PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – JULY 21
By Leo Haggerty
HOPEFULLY COMPETITIVE BALANCE
The National Football League is now officially between a rock and a hard place. Why, you ask? Well., let me enlighten you, my loyal readers.
“The Shield” prides itself on being the professional sports league that has almost complete competitive balance. Well, that axiom is going to be severely tested IN 2020.
Today, an executive order was issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. It bars the New York Jets and the New York Giants from having fans until “further notice” for home games at the 82,500-seat MetLife Stadium.
Now, before you ask how does New Jersey have jurisdiction over two New York teams, let me remind you of this salient point. Even though “The Big Apple” is the moniker of both franchises, they both play across the Hudson. That means they must abide by New Jersey edicts.
The order recently capped attendance at outdoor gatherings in New Jersey to 500 people. On Monday, that was extended to .include sporting events along with training camps.
So, here’s why this a “competitive balance” problem for the NFL. If all other franchises are allowed to admit fans to their home tilts, crowd noise becomes a huge factor. The “home field advantage” would not exist, at least for the foreseeable future, for either New York teams.
That leads to this conundrum for Commissioner Roger Goodell. Does he instruct the other 30 owners, for the sake of competitive balance, to follow suit and play in empty home venues until all teams can open their turnstiles to fans?
That would mean Goodell would be telling owners to give up massive ticket revenue because other areas of the country did not have the pandemic under control. Those guys don’t like to lose money so you know that won’t sit very well with those folks.
What will probably save Goodell from a huge in-fight among the NFL team owners is individual state governments. Let me give you a relevant real time example.
With California and Florida plus Texas spiking with Covid-19 positive test results the last couple of days, look for the governors of those particular locales to take action. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chief Executive in those three states followed New Jersey’s lead by eliminated fan participation in a similar way.
That would mean the 49ers and the Rams and the Chargers and the Jaguars and the Dolphins and the Buccaneers and the Texans and the Cowboys. Now, do the math.
That’s just under one-third of all NFL franchises. Throw in Chicago and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and Las Vegas as possible empty venue sites due to the coronavirus and your just a shade under half the league.
If that comes to fruition, and I believe the number will be higher, look for Goodell to be on much firmer ground with the owners. Then, “The Commish” can propose a league-wide ban on fans until all teams can safely allow attendance at their home games. He would have some certainty that it will be adopted..
That would create an even playing field for all 32 NFL teams. To me, even though specific franchises will not be able to generate revenue, it’s the right thing to do.