Let me apologize; I have not been nearly as clear as I thought I was recently.
- I am not looking forward to a COVID-19 outbreak in the middle of this year’s NFL season.
- I do not expect the NFL season to crash and burn because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
- I am not “rooting for the virus”.
Yesterday, I got 3 emails from readers wondering why I had taken those positions; and, for the first time ever, I received a phone call from an old friend who reads these rants wondering why “I had turned on the NFL.” Therefore, I need to set the record straight this morning:
- The “modified NFL Pre-Season Analysis” that I did this year does not reflect my expectation that the season will be in disarray or that I hope that is the outcome. The reason for the “modified” format and content this year is that I do not feel I had nearly the same kind of or the same amount of information to do full projections of records for all 32 teams. The “modification” was caused by the virus to be sure – – but it is not an expression of my expectation that the virus will prevail here.
- My comments yesterday about testing and contact tracing tried to recognize the difficulty of those tasks if there were to be an outbreak within a team. I did not say those tasks were impossible nor did I mean to imply that if a player on a team came down with the virus that it would inevitably spread throughout the organization. And most importantly, I do not want that to happen.
The NFL has done an exceptionally good job of assembling teams in a “non-Bubble situation” and conducting training camps while containing the coronavirus. I read a report yesterday in The Ringer that for the third week in August – – when training camps had their maximum number of participants – – the NFL administered 58,621 COVID-19 tests to just over 8000 players/coaches/staff and only 10 of those tests were positive. Those numbers reflect an unmitigated success. Kudos and all that…
Lest I get carried away in euphoria in my attempt to clear the air here, there are still challenges that teams need to encounter as the season proceeds. The biggest one that comes to my mind is team travel. Training camp was not a bubble environment to be sure but there was not a lot of team travel this year because there were no Exhibition Games. Travel will be a challenge because I am convinced by the NFL’s own data of the following:
- The coronavirus is more prevalent in the “world-at-large” than it is in the controlled and vigilant NFL team environment.
When teams had their full training camp compliments, there were about 8000 people in all the camps counting players, coaches and staffs. I cannot imagine picking 8000 people at random in the US and administering about 58,000 tests to those people and coming back with only 10 positive tests. The thing about traveling is that the teams will need to navigate that “less sterile” environment to get from “home” to “game venue” and back to “home”. To date, the NFL’s defenses have been successful; now comes a new challenge; and, if the past is prelude, the NFL’s defensive measures will meet this new challenge successfully.
I hope my position is clear today. I want the NFL season to proceed as scheduled and I am glad to see the success they have had in containing COVID-19 so far and I see challenges ahead that the league and the players will need to overcome in order for that season to proceed as scheduled. 10-4…
Glancing over at the NBA in the midst of its playoff brackets, Bob Molinaro had two comments in his columns in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot that did not occur to me at first but resonate well now that he pointed them out:
“Casual look: In Orlando, NBA coaches are neatly dressed in sneakers, slacks and polo shirts. Let’s have them lose the suits for good. What’s the point of basketball coaches dressing as if they’re applying for a bank loan?”
I agree. When teams are practicing, coaches do not show up in Armani suits and ties but somehow the players find a way to take instruction from the guy in shorts and a polo shirt. I suspect it would work during a game as well.
Here is the other comment from Professor Molinaro that made me stop and think:
“Close encounters: I realize that they’ve been in a bubble and are exhaustively tested, but I flinch a little when NBA players embrace after games.”
I know that the players have been in close contact and have been breathing and “exchanging aerosol droplets” with one another for the last couple of hours, but do they have to tempt the coronavirus one last time at the end of every game?
Across the pond, the English Premier League is about to begin its 2020/2021 season this weekend. Manchester City is the betting favorite to win the league despite the great season that Liverpool had last year in taking the crown. You may recall it was not that long ago that Leicester City came from nowhere to win the league at very long odds. If you want the longest shot on the board for the EPL this year, you need to get your money down on Aston Villa, Fulham or West Brom. Those three teams are currently all at 10,000 to 1 to win the EPL.
Finally, let me make it a trifecta for comments from Bob Molinaro in today’s rant:
“Still on: I don’t care for how long and what possible reason ESPN carries the games, Korean baseball will never convince me to set my alarm clock for 5:30 a.m.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………