While things might change, the NFL 2020/21 season will go ahead as planned. You’ll expect to hear different commentaries on the matter as the season draws closer, but, as it stands, we will have football in September.
However, in this piece, we don’t want to dwell on whether the season will start late, see a reduced schedule, and so on. Instead, we want to look at sports leagues that have restarted after a long hiatus, and see there is anything that the NFL and football fans can learn from what’s happened elsewhere.
Below is a collection of musings on that topic:
When it was announced that the Wimbledon Championships would be canceled, tennis fans were rightly disappointed. However, they soon got over it, and can now look forward to the grass-court season next summer. With the US Open, it’s been a completely different story. The organizers for the event at Flushing Meadows have flip-flopped and backtracked, annoying not only the fans but the players too. Organizers need to have the courage of their convictions. Fans would rather see an event canceled with plenty of notice than to learn of it closer to the date. NFL must take a realistic approach to the new season and make those tough decisions if they are required.
If you have caught any of the Premier League or Bundesliga football in empty arenas, you will have noticed how strange it is without fans. Der Klassiker, which sees Bayern Munich take on Borussia Dortmund in Germany’s biggest football match, is usually played in an electric atmosphere, but this time around it was eerie. TV companies have started pumping crowd noise into the live feed of the games, which can make it feel a bit more authentic. Still, it sometimes feels like watching a training exercise – regardless of the high stakes of the game.
There has been a lot of talk about how seasons have been disrupted and that teams might react differently to playing in front of empty stands. It might mean that some look at the NFL betting odds and question whether the favorites could be rattled when playing under different circumstances. However, from what we can see, it’s been business as usual. The likes of Barcelona, Manchester City, and Bayern Munich have continued to dominate the soccer world without missing a beat. It turns out that Lionel Messi is pretty good playing in front of an empty stand, so the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Za’Darius Smith should be fine too.
In the UK, there was a virtual Grand National back in April. It’s not exactly a new thing, as it has been running for a few years now. However, this year there was extra scrutiny due to a lack of horse racing elsewhere. It was an intriguing event, with the winner determined by a software algorithm. Millions watched the race, and many had a flutter on it. The software even factored in some drama for the event. The idea of replacing real sports with virtual ones has been mooted for a long time, but it seems many years away yet. When big-time racing returned to the UK with Royal Ascot in June, you could almost feel the relief from horse racing fans.