The latest news of multiple players and coaches within the Miami Marlins organization sent shockwaves through the sports world. The opening of the 2020 MLB season was overshadowed when this news broke. It hasn’t even been a full week since baseball started their delayed season, and a full team is being suspended from play until Sunday. Now questions are being raised about this current debacle: What will happen if there are more teams that have multiple COVID cases? How will this affect the rest of the MLB season? Will baseball adapt to a bubble environment to avoid traveling? But most importantly, can this potentially doom the upcoming NFL season?
Baseball and football are two sports that are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to being able for players to be distanced from one another. Baseball only has nine players on defense, and each of them is spaced out in a satisfactory manner. Players being within six feet of each other occurs only a handful of times. The MLB can survive even if there is a full team that tested positive with coronavirus. Here is the hard truth: there is a very slim chance that the NFL could survive under the same circumstance.
Football cannot socially distance their players like baseball can. The end of a football play ends with a single player, or even a gang of them, tackling the ball carrier. Linemen on each side of the ball pushing and breathing on each other on every single play. Even the amount of people on the sidelines is concerning. The NFL front office has a catastrophe at hand dealing with what they can do to prevent as much physical contact as possible. Jerseys swapped at the end of the games between players are banned. Stadiums, depending on state laws, will be at limited capacity. Face coverings will be required for attendees. However, the question remains, can the NFL persevere through a potential coronavirus outbreak?
The NBA and NFL did it right with the bubble concept. No traveling back and forth to other states where cases could be spiking. The NBA is housing their players and holding all games at the Disney Resort in Orlando, and the NHL located their Eastern Conference teams in Toronto and their Western Conference teams in Edmonton. Strict guidelines are enforced to avoid the spread of the virus at all times. Unfortunately, the NFL and MLB have not gone forward with this same concept. Teams will travel back and forth to different states to play their games. MLB enforced strict guidelines as well, such as no fans, players and staff wearing face coverings in the dugout, to even the laughable no spitting rule. All these rules are respectable, but after the Miami Marlins outbreak, concerns and doubts have been surfaced.
The Cleveland Browns players reported to Berea to begin three days of COVID testing before being able to enter the training facility, but even if they test negative, the question remains: could the NFL prevent a spread of the coronavirus this season? What if there’s a Marlins situation where multiple players test positive after they just finished a series with the Phillies? Let’s say the Browns play a team where, afterward, it comes out that that team had multiple positive cases of COVID. Are the Browns then in jeopardy of having that same fate? After two teams go through hours of tackling, battling and sweating all over one another, is it safe to have them travel to another city or state and do the same thing? The news of the Marlins diminished hopes of many that the MLB could continue on, but the NFL is a whole other beast. The uncertainty of the 2020 NFL season is escalating now, and the countless questions of safety remain unanswered.