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NFL

The NFL Can’t Wish Away COVID-19 Anymore

Cam Newton
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots game has been rescheduled, for the moment to early next week but probably further out, because COVID-19, the NFL 17. And in a weird way, having defied medical logic by playing at all, the league’s top minions have been rather more adept at repairing the pasture fence once the horse has bolted for freedom.

And that’s the best we can say about the Park Avenue Illogicals–that their arrogance and brass has always been leavened by pragmatism in the ways they have flexed their schedule so almost any single event can be accounted for and adjusted. It certainly helps that hotels are far more accommodating these days and that there are few annoying ticket refunds to process, but the kicker is that being nimble in isolated incidents is easy. If/when the cascade of positive tests come, the league will either have to resort to doubleheaders or stretch the schedule out well into next year.

The troublesome thing about Patriots-Chiefs is that it happened so quickly and seemingly out of nowhere. First Cam Newton, and then the league announced that the game was being rescheduled because the Chiefs had a positive test as well, weirdly produced by Jordan Ta’amu, the scout team quarterback who spent the week role-playing Newton for the Chiefs defense. In sum, it looks more and more like all those glowing numbers about negative tests might have been A) illusory, B) incomplete, C) evasive or D) exaggerated. After all, the new national pastime seems to be to catch the ‘rona, go about life as maskless/reckless normal, infect coworkers,  aides and supporters, and then have the job site shut down.

And this is happening while the Tennessee Titans keep piling up new positives, including three more announced today, showing that the incubation period for the virus is as prodigious as it is unpredictable. The NFL is now learning that after months of dancing through the days whistling “I Am 16 Going On 17,” as though their network ratings had the same effect as an actual vaccine, they can get the product sick, too.

But while the kneejerk reaction is to condemn the folks who run the league for their brazen disregard for the laws of virology, there is also their weird ability to deny the truth while logistically preparing for it. It’s the corporate version of having one’s head on a swivel. I guess that is somehow . . . well, admirable isn’t the word as much as it is fascinating. “We’re never wrong so don’t argue with us or we’ll smother you with our audience size. . . but just in case you’re not wrong . . . ” is a level of oops we rarely see, except at the apex of the current political party in power. After all, all these positive tests in all these corridors of influence are coming from what was originally a hoax, remember?

In other words, we may be looking at an April Super Bowl, or May, or June. There is surely a Google doc somewhere at the league office with such farfetched contingencies, and if that happens, I’m sure there will be people applauding the league for its foresight and resourcefulness while ignoring that their defiance in the face of medical facts allowed them to look so clever on the back end. If nothing else, we will admire their ability to hedge their bets while looking like they were just doubling down the entire time.