The COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands around the world and will kill thousands more. It has changed the way we all live — for now, if not forever. It’s obviously so much bigger than football and sports, which mean nothing in the face of a deadly worldwide crisis.
That said, the sports world is doing everything it can to help. Among the first athletes to do so was Russell Wilson, who (with wife Ciara) is helping to contribute 10 million meals to those in need. Drew Brees and his wife are giving $5 million to hard-hit Louisiana to combat the virus. Many others are contributing as well, and athletes everywhere have joined the PSA calling for people to stay home and help flatten the curve.
On Friday, the Seahawks and Seattle’s other franchises (the Mariners, Sounders and Storm) and events (Seafair, the Bite of Seattle, the Washington State Fair) released a statement imploring people to stay home — appealing to their desire for a return to normalcy by summer.
“What you do over the next several weeks can either help or hinder the return of some of your favorite events. We don’t know how long it will take to flatten the curve, but what you do now could help save celebrations and entertainment for the Puget Sound region.”
Meanwhile, the Seahawks have offered CenturyLink Field (obviously not being used by the Sounders at the moment) as a field hospital to handle the overflow of cases.
By all accounts, this pandemic is still weeks away from peaking — with cases in many places still doubling every two or three days. On March 19, there were 10,755 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 154 deaths. On March 27, those numbers were around tenfold higher: 104,671 and 1,711.
One projection indicates the outbreak will peak in mid-April in the U.S., with over 51,000 deaths by May 1. This projection forecasts subsiding cases in May to the point where there are fewer than 200 deaths per day by June.
So we probably will need to continue social distancing and isolation through May and perhaps June, with a possible return to whatever the new normal will be by July — after far too much death and suffering, obviously.
On the sports front, the NFL has proceeded with free agency and plans to conduct the draft remotely April 23-25 — giving fans something to take their minds off the pandemic that has shut down much of the country and world.
The pandemic already has affected free agency. Jadeveon Clowney cannot get an offer he likes because teams cannot be assured of his physical condition, and several agreements (e.g., Michael Brockers and the Ravens) have been nullified because of complications related to the COVID-19 shutdown.
You can rule out offseason programs. And training camps will open on time only if all states have a handle on COVID-19 by July and airlines have ramped up again.
Wilson (like a number of quarterbacks) holds his own pre-camp workouts with teammates every summer, and it will be interesting to see whether he, new teammate Greg Olsen and the rest of the Seahawks’ skill players are able to get together in June.
From a football perspective, the Seahawks won’t suffer as much as some others from the shutdown. As NFL observers have pointed out, clubs that have switched coaches or brought in new quarterbacks will be at a disadvantage against teams with established schemes and QBs. And fewer rookies than usual seem likely to contribute, given the expected lack of prep time.
None of that is really important right now, as this pandemic continues to accelerate over the next 2-3 weeks. But, as it hopefully starts to subside in late April, we will have the draft to entertain us. And maybe by July, we will have seen the worst of it (as tragic as the effects of that will be) and we can look forward to a return to normal life, which would mean sports again.
As the Seahawks and Co. said in their statement, “When the emergency has passed and our social interaction returns to normal, all events will be an important part of the recovery. … After a long period of isolation, our communities are going to need live interaction, connection and celebration more than ever.”
Until then, as they said, “Help us flatten the curve that could help your favorite sport and event return.”