FROM HOME, Texas – The Major League Baseball season officially began Thursday night, Yankees beating Nationals, 4-1, in of all things after waiting this long for the start of the season a rain-shortened game.
The NBA is into scrimmages, the resumption of the season set for July 30 in a bubble.
The NHL season resumes Aug. 1, in two bubbles.
Those folks are into bubble-less breath-holding.
The Cowboys' rookies reported on Tuesday, all being tested for COVID-19 in a designated area by The Star loading dock. The rookies are required to test a second time today, July 24. Two negative tests will allow them to enter the facility once the results are confirmed.
So, like who knows.
The remainder of the players will report on Tuesday, July 28, for their initial nasal-swab testing. Same for them. Must test again 72 hours later. Only two negative tests will allow them into The Star.
Again, who knows what those test results will be for what is now a 90-man roster, with looks like a possibility of shrinking to 80. Who knows how many of these players have maintained a self-induced bubble during this raging coronavirus pandemic.
Positive tests will create complicated isolation from the facility, just as we've seen in the NBA with players testing positive before being allowed into the Disney bubble.
Prior to B.C., Before Corona, teams would hold their breath during that period stretching nearly six weeks from the end of the offseason workouts to the start of training camps with players enjoying unstructured time. But now, that breath-holding is for an entirely different reason.
And remember, even if players test negative during this initial phase of testing, that only allows them into the facility. After that, at the behest of the NFLPA, players will continue being tested every day for the next two weeks. And only if enough players pass with flying colors, considered less than 5 percent positivity, then testing will be conducted once every two days.
Still a lot.
The ESPN crawler last night while watching the Dallas Mavericks-LA Lakers scrimmage proclaimed none of the 346 NBA players have tested positive for COVID-19 since entering the bubble on July 13. The bubble is working.
They say there is no crying in baseball?
Well, there is no bubble in football.
Probably not logically or logistically feasible for that many people playing a game once a week over 17 weeks. I get it.
But at least what about training camp? A bubble could have been created had the NFL and NFLPA agreed on players being required to remain at the team hotel for the duration of camp. Just as if they were being housed at the Cowboys' team Residence Inn during training camp in Oxnard, Calif., all these years.
But nope, it's optional for players having places to reside locally once the NFL prohibited teams from staging destination camps. Players can stay at the adjacent Omni Hotel if they so choose, along with those just trying to make the team. Or they are allowed travel back and forth from their local residence for practices.
Therein lies the X-factor.
The players must manage themselves properly, along with those
they are living with in their residences, during those times when they are away from the facility. Where they eat. Who they associate with.
That may sound harsh, but with the pandemic spreading faster than the weeds in my mostly unattended garden, they now have a certain responsibility to do all they can do – and even that might not be enough – to keep themselves from being infected.
To do the right thing when no one is watching.
Think about it. They are going to be tested daily for two weeks. Then possibly every other day. Those they are in close contact with on a daily basis at The Star, coaches, trainers, equipment staff, front office executives – all those designated in the Tier 1 level – are being tested, too. There will be no contact with the media for interviews. And what interviews being conducted will be virtually.
So nearly no outside contact once they are inside the facility.
And the safety protocols are quite stringent, insisting on social distancing in the locker rooms, showers, meetings, on the field, in the weight room. Insisting on masking up within the facility. Prohibited from having team meetings in confined spaces.
Hospital-level cleansing within the facility will be constant. Personal water bottles and towels. Ability to wear those protective shields attached to their helmets being offered. No shared clothing. Shared equipment must be cleansed. Food service required to be served in pre-packaged containers.
Even canceled the entire offseason and all preseason games to prevent contact and travel deemed unnecessary.
Sure, nothing is fail-proof. We all get that. And that has been the scary part over these past four, mentally excruciating months trying to confine as much as possible a free world.
But just as on the 35th play of a game, the players just can't let their guard down with required social distancing and masking. At least not for the next five months. Vigilance is required. And not by just them, but all living with them or associating with them if they are not stationing themselves in the team hotel.
A lot to ask?
Yep, sure is. But definitely a lot to gain if successfully able to pull off this arduous task of getting through this season without a work stoppage, even if there are little to no fans allowed to attend games. TV is important. Just pay attention to these ratings for the exhibition baseball games or the NBA scrimmages. Like there was an average of 4 million people watching the Yankees-Nationals season opener. People are starving to watch competition.
Heck, I've even turned on some NASCAR, and I NEVER watch. Ever.
Plus, if you think about it, able to play an entire season is an investment for years to come. As of early this evening, the NFL owners and NFLPA hammered out the financials for this coming season, trying to protect a bottoming-out of the salary cap for next year knowing stadium revenues will drastically decline even at limited capacity. The owners have made financial concessions if games are missed, offering stipends for those without guarantees or if they opt-out for health or personal reasons.
But all these precautions are not just for the owners to protect their bottom line, but for the players, too. Because a drastic fall in revenue means a drastic decline in the next year's salary cap, though appears no lower than $175 million. Even at that, it's more than a $20 million drop from this year's $198.2 million cap.
And a drastic decline in the salary cap means lost jobs for 2021, as well as players with non-guaranteed escalating base salaries and yearly roster bonuses, since the cap is tied to league revenue, possibly being released out of necessity.
Fan interest must remain high. That will maintain marketing deals through creative in-stadium signage visible to the TV audience. That will maintain TV ratings. And think about it, if stadiums are locked down, an average of like 65,000 people will be watching every game. For the Cowboys home games, that's like 90,000 more watching TV. I mean, if you are willing to spend that kind of money on ticket prices, you're sure as heck going to be watching the game on TV for free, all making advertisers jumping for joy in a time there has been little joy to jump to around us.
And for all this to happen, the NFL must maintain a high-quality of play.
And you can't sustain that without the players. Healthy players. This needs to be a collaborative effort between the owners, coaches and players invoking Jerry Jones' long-standing "do-right" rule.
Yep, to all of in this bubble-less time:
Just do the right thing.