NFL Opens On Time, And With A Few Fans
September 14, 2020

Basketball and hockey have their playoff bubble. Baseball has had several bouts of positive Covid-19 tests that have resulted in postponements and seven-inning doubleheaders. Soccer held a playoff-style tournament to get started again. The Kentucky Derby was this month, the Master's is next month, but, for the most part, everything with the National Football League is just fine.

The NFL kicked off on Thursday when the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chief hosted the Houston Texans. Down 7-0 early, the champs had no problem coming back, and won rather easily 34-20. There were even some fans in the stands rooting them on. It's really just a matter of circumstance, and the calendar, but it dioesn't seem right that so many other sports (and their fans) have had to deal with so many obstacles to get on the field during the pandemic, while the richest league in America has missed almost nothing.

It's getting more and more difficult by the day to remember the way things were before the coronavirus. It also seems longer ago than March 12 when things were shut down. The Super Bowl was in February, so, no problem. With new guidelines and protocols, sports, for the most part, resumed in July. That's also about the time NFL training camps open, so again, no problem. Sure, preseason games were canceled, but no one, including the players, care about those anyway.

The biggest 'sacrifice' the league had to make, was to have its annual draft held virtually instead of live in front of crazy fans who care way too much about who the New York Jets will take out of college. For years, the draft was a telephone conference call, then on stage in front of cameras, to the three-day dragged out event it has become for television ratings. It became the most-watched Zoom event of the year, so even that worked out for the league.

Most states still don't let you go out to eat, or to a bar or concert, but there apparently are some exceptions. Missouri allowed about 17-thousand fans personally attend the Chief opener Thursday night. Shots of the crowd made it look like the second half of a Sacramento State game, but people were there. The only other stadium that allowed fans this weekend was Sunday in Jacksonville. Only about 16-thousand were allowed in the 67-thousand seat stadium to see the Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts, but that's probably more people than really want to see them play anyway. The Jags did win, though, 27-20.

Again, it is mostly circumstance, but it does seem the NFL has the magic touch. We're happy to have football, but with the pandemic still claiming thousands of lives a day, college football not happening in half the country, and no high school football at all in California, the NFL lives on. There have been no reports of any positive Covid-19 tests anywhere in the sport, though, and you have to give them credit for that. If they have a secret, maybe they can share it with the rest of us so we can do like they are, and get back to work.

SoFi(ne): The new colossus in Inglewood known as SoFi Stadium opened to a national television audience, but no one in the seats, Sunday night, where the Rams beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-17. You may remember when the palace that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built opened in Arlington in 2009. It was considered by far the most lavish stadium ever at the cost of over a billion dollars. This one is nicer, with a price tag of over five billion, and will serve as home to the Rams and the Chargers. I took the above photo when I walked around the construction site in January (pre-pandemic). It looks a lot nicer now.

Harmonic convergence?: ESPN called Thursday the 'Sports Equinox', marking the first time the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL all had games on the same day. There was also US Open tennis, games in MLS and the WNBA, a college football game, and action on the men's and women's golf tour. The network didn't include cycling in their list, but the Tour de France was also going on. Quite a change from March and April when we were watching 'classic games' from years gone by, isn't it?

Top of the ninth: I received an alert on my phone Sunday that Cubs pitcher Alec Mills had a no-hitter going into the ninth inning in Milwaukee. When I turned to TBS to watch the conclusion, the game was in the top ofc the ninth, and with the Cubs leading 12-0, Brewers infielder Orlando Arcia was pressed into pitching duty. Watching him lob 47 mile-an-hour pitches to Cubs hitters was almost as entertaining as the bottom half of the inning when the 28 year-old Mills closed out the game. I need to say, here, that there have been two no-hitters this season (Lucas Giolito of the White Sox has the other), and both of them have been members of my online fantasy team.

Where's Kim Basinger?: With less than two weeks remaining in baseball's regular season, I'm reminded of a thought I had in July. The season began on Thursday July 23, and concludes on September 27, nine-and-a-half weeks later. 9 Weeks is also the title of a film starring Basinger released in 1986. Completing the baseball connection, Basinger was also in the baseball movie The Natural with Robert Redford. I actually met her once. It's my favorite 'brush with celebrity' ever, but that's a story for another time.

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