Every-Thing Sports

How playing games in the bubble could work for the Texans

Photo by Cody Stoots.

The NFL sent a memo to all teams about the process to reopening their facilities. Part of this hinges upon all teams being able to do so at the same time. Meaning: every city and state each team is in all have orders in place allowing them to reopen. This was done to create a fair and balanced way to level the playing field. Only certain employees are allowed inside. Each team must have a dedicated employee for cleaning and sanitizing the facility.

So could this lead to something more? Of course it will. This is the initial phase of what will undoubtedly take many phases, with tons of successes along the way. The league also constructed the schedule in a manner that will allow for flexibility if the start of the season has to be pushed back. But what about the games being played and how will that look? I propose playing in the practice facilities. Here are my reasons why:

More easily controlled environment

Giant stadiums require giant staffs to run them. If practice facilities are open, they could be the perfect place since there's a staff in place already. Visitors would have a hard time with locker accommodations I'm assuming, but that can be fixed. Having fewer people involved in the gameday operation ensures less people around to potentially infect teams and their staffs.

TV ready

As most of you have seen, practice facilities have cameras around all the time filming practices. They also have camera stands in place for getting the coach's film of practices as well. These places can easily accommodate a gameday camera crew. The way the games would be shot wouldn't require as many cameras as they'd usually have, so this would be another feasible aspect.

Cleaned and sanitized already

In order for teams to begin to start their seasons, they'll need practice time and/or training camp. If the facilities are being used for practice anyway, they'd be good to go for actual games. Teams will already have a dedicated employee for this specific purpose regarding team offices. Why couldn't this person double in the same capacity for the practice facility.

Not every team has an indoor facility like the Texans. Most do, however, have an indoor facility. Instead of playing in cavernous empty, or nearly empty, stadiums, play in the practice fields to start off. Of course tons of testing will be required for all those participating. The UFC has put on several events with success. So has the WWE. I'm not saying the NFL is willing to do things like those other organizations did, but they could learn something from them. This may be the way it starts, but I don't envision this being the way the whole season will play out. Besides, once the loss of income gets too great, they'll figure out something.

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Texans vs. Vikings could have fans in attendance. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Houston Texans say it's time that fans were allowed to cheer on the home team at NRG Stadium. On Thursday, the team announced extensive safety protocols that would put 15,000 fans in the stands for the Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 4.

While the Texans are awaiting permission from city and county officials to host a limited number of fans - socially distant and wearing masks – no plans have been announced how much tickets will cost, and who'll have the opportunity to buy them.

You have to love the free enterprise system: hundreds of tickets for the Oct. 4 game already are on sale on secondary market websites. Lower bowl tickets are going for $800 and up. If you don't mind sitting in the nose bleeds, tickets can be had for around $250.

So the question becomes, if you had the chance, would you attend the Texans game in early October? The tickets are big bucks, and there is a whammy – COVID-19. While the rate of COVID-19 infections is on the decline in Houston, the virus remains a major factor in our daily lives, and there's no guarantee that the pandemic won't spike here again.

Here's the rub, at least for me. Of all the sports we have in Houston, a Texans game might be lowest on my wish list of attending in person. Television does NFL games the best. There are dozens of cameras, so when a receiver catches a pass on the sidelines, we get several views, in slow motion even, to see if the receiver's feet were in bounds. We can almost feel the crunch of a quarterback sack. We get highlights of other games. You don't have to sit next to a face painter like David Puddy.

The NFL is a made-for-TV production. Which is, I suspect, part of the reason the Texans rarely open the roof at NRG Stadium. With the roof closed, the field becomes a controlled TV studio, with no worries of weather pranks.

Television doesn't do basketball or baseball nearly as well. Conversely, the experience of attending those games is terrific fun. What beats eating a couple of dogs at an Astros game? Is there even a traditional food at NFL or NBA games?

The Texans promise that strict safety rules will be enforced. And I believe them. Fans will be scattered over the 67,000-seat stadium. I'm not sure how much of a home field advantage that will be. Most of the crowd noise will come from pre-recorded tapes.

Here's one worry. Sure fans will sit apart and socially distanced. But what will happen when the game is over? Will fans file out in orderly, non-contagious single file? I flew Southwest a few weeks ago. The airline makes a big deal – we don't sell the middle seat. Passengers kept their distance during the flight. When the landed, you know how it is, everybody got up and piled into the aisle, shoulder to shoulder for several minutes.

What will happen if some goofball takes off his/her mask during the Texans game? Will there be enough security to handle each case?

Baseball is planning to have some fans attend post-season games at Minute Maid Park next month. UH Cougars, the Dynamo and Dash are playing in front of small crowds. It remains to be seen how safe – or how risky – allowing fans at sports events will be.

Will parents let their kids attend? Is waiting for a vaccine the smart play? If President Trump is right, that could be only a matter of weeks away. If scientists and doctors are right, nestle in for pandemic life another year. Even if scientists do come up with a vaccine, how many Americans will roll up their sleeve? Some believe, in the case of COVID-19, the cure may be worse than the disease. Not me, the moment Dr. Fauci says the vaccine is safe and effective, I'm sprinting to CVS.

The thinnest of silver linings, if ever there was a year worth sitting out, 2020 has been it for Houston sports fans. The Astros are scratching to stay above .500 (their present position), Jose Altuve hasn't had an extra base hit or RBI in almost a month, and Justin Verlander is throwing bullpens on his way to recovery. The Rockets are searching for a new coach, and possibly another team willing to take Russell Westbrook in a trade. The Texans season could go either way, we'll know if a few short weeks.

Why the rush to fill stadiums? The NBA is thriving in a bubble. Why not baseball and football? There's a fine line between safe and sorry.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo already has safety plans for next year, including masks and distancing. That will be interesting. Good luck controlling crowds pushing and shoving for corn dogs and funnel cakes.

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