More and more professional football players are becoming infected with the ‘rona. Some will carry permanent disabilities; more will never be able to play football again.
So why are we doing this? It’s alluring to believe that if we act normal, things will be normal. But the virus doesn’t care.
Athletes are getting plenty of tests; nurses not so much.
There has been evidence of zombie-like incursion into the NFL’s main office in the Park Avenue headquarters, despite all those hermetic doors that make a hissing noise. The league’s determination to make the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers play on a Wednesday at 3:40 p.m., after three postponements, is purely unsettling. There is something about it that feels forced, involuntary, creepily so. It’s as though league officials mistake frenzied activity for winning against the virus. But then, they just reflect their audience in that.
Of the league’s 32 teams, all but one, the Seattle Seahawks, have been hit by the virus. The outbreaks began piling up almost from the start, as N.F.L. teams began flying across the country for games, some of them playing in stadiums with a limited number of fans. In October, two dozen Tennessee Titans became infected, causing the first of what has become a string of postponements.
The N.F.L. looks like it is running a circus.
Among the latest lowlights: A marquee game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers, scheduled for Thanksgiving Day, was postponed to Sunday after several Ravens players tested positive, including the league’s reigning most valuable player, Lamar Jackson. As the number of infected players began piling up, the league moved the game to Tuesday.
Then the league rescheduled the game again, this time for Wednesday afternoon.
While it is unlikely that Commissioner Roger Goodell will publicly acknowledge any danger, he needs to make sure the league has several firm contingency plans in place. The coronavirus is in charge, and it is raging once again. So let’s keep saying it: It’s impossible to play football out in the open, without a bubble environment, and not be significantly affected. Some teams have been negligent and sloppy about health protocols, and the NFL has grown less compassionate and more forceful in disciplining them. But the reality is that the league can’t mandate its way out of trouble, not entirely.
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