steelers recently announced that if fans are, indeed, allowed to attend games at Heinz Field this fall and winter, the Steelers anticipate fans will be required to wear masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
I don’t know how you took that news, but I was excited to hear it. Not because I plan on attending any Steelers games at Heinz Field in 2020. I never go. In fact, the last regular season game I attended was early in the 2017 season. Before that? 2014.
I realize I live in Pittsburgh, just 10 minutes away from the stadium by car, but I’m one cheap SOB. I don’t want to pay $100 for a ticket, not when I can sit at home and take in a game in my comfortable recliner while also Tweeting about each and every play in the name of likes and retweets.
Besides all that, I’m almost secretly rooting for NFL games to be played without fans in the stands in 2020. Legendary Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier joked many years ago that NFL head coaches would like nothing more than for their teams to play games in a sterile environment, preferably in a dome, and with zero fans around to make noise of the positive or negative variety.
I just want to see what it’s like, you know? How would the officials be influenced if there aren’t people screaming for them to make a call that will benefit their favorite football team?
But that’s just me. I realize there are plenty of folks out there who would be crestfallen if they couldn’t attend Steelers games at Heinz Field or any NFL stadium this year. Like an old buddy once told me, attending NFL games, especially ones that are accompanied by raucous pregame tailgate parties, is almost like an addiction. And if you miss just one week, you feel lost.
Imagine missing an entire season?
But you may not have to, provided you wear a mask. Does this seem like an even trade? I’m asking, because, to reiterate, I don’t really care if any fans attend Heinz Field in the fall. But if I did truly want to go to a game, I’d wear a mask. Heck, so many fans wear them just for fun—our very own Dave Schofield has been known to wear a Darth Vadar-like mask (Editor’s Note: It’s a Kylo Ren mask to be exact) to games which I saw it with my own eyes.
Obviously, it’s still a little unclear as to how many fans will be allowed to attend games at Heinz Field, but if the standard the Ravens set for M&T Bank Stadium is any indication—the cap will be less than 14,000 in 2020—not many.
Baltimore has yet to make an announcement about masks, but even if Ravens fans don’t have to wear masks as they spread out in their team’s 71,000-plus seat professional football stadium, I don’t see the Steelers allowing even double the amount of their faithful into Heinz Field just because they’ll have masks on.
It goes without saying this is all cart-before-the-horse talk by this writer. Each NFL team may just decide it’s simply not worth the risk and/or bad publicity to allow even a single fan into stadiums this year.
But, again, if masks are a requirement, I’d be all for it. You can still tell an official he or she needs glasses while wearing a mask. You can still calmly ask Ben Roethlisberger why he’s holding onto the football too damn long. You can still tell Browns fans to go home. You can still predict plays after they happen. You can still sing Renegade.
And, heck, when December rolls around, and it’s 20 degrees at kickoff, that mask might be the greatest thing to ever happen to you.
I may not have a dog in the race as it pertains to whether or not I’ll get to attend games at Heinz Field in the fall, but the fact that the Steelers and other teams are preparing for that possibility tells me the NFL is still serious about having football in 2020.
That’s really all that matters to me.