With the 2020/2021 football season underway, some of the pandemic protocols the league implemented are obvious from a fan perspective. These include the absence of fans during most games and the fake crowd noise to recreate the game conditions for us watching on the big screen at home. There are, however, a myriad of changes that are less noticeable. Some of these make sense at first glance. Others may make you question the sanity of the NFL.
For now, there won’t be any mascots struggling to keep your attention during breaks in the action even though common sense tells us it would be hard to catch anything from someone in those costumes. This is part of the NFL Referees Association guidelines to keep all nonessential folks off the field. This goes for the cheerleaders and sideline reporters too. Some officials will also be using electronic whistles. That’s right! No more blowing saliva in all directions when the referee stops play. There also won’t be random cups of Gatorade and water bottles being indiscriminately tossed around on the sidelines. Mouthguards will also have a separate sanitation process.
In the past, teams traveling for road games would charter one plane. This season the NFL is encouraging teams to charter two planes to maintain social distancing. Also, on road games, teams must hold at least three empty hotel rooms near the game site to isolate any member of the traveling party who tests positive or reports COVID-19 symptoms. Like the rest of us who miss the all-you-can-eat buffet or salad bar, NFL players can’t attack the pre-game buffet training table. Contactless meal delivery, however, is permitted.
Sure, there was no pre-season and we won’t get that fleeting glimpse of sideline cheerleaders shaking their pom poms during games. Now, with everything going on in the world, it seems like a small price to pay to be able to watch our favorite teams three days a week for the next few months. Football is back baby, and we need it.