Against all odds, the National Football League season began on time with a Thursday night game, wall to wall games on Sunday and a Monday night doubleheader.
Pandemic? What pandemic?
Commissioner Roger Goodell promised that the NFL calendar would be followed and by God, it was.
Oh, it was missing the usual Pomp and Circumstance that accompanies opening day. The only flyover was not by military jets but the coronavirus, searching for friendly hosts where it could settle down and call home. And there were plenty of them available.
NFL virus protocols notwithstanding, the games looked like so many laboratory dishes, waiting to infect anybody and everybody. There is no social distancing in a football game. And no masks, either. Not on the field and not on the sidelines.
The league brass was angered by the casual approach some teams exhibited when it came to covid-19 rules and regulations. That resulted in a memo reminding teams that the league is requiring anybody with sideline access to cover their mouth and nose to avoid spreading the virus. The casual mask around the neck look does not work.
These rules were not made up overnight. There were lengthy talks between the league, the players association and medical experts about how to deal with the virus. Players are tested daily for the virus. But in the heat of battle, it seems that all the rules are not being followed.
Then, there is the matter of social justice complicating the landscape. During the off-season, the league acknowledged the need to change its attitude about demonstrations and the players seized the moment.
Some teams stayed hidden in locker rooms during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, avoiding the issue altogether. Some players kneeled, some thrust their fists in the air reminiscent of the John Carlos-Tommie Smith Olympic protests in 1968. The message “End Racism’’ was stenciled on the field. Clearly there was more on the minds of players than blocking and tackling or passes and punts.
Perhaps the most dramatic demonstration was in Kansas City, one of the few places fans were allowed into the stadium, where the Chiefs and the Houston Texans lined up side-by-side and linked arms in a show of unity.
And the fans booed.
It was as if the audience was not interested in anything but players hitting each other. And that goes for basketball, too. One Fox network anchor reacted to the outspoken thoughts of NBA superstar LeBron James by saying, “Shut up and dribble.’’
Athletes are people, too, people with feelings, people with thoughts, people. They are not modern day versions of the gladiators in the Coliseum in Rome. In this complicated time, it would be a good idea to understand and appreciate that.
Photo: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire