Like everywhere else, the sports world has not been the same since the coronavirus made its way across the globe. All NBA, WNBA and NHL games were confined to small bubble formats while the MLB season was shortened significantly. The World Cup and Olympics were postponed. In-person fan attendance as we knew it was suddenly eliminated from our sports-viewing experiences until further notice.
Enter the NFL. Recent team outbreaks — most notably the Tennessee Titans — have many speculating if the league will fully cancel its season.
News flash: The NFL won’t cancel the season, and it shouldn’t. There’s too much money involved, and one team should not be enough to ruin it for everyone else.
While world economies and sports leagues entered deep hell when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the NFL seemed to stay relatively calm. Sure, the coronavirus CBA negotiation period between the Players’ Association and the league itself was a little “bumpy,” so to speak, but both sides got through it in a very timely manner.
To get to my point, I gotta talk about baseball real quick. The MLB negotiations with players earlier in the year were so messy that the season truly was in jeopardy. They got it done eventually — a 60-game season in home markets — but they were soon faced with multiple teamwide outbreaks (I’m looking at you, Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals).
The NFL changes include smaller practice squads, opt-out options and no preseason. However, the NFL still wanted fans in the stands at limited capacities, games in home markets and a full 16-game schedule as planned.
When the outbreaks happened with baseball — which is a limited-contact sport — there was widespread debate about whether MLB should throw everything out the window and cancel. Low and behold, however, the World Series is finishing this month.
The Titans recently had an outbreak that was largely exacerbated in part due to careless gatherings and decision-making by players. They were able to get their Week 4 game rescheduled and were threatened with receiving a loss if too few players were healthy enough to play in Week 5.
What the NFL did with the Titans is undoubtedly the correct thing to do. Reschedule the game if you can. If you can’t, the team should be forced to take a loss.
It’s a tough realm to enter because rescheduling games for an unhealthy opponent unfairly affects other healthy, willing and able teams’ schedules. So, even though the NFL is unlikely to cancel the season and players are tested daily, it’s important for players to exercise caution. If — God forbid — enough teams get infected for there to not be enough games in a given week, the NFL might face a brick wall.
According to Forbes, the NFL is losing 38% of its total revenue already this year. Commissioner Roger Goodell could, literally, not afford to lose any more games. The fans who view football as a secondary sort of religion, they don’t want to see their Sunday prayers unfulfilled — and they won’t.
Shawn Farhadian is a sophomore writing about sports. His column, “Dishing and Swishing,” runs every other Friday.