With America currently in the worst turmoil we’ve seen in over 50 years – we “children of the ‘60s” remember the social revolution of 1968 that included the assassinations of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, the riots at the Democratic convention right here in Chicago and a flu pandemic which also took over 100,000 lives here in America – it is a little difficult to focus on professional sports right now.
But... it was just five weeks ago when the coronavirus pandemic was spreading faster than anything we could have imagined that the NFL chose to continue “business as usual,” going forward with the NFL draft on schedule to record TV viewership and internet traffic, and was widely praised for providing us all with a much needed distraction.
So where do we go from there?
Not only did we survive the inferno of the summer of ’68, we flourished.
I’m afraid all I have to offer is while it may not feel like it right now, as long as the great majority of us focus on honoring and respecting our constitution, our democracy and most importantly all of our fellow citizens, we will survive this too and eventually flourish again.
With all that as a backdrop the Chicago Bears and the rest of the NFL hope to provide us with a much needed respite again by officially beginning their Offseason Team Activities this week in preparation for a 2020 season we all hope will occur.
Will it happen?
Consider what the Houston Texans three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year told TMZ just the other day.
“I don't know what's going to happen, I'm just like everybody else. We're all kind of just waiting and seeing," J.J. Watt said.
“We love the game. We love the competition ... as long as it's safe for everybody.
“You have to remember we have coaches who are older. We have people helping out on the sidelines and staff members.
“So, as long it's safe for everybody and as long as everybody is comfortable and confident, I'm all for it because I think it does help return some normalcy and it gives people something to be excited about, to cheer for again.”
But how do you make a game based on bodily contact that results in the regular swapping of fluids safe in the face of COVID-19?
I have no answers for that one yet and the NFL obviously doesn’t either, as all OTAs this week will begin virtually in Zoom conferences that will never resemble the game of football, but will keep everyone safely socially distanced.
I asked Bears head coach Matt Nagy a couple of weeks ago how effective these OTAs can be with players unable to even be together let along engage in any actual football activities.
“Where I feel like we’ve excelled in our idea of how we’re going to do this is, we’ve kept a really, really good balance of quote-unquote other stuff, which are interactions between the players," Nagy said.
“Really what they do with the new CBA is they say you can have the players for X amount of time, you can have the players for X amount of days. It’s very similar to what we would have if we were at Halas Hall.
“The difference is that we break that time out to go out on the field. That’s extra time that we’re having right now.
“We’re creating our own (format) as we go based on the feedback we’re getting on the amount of monotony that we’re getting in these meetings. It’s been a lot of collaboration between players and coaches.”
There are unanswered questions everywhere, but the best news for Bears fans is we will get to visit with a number of veterans this week for the first time in months and try to find out where they’re all at right now.
It is safe to say it is no coincidence that the first five Bears up this week are scheduled to be Akiem Hicks, Allen Robinson, Danny Trevathan, Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles – who also happen to comprise the team’s social justice committee.
It won’t be football as we know it, but it will be a start. Hopefully a pleasant distraction as well as a window into how many of your football heroes see the world around us right now, and it’s sure to be more pleasant than the 24/7 news cycle we’ve been force fed over the last few days.