The best-laid plans of mice and Roger Goodell’s men better get better.
The Marlins/MLB outbreak/crisis should serve as a stark reminder that:
No bubble, big trouble.
The NBA, WNBA, and NHL, have had mostly early success wrapping their teams in a cocoon.
The only good news out of the MLB on Monday was that none of the cardboard cutouts tested positive.
The virus joins you on the bus, at the airport, on the plane, into the hotel.
All the social distancing, all the mask wearing, all the hand washing, cannot guarantee immunity.
Traveling parties are larger in football than they are in baseball.
And then, of course, there is the tiny matter of 22 players breathing and blocking and tackling at one time on every single play.
Utopia is a vaccine, and right now that is a dream.
The next best defense is the guidance of medical experts.
The NFL has expressed confidence in its contact tracing capability.
But guess what? These are all educated guesses. There had never been a virus this contagious, this transmissible.
Perhaps the NFL guessed that our country would have had more control over the virus by now.
Wrong. Dead wrong.
“Obviously there’s concern,” a prominent NFL agent told The Post, “but remember, the NFL plays once a week, and there’s a lot of players who are NFL-caliber on the street right now. So I don’t think it’s the dire concern you might think.”
In Goodell’s Monday letter to NFL fans, he wrote:
“Adaptability and flexibility will be needed for the foreseeable future. After all, even the best game plan changes as new challenges arise.”
Is it too late to build a bubble? Would there be support for one now? “This Marlins thing came out this morning,” the agent said. “I’m gonna be talking to my guys throughout the day.”
As training camp neared, NFL players implored the league to strengthen health protocols, demanded daily testing — which they will have for at least two weeks, maybe more if the number of positive tests climbs to more than 5 percent:
And thankfully, the league agreed to scrap preseason games.
Everyone wants them to play, none more than the cry-poverty NFL owners, some of whom are wracking their brains to fill part of their stadiums with real live fans instead of cardboard cutouts.
Another NFL agent told The Post he didn’t expect the Marlins outbreak to impact the number of players who have until Saturday to opt-out, but that remains to be seen.
“Players have been seriously talking about this with their families for several months,” the agent said.
From the very beginning, I had reservations as to the reality of playing football during a pandemic — especially when there were early and dire warnings about a second wave of infection in the fall.
And then, on Monday:
“I have an immense amount of pride in the effort I have personally put forth to protect the NFL family, the Minnesota Vikings organization and our community with thoughtfulness and decision-making based on the current science over these last four months. I am humble to be serving in that capacity as it has been some of the most rewarding work of my career. But as I sit here in quarantine, it is clear this virus does not discriminate.”
That was Eric Sugarman, the Vikings’ head athletic trainer and vice president of sports medicine and the team’s infection control officer, who tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine.
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky tweeted out a plan that in hindsight should have been implemented from the start:
“Don’t tell me you can’t #NFL
Learn & be proactive. Create 10 small bubbles (2 in NE/2 in SE/2 in south/2 in Midwest/2 in west). Find ways to make that happen. Cost would be under 15 million per team-your $250 million revenue may count on it.”
“I think it’s just tough just from a numbers standpoint,” one agent said of the concept of an NFL bubble.
Then there was the issue of NFL players not wanting to be separated from their families for at least four months.
The Yankees-Phillies game in Philadelphia was canceled on Monday night because the Marlins — 13 total players and coaches infected — had played there over the weekend. And of course Marlins-Orioles was canceled.
Sobering news for MLB. Sobering news for the NFL, for NFL players reporting Tuesday for the start of training camp.
We all want this to work. We mourned the loss of Opening Day in late March, celebrated the July 23 MLB restart. It looks for now as if we will have NBA basketball and NHL hockey. But baseball and football are predictably skating on thin ice.
Your move, NFL.
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