With the Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, many parts of our daily lives have come to a halt.
For many, it means no work, socialising or day trips – not a lot of anything really. The world of sport is no exception. Leagues have been put on hold, tournaments cancelled, and it is uncertain when anything will start again. Sports fans can only reflect on the past and ponder the future. However, one sport has remained, so far, relatively unaffected by the crisis. That sport is American Football, specifically the NFL.
Since the playing season finished after the Super Bowl in early February, the NFL has been in its off season. Fortunate timing as the virus took hold properly in the USA from March, but for the NFL it seems to be business as usual for this time of the year. March sees the start of the new year for football and the opening of free agency.
Negotiations with players and franchises can be held on phones and over messaging services rather than face to face meetings, so social distancing measures can be met. The 2020 Draft taking place in April has been affected more than free agency has. Like a lot of the events that take place in the NFL, and the Draft is no exception, it’s a bit of a party.
The event used to welcome new recruits into the league was due to be held in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, due to the social distancing measures and that you can not socialise in big groups now, the event has been cancelled. Not completely cancelled however, the Draft still took place but over video link from the General Manager’s homes. Not the Las Vegas glamour that everyone wanted, arriving to the red carpet via boat outside the Bellagio Hotel being an example, but unique times call for unique ways of doing things.
Any physical changes to the franchises and their players will probably start hitting around July time. July will see the start of training camp which obviously will not be able to go ahead if certain measures have not been lifted. August will see the start of pre-season and obviously September is the start of the season. Hopefully by then the spread of the virus will have slowed down and the season will start on time, even if it must be played with no fans in the stadium. For the fans, the timing of this has worked well.
With most fans being into other sports whose leagues/tournaments have been postponed, the NFL is still providing a source of entertainment to keep their minds occupied. Through social media the fans are still able to interact by discussing free agency, potential draft prospects and creating Mock Drafts to try and predict what theirs and other teams will do. The NFL provides a great service to watch original programming and watch old games on the Game Pass service, another way to keep boredom from setting in. With not a lot else going on, this time could be a great opportunity to teach family or friends more about the game. With so many rules and regulations, plays and tactics, players and their franchises to learn about, days will just fly by.
These are examples of how the virus is affecting the NFL, but how is the NFL affecting the virus? Sports and their teams mean a lot to people and the communities in which they are based. Stories have been appearing regularly about how the teams in the league are helping during this time.
The Detroit Lions have had a good relationship with a non-profit organisation in Detroit called The Empowerment Plan. Usually the charity works to provide warm clothing and sleeping bags for the homeless but is now being used as a resource to make masks for healthcare workers too.
This requires more people to help, so Lions Head coach Matt Patricia stepped up with some of his players to become sewing machine operators to help the volunteers make some masks.
A big story came out of New England at the start of April. The east coast, especially the New York area had been badly hit. Due to a mass of people flooding hospitals, PPE such as gloves and masks came in short supply.
This is where the Patriots came to help. A mass order of PPE was waiting to be collected from China but because of a lack of planes in the air and pilots to fly them, it was becoming clear that this vital equipment was not going to be collected. Jonathan Kraft, the Patriots president, volunteered his franchises aircraft to go and collect. After the collection was made and brought back to the U.S, the PPE was distributed around the Massachusetts area. Robert Kraft (Patriots owner) however, after discovering that New York City was struggling for more equipment, personally purchased 300,000 masks and used the Patriots equipment truck to drive them down to the severely affected area.
Other teams are also joining in providing for their communities. Jim Irsay and his Indianapolis Colts have been donating masks and other PPE equipment to local healthcare in Indiana. The Minnesota Vikings owners, the Wilf family have currently donated $5 million dollars to Covid 19 related causes.
It’s not just the teams that are providing help its individuals also. Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf has donated $50,000 of his own money to help some causes. He is splitting the money between Swedish Hospital in Seattle and to help purchase food for those in need in Oxford, Mississippi. Another player making donations is the new Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. Him and his wife Gisele have donated 750,000 meals to help organisation Feeding Tampa Bay. The meals will go towards helping feed the vulnerable and supporting children, young families and the elderly.
Good news stories like these are just an example of the many charitable things, not just going on within the National Football League but all around the globe and we can only be thankful for people using their resources and giving up their time to help those who really need it most.
Even though football is still months away, we as fans must appreciate how the league has carried on even with an obstacle like this pandemic. Unprecedented times such as these, we must be thankful that something as massive as the NFL is still going about its daily business and keeping us entertained. So, let us take this time to be thankful we have something keeping us occupied and hope that this all calms down ready for the season to start.