If the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL are committed to this season, they need a bubby city fallback plan.
If things go as planned, the Dallas Cowboys will begin training camp next month with regular season games soon to follow in September. But when have things gone “as planned” this year? And why does it seem like the NFL is overly hopeful and not very forward-thinking in their preparation?
The NFL is billion dollar industry and for many of us, it’s the thing we’re most looking forward to this fall. It’s basically Christmas for grownups. Can you imagine how you’d feel if your “Christmas” gets cancelled? I have and it’s a soul-crushing thought.
Protecting it, at all costs, by preparing for anything and everything seems like the logical move given the amount of time and money involved. And if you thought NFL numbers looked good BEFORE the pandemic, just wait until you see those viewership numbers when it’s the only new thing on TV this fall. Exposure-wise, the NFL should see this as an opportunity. If they can deliver the product, they can expect record viewership.
One thing has been glaringly apparent throughout this whole thing: The NFL is unprepared. COVID-19 has sent shockwaves, not only through professional sports, but in each of our daily lives. Every day we learn new things and see new government responses. Building contingency plans isn’t just advisable – it’s mandatory given all that’s at stake.
Yet, the nation’s most beloved league, the NFL, is taking a backseat in all their preparations. While the NBA has been innovating for months, and both NHL and MLB have been working plans and solutions for most of the summer, the NFL is hanging back and waiting for deadlines.
And now MLB, the most comparable structure to the NFL, has already suffered their first outbreak.
The time it took for the NFL to formally speak with the NFPA was a cover story in, Things that Should Have Been Done Earlier magazine. The constant hope of live fans in stadia around the country seems naïve if not reckless. The last minute cancelation of preseason games, the recently shortened training camp, the hesitancy to expand regular season rosters, and the overall lack of ideas have been head scratching.
The Dallas Cowboys themselves have been eerily quiet since the draft. For a league that seems to be lacking leadership, now is the perfect time for someone like Jerry Jones to step up and offer some innovative ideas.
Perhaps, the most important contingency plan for the NFL to line up is the idea of a bubble city. The Bubby City the NBA has constructed is professional sports best chance at successfully executing a restart to sports. It limits exposure by essentially quarantining players in a bubble. If anything is to survive this restart, it’s going to be the NBA.
Now, the NBA has the benefit of much smaller rosters and a much shorter season. A bubble city is much easier to execute in this league than it is the NFL. And that’s probably why it’s not Plan A for the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a plan.
Dallas, the city, offers itself as a possible bubble city to the NFL. Even looking past the enormous AT&T Stadium, there are a handful of venues in the area with top notch fields. People forget, the high schools in Texas have better facilities than most colleges.
To think the NFL will be able to restart on time and stick to the schedule throughout the season is more than a little optimistic. With coaches, training staff, support staff, players and their families living their lives outside of football, someone’s going to bring something back and a locker room is going to be infected. Contingency plans need to be in place.
My gut feeling is that, at the very least, fans will see a delayed postseason that takes place in a bubble city environment. The most important takeaway is that since we’ve (the world collectively) have been so bad a predicting tomorrow, contingency plans are a must. And the safest (although not ideal) plan pro sports have adopted has been the bubble city model (The NBA had no positive tests this past week).
Based on what we know, the NFL has been laggards in their planning for the 2020 NFL season. If we want to see a complete football season, they’d be wise to explore backup plans that can deal with the ever-changing circumstances.