The late-but-wise decision to cancel the New York City marathon serves only to put more focus on the decision to proceed with Sunday’s game between the Steelers and the Giants.
On Friday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie approved the decision, but his comments to Chris “Mad Dog” Russo contained enough nuance and equivocation to make us wonder whether Christie, if the decision were his, would have gone forward with the game at MetLife Stadium.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much of anything diverted away from us by having the game there,” Christie told Russo. “The fact is that’s a completely privately owned piece of property now. There are flushless toilets in the new MetLife Stadium. This is just not a situation where I think there are going to be a lot of state resources diverted. And ultimately, my philosophy is I don’t want the government involved in making those decisions unless it is an absolute emergency. Now, if the East Rutherford area looked like Mantoloking? Whole different story. But you don’t have that kind of destruction up there. You do have people without power but they have their own power system up there. But the fact is I don’t think there is a lot being diverted. If the NFL feels comfortable playing under those circumstances, that’s the NFL’s call as long as they are not impeding me from being able to help the state back to recovery. And I don’t think those three hours are going to hurt the state’s progress towards recovery.”
Christie’s position was reinforced by the fact that East Rutherford, the location of the stadium, should have full power by Sunday. “The fact is that if it came to a point where I felt like there was anything that was impeding our recovery, I know [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell well enough, we’ve spoken twice already this week, I would pick up the phone and call Roger and say, ‘Roger, listen, you’ve got to move it to Pittsburgh. We just can’t do it.’ I don’t believe that’s the case and as long as it is not the case then I don’t want to get involved in Roger Goodell’s business. He gets paid a lot more money than I do so I’m not going to get involved in his business.”
While Christie was clear that the game won’t impact the recovery effort, phrases like “that’s a completely privately owned piece of property” and “I don’t want the government involved in making those decisions” and “if the NFL feels comfortable playing under those circumstances” and “I don’t want to get involved in Roger Goodell’s business” suggests that, if it were Christie’s business, he would have moved the game or rescheduled it.
Apart from impeding the recovery efforts, the question becomes whether folks who have paid for their tickets will be able to go. And whether they will want to go. And whether proceeding with the game so soon after the state suffered one of the most devastating blows in its history shows the proper respect and deference to the situation.
A full 49 Novembers ago, Commissioner Pete Rozelle made a decision to proceed with NFL games in the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy. In hindsight, it was the wrong decision. Hindsight could lead to that same conclusion here.