Pro football in a pandemic has become a game of Russian roulette. In the past week, that game hasn’t gone well for the league.
But it could have been worse. The Titans outbreak didn’t spread to their Week Three opponent (the Vikings), providing one specific data point that proves the theory/hypothesis that the virus doesn’t spread in an open-air or ventilated-dome setting, where the droplets containing the virus dissipate quickly without lingering and intensifying. Likewise, the positive test results in New England and Kansas City seem to be contained (the incubation period could change that), and the Saints’ Saturday night fire drill ended up being a false alarm.
All in all, the league got lucky last week. But instead of looking at what transpired and taking swift, decisive action aimed at avoiding further scenarios premised on luck being a lady tonight, the league seems to be intent on letting it ride.
There’s a sense in league circles that, for example, teams won’t be placed into hotels on a full-time basis unless and until another incident happens. But here’s the thing: There’s no unless; there’s only until.
There will be an incident. A team-by-team bubble is inevitable. So why not do it now, before something happens that requires a Week 18 or that otherwise scraps a game? Or that results in someone getting really sick, or worse?
The league has a well-earned reputation for being reactive not proactive in matters like this. Here, it’s already too late to be proactive. They’ve seen what can happen, but the reaction isn’t, “We must prevent this from happening again.” Instead, the attitude is, “Wow, that was a close call. Now keep going.”
Sure, the NFLPA doesn’t want a bubble. Plenty of coaches also don’t want bubbles, but they don’t have a union that can block the league from saying to them, “Tough crap.” To salvage all 256 games and the revenue (including game checks for players and paychecks for coaches) that go along with them, it’s far better to treat recent events as the canary in the coal mine and not as the bullet that grazed the tiny hairs on the outer edge of the league’s ear.