The National Football League premiered Wednesday Afternoon Football on NBC at 3:40 p.m. yesterday when the Baltimore Ravens faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that been postponed three times. The early kickoff was unfortunate but necessary to avoid a conflict with NBC’s broadcast of the annual lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center.
It’s come to this: the mightiest of all leagues in the most lucrative of all sports upstaged by a Norway Spruce. The NFL has itself to blame. It tried to play away the virus, wishing it off the field like player’s kneeling during the National Anthem or an epidemic of concussions. But no back-office PR team is a match for COVID.
Other leagues have managed better. Baseball shrunk its roster and schedule, banned high-fives, hugs, arguing, and spitting. Mid-season it tightened enforcement after the Miami Marlins suffered a serious outbreak and had a successful World Series. Golf postponed its iconic Masters Tournament until the fall, foregoing blooming magnolias and late sunsets that allowed more hours on the course but bestowing a green jacket on a winner. The National Basketball Association went all out, moving into a bubble in Orlando, isolated players and tested them constantly before crowning Lebron James’ Los Angeles Lakers champions to the roar of a virtual crowd.