Reports emerged yesterday that the NFL has told teams that they have to hold training camp at their own facilities, and that any joint practices are cancelled. This will only affect a handful of teams, but it has me thinking about the overall product moving forward.
With the ongoing protests over the last week (Which make football seem very irrelevant right now), and some States not practicing social distancing, I think it’s only a matter of time until we see a spike of COVID-19 cases across the United States. I’m going to be honest with everybody, I’m worried that we may not even have a football season this year, despite the NFL’s best effort to keep moving forward.
For the purpose of this editorial let’s imagine the season does go as planned. I don’t think that we are going to be seeing fans in the stadiums. This is just my opinion, but I don’t think there is any sport in the world where the atmosphere and the fans are a big part of the game and the entertainment experience. Places like Seattle and Kansas City have made their home fields a fortress, and as an outsider, it’s fun to watch them try to break sound records, and record earthquakes like tremors because of their fandom. Losing that is tough on them, but it will also change the TV viewing experience as well.
It’s important to remember that the NFL is an entertainment company, professional sports in general are entertainment. When you and I go out and play football it’s a hobby, so when I watch grown men who get paid millions of dollars to participate in my hobby, it’s my expectation that they entertain me.
Obviously the players can’t do anything about a pandemic, and it’s not up to them whether there will be fans in the crowd, they will do what they do best and play the game. That being said, the NFL is going to have to find a way to keep the fans engaged. I’ve heard rumors that they may pump crowd noise into the stadium. Honestly, I was all for the idea, but the more I think about it, it just kind of seems stupid.
The more and more I think about this, the more I am leaning towards the NFL embracing the purity of the empty stadium. There isn’t much left in this world that is still pure. We are inundated with bright lights and technology, and now the NFL has an opportunity to bring the game back to its purest form. Will the masses be entertained? I don’t know, but I would.
The NFL has done it’s best. We saw an exhausted Roger Goodell during the virtual Draft. The New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s dog stole the draft and began a barrage of memes. Even though the league, teams, players, and coaches, have all relied on technology, there has been something pure and simple about the whole experience.
COVID-19 will one day be a thing of the past, and I think the NFL has the opportunity to bring things back to basics, and if done right, when people look back at 2020 when of the worst years in human civilization, we may be able to say the NFL did it right.