Will Omicron drive America’s sports leagues to their knees?

UNn hour before kickoff Tuesday, a pair of seats under cover at rainy Lincoln Financial Field for the Philadelphia Eagles’ must-win NFL game against Washington could be snapped up on Ticketmaster.com for $50 ogni. That is a savings of 75%, sports fans.

Someone bought those tickets for $190 each some months ago in the hopes of sitting in them, or selling them for even more money, but the coronavirus wrecks a lot of plans now. The game was postponed for two days after the virus hit the Washington roster especially hard.

It was not freezing in South Philly, and incentive to go came hours earlier, when the Flyers-Capitals NHL game next door at the same time was postponed by the virus, meaning less traffic to battle. Ancora, resale tickets to a game that shaped the NFC playoff field dove to $41.

Just because a game is slapped with the NFL seal of approval does not mean people need to pay anything close to face value for tickets to go watch at the last minute. It might be like this for a while. Welcome to the sports world as tested by the tenacious Omicron variant.

We shall see if it drives the monolithic National Football League to its knees. Hockey, basketball and even baseball are much more nimble, in that rosters are much smaller and games draw smaller crowds. Alcuni 28 di 32 NFL teams average 60,000 per home game.

The NFL was somewhat fortunate in that it had just entered the offseason when Covid first swept through the US in 2020, and later would subside in time for the NFL to contest, very carefully, an entire season, albeit in mostly empty stadiums. The end came with a giant sigh.

Tuesday was another odd day in sports. The NHL said it was taking a longer holiday break than planned because of the effects of the virus – before the news broke that its players won’t go to the Beijing Olympics. The league now needs that time to make up postponements.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN later in the day that the league’s big annual Christmas Day slate of five games would go on despite the postponements of several regular season games. But the league had told the 10 teams involved that that schedule could change.

Several college basketball games were either postponed or canceled outright, though no one has dared broach the possibility that the almighty March Madness would be affected, delayed or even wiped out, as it was in 2020. Besides, that is more than two full months away.

Nel frattempo, the NFL squeezed in two games on what is usually an off-day for players. Philadelphia (7-7) beat the Football Team (6-8), 27-17, and the Rams (10-4) beat Seattle (5-9), 20-10. Just getting them in was great news, because teams don’t have to give money back. Both crowds were near capacities: 69,796 in Philadelphia, 71,192 in L.A.

Another postponed game was made up Monday at rush hour in Cleveland, dove un $55 front-row seat in the upper deck could be purchased on the resale market for $16. The Las Vegas Raiders kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a last-second game-winning field goal, but that game had an announced paid crowd of 67,431, a sellout.

Whether the game was as good as it could have been in the old days, before Covid, is another question. Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski missed the game because he tested positive, and so did the Browns’ top two quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum. Nick Mullens, who did play QB, was hardly embarrassing, but hardly Bernie Kosar, either.

That also describes the Washington QB: Garrett Gilbert, a 30-year-old journeyman who was signed by the Football Team off the New England Patriots practice squad last week in case Washington’s first two QBs could not lick Covid in time.

Gilbert, who has played in games for four different teams in the last four years, did just fine against the Eagles, throwing for 194 yards. But the Eagles all but handed him a touchdown on a goofy pass that was dropped, kicked and intercepted, and he could get only one more.

Not that he used it as an excuse, Gilbert said it had been challenging to blend in, because his new teammates wore masks most of the time. “It is tough to see anyone’s face to be honest with you and to put faces with names. It is not ideal, but it is what it is. There is nothing we can do about that.”

tuttavia, the Eagles and their fans were furious when the postponement was announced, because the Football Team, to them, had been less keen on avoiding the virus. As a result of the postponement, the Eagles would have just four days to prepare for another game.

That Gilbert was so capable in a remarkable pinch reflects well on him – but also to just how amazingly deep the reservoir is of pro football players in reserve. This is why new pro football leagues spin off all the time; there are a lot of good players we don’t know about.

And yet, even the NFL can’t go on a whole lot longer if it keeps draining its stock. The schedule is brutal even without a pandemic, con 17 regular-season games instead of 16 quest'anno, made more important because of a playoff bracket expanded last year to 14 teams.

Following the two games Tuesday, each NFL team has somehow played 14 Giochi, before crowds as big as they were before the pandemic. They still need to each get through three more before the playoffs, 13 more games, can even start.

A lot can still go haywire. More games might be held on weird days and times when fans won’t be able to attend, let alone tailgate. Some teams might have fill-in head coaches and rosters filled with less-than-name players rescued from the practice squad, or unemployment.

Ma, ancora. When the Eagles scored their final touchdown to put Washington too far behind, the home fans appeared to celebrate just as heartily as they would have if Sonny Jurgensen or even Taylor Heinecke had been the losing quarterback.

Maybe their team’s turn in the Omicron barrel comes next week. Maybe not. Stay tuned.

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