A season of chaos

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When the Tennessee Titans announced they had suffered a coronavirus outbreak last week, I wasn’t surprised.

In fact, when I heard the news, my reaction was, “What took so long?”

Ever since the NFL announced it was planning to proceed with its 2020 schedule as if things were normal, I knew it would only be a matter of time until there was a COVID-19 incident to derail things. No matter how careful the league thought it was, there were sure to be flareups for individuals (Get well, Cam Newton) or spreads that would cover entire organizations (We feel ya, Tennessee).

I guess Roger Goodell isn’t a baseball fan. If he were, he would’ve taken notice of the chaos that ensued the first month of play until the 30 MLB teams got the message to follow the protocols and the positive tests dwindled to zero.

Instead, it was “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.” It was as if Goodell and the NFL were feeling their sport was bulletproof, that everything was going to be just fine. Sure, we’ll take everyone’s temperature who enters the practice facility. We’ll test the players and coaches daily. That’ll do the trick.

We knew that was a false prophecy then and it is now. If the occupants at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. can contract the coronavirus, certainly a nose tackle can test positive. And as we leave Week 4 of the NFL season in our rear-view mirror, the road doesn’t get any smoother. There are COVID potholes looming the rest of the trip and we better be ready to deal with them.

The NFL refused to bubble up and it may be paying a heavy price in not doing so. Even baseball finally got the message and moved the remainder of its postseason to contained areas in California and Texas. But you can bet there’ll be more positive tests coming out of NFL team headquarters and potentially more games being postponed and rescheduled — especially as states all over the country are seeing spikes in positive coronavirus tests as the anticipated second wave appears to have arrived.

That should be disconcerting if you bet or play fantasy football. You should use Week 4 as a guide. In less than 72 hours last week, the Steelers-Titans game got moved to Week 7, Newton tested positive and the Patriots-Chiefs game got moved from Sunday to Monday with the line jumping from Kansas City -7 to -11 before settling at -10.5 at kickoff. A Saints player tested positive, got retested and the result came back negative.

The NFL will tell you it was prepared for all of these eventualities and Monday announced additional protocols. But that doesn’t excuse the chaos it caused. My friend texted me Sunday wondering if his Pats-Chiefs betting ticket was still valid and I told him it depended on which sportsbook he placed his bet at. The rules for games that get postponed differs from book to book. What could be no action at one joint could be a live ticket at another.

He was understandably frustrated with my response. How many of us bother to check the rules in the book every week? We’re more concerned with the long line of people in front of us tying up the window as kickoff nears for the early games and our fear of being shut out. Who has time to read the fine print?

And what about fantasy players who planned to have Newton in their lineup? Were they allowed to make a substitution? Again, the rules vary depending on what league you belong to or where you play.

Then there are the NFL contests like Circa’s and the Westgate’s. What if you played Kansas City at -7 then saw the line jump to -11?  If you were playing in Circa’s contest, your selection was still in play at the original number. At the Westgate, it was the same. Your play counted. 

In the end, it didn’t matter as the Chiefs covered the number.

If we learned anything from last week, it’s that there are ramifications that extend well beyond the field.

So we adjust. We change our fantasy lineup if we can. We accept our fate if our bet is still action when one of the teams we bet on has a coronavirus outbreak and pray the betting gods will take pity on us.

And we curse Goodell for not having the smarts that Adam Silver and Gary Bettman had for having ensconced their leagues inside protective bubbles and managing to finish their seasons without a hitch.

But by all means, let’s keep fining coaches for not wearing their masks properly while doing their jobs on the sidelines. Nothing says the NFL quite like cutting off your uncovered nose to spite your covered face.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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