football

Mile High Stadium

COVID-19, Sports and the NFL

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Throughout this COVID-19 crisis, it’s been tragically fascinating to watch how this has impacted sports. Despite it being entertainment, sports remain a foundational pillar of our society, in large part that it gives distraction from the problems in our daily lives, as well as provides a commonality for us to rally around (or against, in the case of the Raiders). Obviously lots of serious things are missing from our social fabric right now, but the absence of sports leaves a unique void.

Likewise, it’s been fascinating to watch how the leagues try to figure out what comes next. Weeks after the abrupt shock that was the NBA and NHL vanishing overnight, it still seems that any sports are months away from returning, even in modified gameplay, sequestered teams, in remote locations, without fans.

Then you have the NFL.

The NFL has a large advantage of being in the midst of their offseason, as well as the ability to turning every league milestone into a major event. They’ve been able to portray “business as usual” more than any sports league. As refreshing it’s been to be reading content that isn’t about COVID-19, it’s not clear whether the NFL realizes that they can also sound tone-deaf about being a contact support involving hundreds of people in the field, in stadiums that typically house tens of thousands of fans – all at a time when people see this as a major risk for virus spread.

For Broncos season ticket holders, the first payment for next season was due on March 11, right when our world seemingly changed overnight. For those that are on payment plans, the remaining half of ticket balances are due in June. Those three months might seem like three years later, at a time when we’ll likely still know less than we do know when it comes to the fall, as well as many fans having experience severe economic disruption and challenge since they made their first payment.

Look, I get that season ticket ownership is a privilege, and in the case of the Broncos, there’s a long line of people who would gladly take your spot. That said, the Broncos and the NFL shouldn’t blame any ticket holder who has major reservations about going to in-person games in 2020. I’ve long thought that season ticket ownership is a years-long partnership between fans and the team, where fans are encouraged to financially contribute in both good times (like the Super Bowls), and bad (like the first back-to-back-to-back losing season in the Bowlen era). The tickets in my stewardship have been with the Broncos since the franchise started, and it’s unfair for the NFL to ask fans to potentially risk their lives in going to games, as well as blindly contribute a significant amount of their income for games that they likely won’t be able to attend.

There’s an easy solution to this problem, one that can ensure that both the fans and the team can continue their partnership: allow season ticket holders to defer their 2020 tickets (and second half payment) to the 2021 season. Ticket holders can elect to apply their previous first-half payment to the 2021 season, giving the team assurance that the fans want to maintain the season ticket partnership. In return, the ticket holders forgo their rights to games in the 2020 season, and their seats are added to the “individual game sales” pool that goes on-sale in July, when the league has a better sense of whether and when any in-person attendance would be allowed. Personally, given the amount of public health and financial uncertainty, I would take this deal in a heartbeat.

However, I remain skeptical that this will happen. Given how ruthless the NFL can be, they’ll continue to expect their season ticket holders to make payments on time, for games that likely won’t happen. They’ve already sent an email stating that they’ll refund any games that don’t happen – but of course after the fans have coughed up the money and the team can make interest off the funds.

Come on Broncos and NFL, these are extraordinary times, take this as an opportunity to do right by your long-time fans.

The ridiculous new NFL bag policy

Reacting to this story on ProFootballTalk: League alters bag policy for safety, convenience

What an absolutely stupid rule change.  It only becomes more obvious that the NFL doesn’t give a crap about the fan experience.  I love how their primary reason for this change is to reduce the wait times for fans entering the stadium.

I realize that NFL brass are used to going through their VIP entrances, so let me enlighten them on the typical fan experience: there are already express lines for fans who don’t bring bags to the games! The fans that do bring back already choose to sacrifice their time by standing in a longer line.

There are good reasons why fans choose to bring a bag:

  • Trying to gear up for a cold weather game. In Denver, there’s always at least 1 game that requires a multitude of blankets, layers and hand warmers.
  • You somehow have an aversion to paying $4 for a bottle of water, electing to bring in the same bottle that costs 1/10th as much – same is to be said for snacks.
  • You have young kids that require a diaper bag

The NFL can hide behind “safety” they want, but the reality of the situation is that bags cost the NFL money: be it in the form of additional security that screens them and lost revenue from outside food sales.  For them to claim safety being the issue is deplorable – they just want more Coin.  Let’s be honest: anyone who is looking to bring or do something terrible would already be causing plenty of damage outside of the stadium, or find another way in – just like how two random guys managed to wander their way into the Super Bowl.

I don’t blame the NFL for wanting to operate like the business they are, but I do take offense when they do it in the guise of safety, showing little regard for their customers.  I wonder if their “Fan Conduct Committee” actually includes any paying fans. It’s only a matter of time before the NFL’s customers grow tired of repeatedly being kicked in the ass.

“I Hate* Tim Tebow**”

Tebow

“I Hate Tim Tebow”

I Twittered those words last night, sitting in a rain-soaked Mile High Stadium finally fed up with the 18th series of boo’s coming down and the 10th chants of Tebow that started no sooner than halfway through the 2nd quarter of the first game of the 2011 season.  So I posted the following to Twitter:

I hate Tim Tebow – and it’s because of all you jackasses at this game that chant his name. What about him drives you to boo your own team?

So I rang that bell – and I can’t un-ring it. Since then I’ve engaged in some Twitter discussion with Tebow supporters – some of them friends & family – about my comments and what spurred them.  While I can’t put this toothpaste back in the tube, I feel like I need more than 140 characters to explain what I said, and why I wrote what I did:

“I Hate* Tim Tebow**”

* ”Hate” is a strong word, but it’s important to understand Sports Hate vs. Real Hate.  Because of the affiliation nature of sports, you have the ability to hate a player for what they do on the field, or you hate that they’re on a team that you rival.  You don’t hate the person personally, or want anything bad to happen to them or their family – you just don’t want to see them do great in sports at that moment.

** In the case of Tim Tebow, I don’t have a problem with Tim as a player or as a guy. He’s a charismatic athlete who has found success in a conventional game through unconventional ways – it’s easy to understand why people gravitate to him and root passionately for him.  At the same time, Tebow has (unintentionally) bred an aura of mal-content and distrust amongst Broncos fans against the coaches, management and team in general.  Over the years as we have watched the team suffer some fallbacks, it seems that fandom has taken a turn for the worse.  Once unconditional supporters, Broncos fans have now become fickle, ready to turn on their team with a series of boo’s after every bad play.

This is nails on a chalk-board for me.  There are very few exceptions, but generally you should never boo your own team at home! Last night when the game started, I commented to my wife that there was a great sense of energy in the stadium that hasn’t been felt for some time – that all lasted all of 1.5 quarters, when the boo’s rang down amongst the stands after an interception was thrown.  A steady stream of boo’s persisted for the rest of the game, much like the rain that fell throughout the night.  The boo’s then degenerated into chants of “Te-bow, Te-bow” throughout the third and fourth quarter.  In the storied South Stands, fans started to turn on each other, with one fan profanely ripping into a guy for saying Orton should get the benefit of the doubt.

I hate to say it, but last night the Raider fans showed more class towards their team.  It was no surprise that they egged on Broncos fans that chanted for Tebow.  Why not root for the continued fracturing of fanbase of your rival?

I realize Tebow didn’t ask for this (at least not directly – Tebow has no shortage of endorsements, public appearances, and has written memoires at the age of 23).  Tebow didn’t ask to be drafted in the first round. Tebow didn’t ask to play for John Fox and John Elway.  Tebow didn’t ask to sit on the bench while his team is struggling – I get all that.  What I don’t think Tebow fans get though is that putting him in isn’t going to solve all of your problems.  John Fox and his staff have forgotten more about football than most fans know.  As fans we have a right to second-guess the coaches, but in the first game in the first season: the coaches deserve the benefit of the doubt. They feel Tebow isn’t the right guy to play in this situation, we should accept that.  If you don’t agree with that – fine, then don’t cheer Orton – but to boo the guys that put their health on the line to ultimately entertain you – that’s classless.

The problem I have with Tebow is that his presence is turning a segment of Broncos fans into Tebow fans, who couldn’t care less about the state of the team.  All that matters to them is to see their guy play. Nevermind the other 44 players on the team. Nevermind that Tebow is currently the 3rd-string QB after a training camp where he seems to have regressed in his performance.

Orton shares in some of the blame for last night’s loss, but there’s plenty of it to go around. Orton didn’t make the running backs anemic in their 38 yard performance. Orton didn’t commit 6 holding penalties on the offensive line.  Orton didn’t drop passes.  Orton didn’t let the Raiders rush for nearly 200 years last night.  Tebow is not going to make all of this better.

I realize that I’m extremely fortunate to be able to attend home games, and that there are people far more deserving than I that don’t get to go, but it’s not fun going to the games anymore – not because we’re losing, but because being completely infatuated with a single player, the fans have lost sight in what it means to support their team.

Mark Schlereth is a stud

As a biased Broncos fan, I’ve always loved Mark Schlereth, and love his contributions on ESPN.  However today he took it to a completely different level today, addressing the recent crackdown by the NFL against players who are violently hitting: a complex issue, no doubt, but Schlereth makes some excellent arguments. This video is definitely worth watching.

Mark’s right, the NFL is being very hypocritical, sitting on Mt. Pius and leveling hefty fines against players and now threatening suspension.  It was surprising to me that Schlereth has more an issue with the fines than he does with the suspensions, especially considering that NFL player fines are donated to charity.  Also, when a player is suspended, do they not receive a game check for that week – so you’re they’re still getting money taken away from them. I wish Schlereth would clarify that point.  I also think that there’s some built up reprehension in his statement for the mistreatment of retired players suffering health conditions (and rightfully so).

I’m pretty much lock-step with Mark here, but the only issue I take is that he’s rallying behind James Harrison. Please Mark, rally behind anyone but Harrison, who called his incoming fines “travesties” and then went on to say that he’s out to hurt players.  He goes on to explain the different between “hurt” and “injured”, except he said this right after two players he tried to “hurt” could no longer play because they’re “injured” – Harrison has a pretty crappy sense of timing and when to say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  And to cap all of this, Harrison is now threatening to take his ball and go home, not exactly the most mature way to participate in this debate.  It’s not like this is a momentary lapse in judgment for Harrison, as two years ago he justified bailing on the Super Bowl White House trip because Obama’s not a Steelers fan.  Politics aside, if you won the championship in your sport, you go meet the President – that’s just the way it is.

This is shaping up to be a very interesting week, with many more NFL legends weighing in the current state of professional football.  Remember this was all started by Rodney Harrison calling the kettle “black” on Sunday Night Football. Stay tuned.

MNF

I’m probably not making any big posts tonight due to my attention being focused on the Broncos/Chargers game.  Usually I’m able to blog during Monday Night Football, but I’m too focused on this game to collect any thoughts.

As I watch this game, the more I realize how much I loathe the Chargers.  I think there are some teams that the national media becomes infatuated with, maybe it’s due to the supposed level of talent, or a specific player they want to rally behind – but it seems like the Chargers are one of those teams that the media is simply in denial about.  The Chargers have been pretty sub-par for the last two years, yet the media still tries to see them as a Super Bowl team.

Even tonight, when the ESPN pre-game show was going across their screen, they had 3-4 of the commentators going for the Chargers.  Never mind the fact that they’re injured on their offensive line, that Shawne Marriman isn’t the player he once was before he got injured, or that LaDainian Thomlinson has fallen from grace.  Somehow they manage to ignore that and still see the Chargers as the darlings of the AFC West, which they’ve penciled into their playoff brackets.

Media infatuation aside, I also loathe the Chargers because of Phillip Rivers and the way he gets a pass for all of his trash-talking that he does.  He always looks like a spoiled kid whenever they are on top, but if they face a shred of adversity he’s nowhere to be found.

So yes, it was fantastic watching the Broncos win tonight and continue to prove the national media was wrong: both about the Chargers and about the level of play coming from the Broncos.