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Covid-19 Series, Chapter II: A Fandemic, to go or not to go to games

By Mike Has

In our latest exploration into Covid-19 and sports, we exam the dilemmas fans face on deciding whether to attend games this year.

Six words.

As the opening to one of the most popular television shows ever starts “are you ready for some football?” I remember when the Hank Williams version included “Rock’n Randall” in it for admiration for Randall Cunningham. Like the song the National Football League will have to undergo a remix/redo for the upcoming season and maybe beyond.

Both enjoyable trips, both packed stadiums with Eagles fans, but I am not willing to risk my life to do the same this year. I have already told my traveling buddies that I cannot be counted on for any trips this year and that is with the excitement that we have shared the last few years. To be in the stadium when the Eagles clinched the last playoff spot in week 17 of 2018 against Washington’s team was crazy, thousands of fans drove down Interstate 95 and high fives flew everywhere in euphoria. Now add a pandemic to that equation.

As an avid fan of the Philadelphia Eagles I bleed green, many people got Eagles tattoos after the Eagles first Super Bowl win in 2018. Some even say the live and die with the birds, that may be put to the test if the NFL allows games to be played in front of fans in the near future. For transparency, I try to travel to at least one Eagles road game per year. This past year I sat thru the pea soup for the W versus the Buffalo Bills and roasted in the Miami sun for the L versus the Miami Dolphins.

If municipalities cannot agree on the handling of the population there is no way I see how we can expect to enjoy any of our favorite pastimes in the immediate future. Football is the least important thing right now, well, correction, stopping the spread of Covid-19 is the most important, football is in my top 5.

Without fans it would also reduce the competitive edge home teams have by reduced crowd noise. I have been lucky enough to go to 3 of the loudest stadiums in the NFL in Seattle, Kansas City and New Orleans and it is hard to imagine the noise the fans created did not give an home field advantage at least in the slightest way. But more importantly, what if another player is infected with the virus? Von Miller of the Denver Broncos earlier this year said that he was infected and he believes he did everything correct to prevent getting infected.

Rookie Antonio Gandy-Golden for Washington has recently come out as well saying he contracted the virus and tested positive in March and has since received a clean bill or health.

Many questions boggle my mind and any decision I make not only effects me but my household as well. Like, if there is an outbreak do I prepare a self quarantine plan at home and do I keep track of every place I visit should there be a mass outbreak? It is no longer as simple as making reservations, gas up the vehicle and go.

My love for road games, a healthy addiction, has caused me to waver while even writing this article. While I question people who venture out and protest for bans on gatherings to be lifted, I still want to gather at a football stadium with upwards of 70,000 fans. Since I am unsure of how to make sense of my twisted logic, I asked other fans who travel to games for their views on this upcoming season and how the pandemic is effecting their decisions on traveling to games or not.

Randall Donavan (not his real name), who preferred to remain anonymous has been traveling to games for over 10 years as a fan of Dallas’ NFL team. When asked asked does Covid-19 concern him about going to games this year he replied “I’m 50/50 right now. One side of me believes if I take care of my immune system I have a greater chance of not contracting this virus. The other side of me questions am I doing enough not to contract.”

There are many things to consider on traveling to games, while many fans drive to games, he shares his views about flying “I believe that airlines are going beyond to ensure the safety of it’s passengers. The risk of a passenger contracting this virus would be so very bad for that airline as a company. Yes I would fly because I think those planes will be throughly sanitized.” There are additional concern such as rest areas and gas stations, his response to these public places “like I stated with the airlines I believe the hotel industry are going beyond with room sanitation. Although putting my head on a pillow case I would strongly pause. I would definitely cover (the) pillow with something of my own. Gas stations pump with gloves on is cool, no real concern there.”

As for as game day, Donavan suggests these precautions at games, “everyday prior to entering my workplace we are scanned to determine if employees have a fever. I would suggest opening the stadium gates 2 hours prior to start instead of the 1 hour prior to start. As they scan your tickets scan for temperature, mask and gloves must be worn at all times. I would refrain the use of alcohol because being intoxicated would cause for irresponsible behavior. Plus with the sales of team oriented mask it wouldn’t be made hard for fans to comply.”

As for the human necessities such as eating, drinking and using public restrooms at the stadium “I don’t think that’s a stadium issue, the use of public restrooms are unavoidable unless you’re (in a) 24 hour quarantine. Use toilet seat covers and throughly wash your hands before and after eating. I don’t eat inside stadiums I usually hit a tailgate then I won’t eat again until I leave.”

Would he be able to sit through an entire game with a mask on? Without hesitation Donavan said “YES, the mask I would wear wouldn’t be something I couldn’t stand for 3 hours. I think if a mask bothers you it could be an underlying issue that maybe someone isn’t aware about themselves.”

Donavan expressed his joy for road games this way “I love them, my new hobby or bucket list is to visit as many NFL stadiums as I can.” He has already decided on attending games this year “I have reserved hotel and I have a few flight credits that I plan to use. I will look to purchase game tix (tickets) early August.”

Would Covid-19 stop him? “It could stop me if we learn that things are getting worse instead of getting better” he responded, if there is an outbreak or second wave while at the game he expressed that he has a self quarantine in place when asked, “yes actually I do have an area of my home equipped with a bathroom separate from the other area of the house.” Hopefully he will not have to use it for this purpose.

We asked Moc Hill who has been traveling to games to since 2001 as a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles does Covid-19 worry him about going to games? “Hell yeah it does.” His response left little doubt of the seriousness that we face, when asked if has concerns on flying during pandemic? ”Hell yes I do. I’m the poster child for pre-existing (conditions).”

With much of the demographics attending games outside of the “safe” age range, those fears would most likely be shared by many. He added “although the games on the surface are not life and death, they are close to it. I would be extremely disappointed if the chain is broken. However I do understand.” As if that does not express what going to road games means, this hammered home his point “it’s as important as traditional holidays and birthdays. The minute one road trip is done, the next one is in the works” he said.

As for precautions he would like done at games, he responded that he would hope “a good plan structure and a commitment to follow through with them to the letter of the law” was in place.

As he lives in this pandemic, he also works through it as well, when asked if a second pandemic wave hits, do you have self-quarantine plan in place? “Not necessarily, I’m a truck driver so my job is considered essential. But I hope to at least be better mentally prepared.” With his daily life as a precursor, his plans in place for rest areas and gas stations are “nothing more than PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and great hygiene practices” he said.

When asked when will he decide if he is going to travel to another game he explained “already have altered original plan and am working on secondary plan. But definitely have plans on doing at least one road trip, even if it’s little.” But, he has same dilemma I wrestle with it seem when asked would Covid-19 stop you from going to a game? “Yes it will.”

Living in uncharted territory means most of us are experiencing conditions like this for the first time and the uncertainty of it is evident by Hill when asked have you thought about eating, drinking and using public restroom? “Thought? Yes. Have a plan? No.” His sentiment is undoubtedly shared by many if nothing else, the youthful beach goers we saw in the outbreak’s early stages taught us that fun can have a deadly cost to our loved ones.

The fact that so many people do not take a deadly virus serious gives me great pause, the risks they wish to take is on them but when it jeopardizes you it is a different story. We have all been in public bathrooms and witnessed people exit without washing their hands, this negligence takes on an whole new meaning when you expect many to break old disgusting habits. Could you trust that to change? I doubt it would nor has for everyone.

These are just a few concerns about traveling to road games for fans. With fans meeting up with friends and or family at games it could lead to outbreaks through the country upon their return home if infected. It is crazy that even knowing this I am still pondering going to games if given the option but I fear going to the market for my lifeline.

Now the option may not be left up to the paying public, as the sports leagues debate on continuing and/or starting their seasons, State, local and the Federal Government may ultimately have the final say. Many say they live through their teams, but this can be a test to see who is really willing to die for their team.

Mike Has

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