Playing sports amid a viral pandemic comes with a whole host of added complications. In the United States, we don’t even yet have proof positive that it can be done. Given that we seem to be setting weekly records again for new cases of Covid-19, it’s hard for us to compare ourselves with the German Bundesliga or the South Korean KBO or the soccer (futbol) leagues that have begun returning in Europe.
We can only try, and hope that we can manage it. And covering it will be more complicated as well. Per Dan Graziano, an NFLPA conference call held yesterday revealed that not just meetings, but also media access is likely to be done virtually this year.
This is not a surprise, surely, but it does add another layer of complications, and will certainly create delays in the dissemination of information. It goes without saying that you’re not going to see swarms of microphones in a player’s face this year as he gets dressed in front of his locker, still sweaty from the hours of competition.
Of course, the media has been conducting interviews virtually since March, so this is actually nothing new. We have heard from every draft pick, from a number of coaches, and from some veteran players as well, whether it was through a Zoom meeting with a pool of reporters taking turns asking a question or two or some similar setup.
One does wonder, assuming this ends up being how the media interaction with players is conducted this year, how it will affect the way teams communicate with the public. It will especially change post-game quotes, since they’ll likely only be fielding questions after having had the opportunity to calm down and gestate what transpired, and not still living in the heat of the moment.
How will training camp be covered, though? Will coverage be strictly virtual here, as well, with members of the media unable to attend and to see what is going on? Will we simply get a Zoom call from Mike Tomlin after every practice with reporters asking, ‘so what happened today’?
This would be a critical loss of a source of information. So much of what we gather during training camp comes from reporters being able to observe what is happening and then getting the opportunity to get players to talk about it, since for so many things, they are only allowed to write about something if a player says it directly.
But you know what? That’s a small sacrifice to make if it means having a football season, and I say that as somebody who directly benefits from this as part of my job.