Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe if this goes through, NASCAR will host the first sporting event since the beginning of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic that will actually be a ‘host’ to a human audience. While Korean baseball was about the first to get up and running, they are still playing in front of, literally, SpongeBob Squarepants and similar plush toys. The German Bundesliga is also active, but without an audience, and players have talked about how this has eroded the homefield advantage.
The Associated Press reports that NASCAR will begin allowing some fans to return to their raceways, announced so far for two events, to be held in Florida and Alabama, respectively. In Florida, they will play host to 1000 service members. The Talladega race scheduled for June 21 will be open to a maximum of 5000 guests, in addition to a limited amount of camping spots outside of the track.
“We’re going to have a lot of hand sanitizing, hand washing”, their vice president said. “One of the things that I’m kind of proud of to see is we’re going to have a clean team, a clean team that’s at track constantly cleaning everything very visibly for every guest that’s there to know we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe. We feel confident in the plan”.
He added that the venues will have personal protective equipment available for those who do not bring their own, while instructing fans to wear it, with staff to “make sure that we do have compliance in that area when needed politely”. In other words, it sounds like they already know there will be people resistant to wearing masks at a racetrack.
Racing may not be the NFL, but it’s a step. Every sporting even that manages to host fans successfully without subsequent issues between now and the start of the football season is an important step toward the football world being able to do the same.
As I’ve mentioned a number of times over the course of the past several months, the NFL has been fortunate in comparison to other leagues to have been in its offseason mode when the pandemic hit. They stand the chance of being the least-effected major sport in the world. The only thing that they have missed so far has been in-person OTAs, which is voluntary.
Despite what some may think here, I very much root for the return of normalcy, and especially for the return of football in its complete form. This may be a dirty industry secret, but my job kind of depends on it, after all. However, even if it didn’t, I would still be watching every Sunday…or looking for other things to do in the Fall if they couldn’t play.