• phil cantor/@osgphil

If we're going to play football, how do you balance fans vs. no fans?



As the slowly moving, pandemic heavy 2020 calendar creeps towards September, it's increasingly looking like a large chunk of the country is going to get their football.


The NFL has been ramping up practices and while not all College teams are playing, there are enough to say the game is moving forward.


Because of the health issues involved, the teams or programs have invested heavily in testing and have tried their best to keep players and staff isolated. Enough so, that they feel comfortable moving forward with limited risks, much like the other major sports.


But football's return doesn't come without questions, the biggest being attendance.


There's not really a one-size fits all answer to the question either. Much like prevention, testing and outbreaks, the decisions are varying. Varying widely.


For example: The Miami Dolphins and University of Miami Hurricanes announced they'll allow up to 13,000 people inside 65,000 seat Hard Rock Stadium. They also spelled out an extremely detailed program of getting people in and out of the stadium with limited opportunities for group gatherings and limiting seating to no more than six people together.


By contrast, the Buffalo Bills, they'll have nobody in their stadium. Not even the notoriously insane tailgaters--The Mafia, who have gained social media fame by crashing through tables.



And to be honest, it's a bit of a problem. The Bills and Dolphins will play a home-and-home set of games. One game will have fans, one won't. And while, yes, you could easily argue, 13,000 people won't make a big difference in a cavernous football stadium, is it still fair?


To be perfectly honest, I've said this before, it's not the NFL teams that raise my eyebrow...



It's the College games. Games where up to 25,000 people will be able to attend. Before you ask: it's roughly 25% of capacity at the two largest NCAA stadiums--Texas A&M and Tennessee.


For the sake of debate, I'm going to assume both schools have a plan to get people in and out safely, distant and with masks.


In college, those teams playing will all have fans at their games. It can range from the 25,000 or so at the biggest stadiums to 6,000 or so at a school like Georgia Southern who has a 25,000 seat stadium.


Which quite frankly is going to be weird.


I said it last week, the challenge for college's is going to be tailgating. I suppose the NFL will have an issue too, but I don't know if it will exactly be the same. We're seeing in college's, a ton of reports showing group gatherings where zero people are trying to socially distance or where a mask. We're also seeing tons of schools trying to manage outbreaks and in the case of some North Carolina schools and others, backpedaling on in-person classes and going to virtual learning.


All of this is a gamble, there really is no other way to put it. (Unless your one of the half-zillion political snarks out there) College's and the NFL are banking on people doing the right things and nothing getting worse than it currently is.


Everyone hopes that is the case. Seriously. We do. Despite the narcissistic people of a certain political persuasion, nobody wants the season cancelled. Nobody. But there has to be some sort of line where safety supersedes profit or making money. That's the balance a frightening amount of people aren't willing to draw, which is why we're in the predicament we currently face.


The potential for games getting played is getting more encouraging as we inch towards the starting line. There are going to be outbreaks amongst schools. They are unavoidable. If those can be overcome and fans can behave, we might actually be able to get through this.


It may not be the season we all expected in February after the Super Bowl ended, or in January after the College Football Playoff ended, but it has the potential to be an actual season. It has the potential to be as close to a traditional fall as we may be able to get this year.


Learn to adjust. Learn to live with it. Stop complaining about one political side or the other politicizing things and just enjoy the games. It may be your best chance for awhile.


And for god sake, please act like grown ups and wear a mask and keep your distance. If you can find it in your heart to do that, you might actually do some good for other people. Which at the end of the day is something everyone should be striving for and so many seem unwilling to do.

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