Anthony Fauci is the United States’ leading expert in infectious diseases such as the novel coronavirus. He said in June that “football may not happen this year.”
As the National Football League (NFL) and college football seasons approach, I’m afraid Fauci may be right. Let’s look at some reasons.
First, things have gotten worse in many places across the country with respect to the coronavirus. The number of coronavirus cases is rising in many areas. Sadly, more people are dying of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Second, Major League Baseball (MLB) has tried to start its season but has had problems. MLB teams are not in a “bubble” as the professional basketball and hockey teams are. (A “bubble” means players and staff stay in the same place — with no visitors — until the season is over.)
At least two MLB teams, the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals, have several players who have tested positive for the virus, and they have had to postpone games.
Like professional baseball, the NFL and college football teams are not planning to be in any bubble. They will play in many cities, and that may mean big trouble with the virus.
Finally, think of a football game. Think of the huddles, tackling, blocking, pileups at the goal line. Think of how the players line up almost in one another’s faces.
Football players are much closer to one another during a game than baseball players. It’s easier for the virus to spread in those close quarters.
The NFL will probably try to start its season in September. The NFL, after all, is a big business. The games are on television and generate billions of dollars for the owners and players.
The minimum salary for an NFL player is $610,000 or more than 11 times what a typical American worker makes. The average NFL salary is more than $2 million. So NFL athletes will be paid very well for taking the risk of playing during a pandemic.
But there is no way colleges should play football this year. I understand that big-time college football is a business, too, and those games are seen on TV and generate lots of money for lots of people. All 14 of the head coaches in the Southeastern Conference make at least $3 million a year.
But unlike the pros, college athletes are not paid hefty salaries to play. College players receive a scholarship and money for certain expenses. That’s not a lot to risk their health to play.
Some smaller conferences are canceling their football seasons. Bigger conferences, such as the Southeastern Conference, say they will play a shorter, 10-game season.
But the coronavirus may have the final say. Fauci may be right. Football may not happen this year.