Saints Fans Hoping Season Still Gets Played Must Accept “Empty Stadium Concept”

Photo Credit: Michael Thomas on Twitter (Original Credit via Sean Gardener)

The very DISTINCTIVE and almost-eerie like sound that you always hear — when a loud noise turns into an echo which reverberates over and over and over again — throughout the inside of a practically empty Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

If you’re a Saints fan and have ever attended a game at the iconic and now 45-year old home stadium of the team located in downtown NOLA, it’s an unmistakable sound you’ll normally experience if you arrive early before the game is scheduled to start; but once you do hear it, chances are you’ll remember it for the rest of your life.

However, because of the growing concerns that seem to get worse with each passing day about the still-ongoing COVID-19 / coronavirus health crisis; then all Saints fans had better start getting themselves prepared to hear that sound a lot more often in the months ahead, if they’re still hoping for the 2020 NFL Season to be played.

In the past several days, it’s become increasingly clear that if ANY of the various sports leagues that had halted their seasons due to the pandemic within the United States (which includes entities such as NBA pro basketball, NHL pro hockey, MLB pro baseball, and MLS pro soccer among others) truly want to be able to resume playing and finish their originally-scheduled 2020 seasons, they’ll now have to do so in isolated environments or protective “bubbles” that will limit the exposure to the illness for the participating athletes of each sport.

But with their 2020 Regular Season not set to actually start until the 2nd week of September, the sport of the NFL and Pro Football had been staying true to the notion that conditions would improve enough so that their originally-planned schedule could remain unaffected, and they willingly would make whatever adjustments were needed along the way.

However, well-respected and COVID-19 expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who also is the  director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, threw a huge damper upon those plans in an interview earlier this week; the very same plans that Saints fans were hoping meant the Black and Gold would in fact be able to play all 16 games that are on this year’s schedule.

But now Fauci isn’t so sure that will be the actual case, and suggested that the NFL also might want to consider playing within a “bubble”, if not considering the possibility to even cancel their entire season outright.

(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” the 79-year old Fauci told CNN. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

In that one interview, Fauci’s comments — just like the distinct sound of that echo inside of an empty Superdome that was mentioned at the beginning of this article you’re reading — quickly reverberated throughout the sports world, and particularly with NFL fans who now are very skeptical about what the future now holds for the League and all 32 of its teams moving forward.

While other major sports leagues such as the UFC, NASCAR, and European soccer have since been holding events and playing games once again for the past several weeks now, Fauci’s sobering observation essentially destroyed the positive vibes among many observers of the sport of football and League officials whom had remained somewhat optimistic prior to this week, that the NFL still would be able to play games this fall.

But now that optimism has began to evaporate quickly, since Fauci cautioned that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell‘s grand plan to play through COVID-19 will fall short of being good enough to adequately keep NFL players “safe and sound”.

Photo by Zennie Abraham

Safety of the athletes themselves at this point is paramount; which is why Fauci suggests the NFL make alternate plans that would include the very real chance that they would at least consider a similar plan to the NBA and their recently-released commitment to stay sequestered at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Despite Fauci’s advice though, the NFL as of right this very minute hasn’t made a decision one way or another about playing in a “bubble”, and they’re basically banking on the fact that there’s still time to figure out more suitable alternatives.

“Dr. Fauci has identified the important health and safety issues we and the NFL Players Association, together with our joint medical advisors, are addressing to mitigate the health risk to players, coaches, and other essential personnel,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer.

“Make no mistake, this is no easy task. We will make adjustments as necessary to meet the public health environment as we prepare to play the 2020 season as scheduled with increased protocols and safety measures for all players, personnel, and attendees. We will be flexible and adaptable in this environment to adjust to the virus as needed.”

Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America/TNS

Part of that adjustment that Dr. Sills mentions likely is to have each and every one of the players League-wide to be constantly tested for the virus, and to additionally implement any necessary methods that are required with regard to quarantining and social distancing as further needed.

Nevertheless, no matter what precautions are ultimately taken, there are more than just a few people in the medical field besides Fauci. who honestly believe that the NFL might actually have trouble finishing its 2020 Season on time — especially if a dreaded “2nd Wave” were to hit the United States and conditions worsen dramatically — right during the heart of the typical “flu season” that occurs every year in November and December.

It’s for that very reason why as it’s been covered in previous articles that the Saints face the likelihood of playing some (if not all 16) of their 2020 Regular Season games inside of an EMPTY Superdome. 

Photo Credit: Dan Hewins

The initial hope was that the Superdome would at the very least perhaps be able to have a designated portion of Who Dat fans (perhaps at 25% percent capacity or one-quarter of the way filled with people, which would be approximately between 18,000 to 20,000 fans wearing the Black and Gold) while adhering to safety standards and established protocols.

Those measures would be steps that would allow fans to attend without a risk to their health; such as the wearing of masks at all-times and remaining spaced out a distance of 6 feet apart from one another. But that scenario seems to be somewhat far-fetched currently, considering the harsh assessment of the past few days.

It’s since become the impetus for the notion now that unless something DRASTIC happens (like finding a miracle cure or a vaccine that can ensure the safety of everyone), that the NFL is facing the reality that ALL 32 of its teams will be playing their games inside of empty stadiums for the remainder of the calendar year.

The only question that honestly remains is just whether or not those games will occur at just one or two (or a designated few) stadiums within a “bubble” in one or two main cities, or if each team will still play every one of its scheduled games at its own home stadium in the city where they’re based at.

Since there’s no official term applied to that possibility, you can refer to it as the NFL’s “empty stadium concept”.

And since that concept seems to becoming more and more of a sensible game plan for the League considering everything that’s happened up to this point and is likely to occur in the weeks and months ahead, it’s one that Saints fans must be able to accept willingly.

Clearly the Game Day experience that is enjoyed by loyally-devoted members of the Who Dat Nation, is one of the most treasured in all of both amateur and pro sports, nation-wide. And because of the passion those very same fans have for the team year-round on a daily basis, it makes the “home-field advantage” for the Saints inside the Superdome one of the biggest and best in the entire NFL. 

Photo courtesy of the New Orleans Saints, YouTube

But this latest analysis of where things stand has altered the future plans of many folks; whether it be the NFL teams and their organizations, the people “behind the scenes” who provide Game-Day services such as stadium workers and support personnel (food service, parking attendants, etc.), and of course the fans who had planned on attending the games in person themselves.

This much you can be certain of, which is that the Saints organization with each passing day, is facing the prospect of a 2020 Regular Season that will be permanently altered in some unique way. And one of those notable differences from seasons in the past, will be a Mercedes-Benz Superdome that will be so quiet inside, that you proverbially “will be able to hear a pin drop”.

And if nothing else: that distinctive and eerie-like echo that reverberates throughout the venerable old building, will stand out to both those who will still be able to have access to the inside as well as to those who will be at home watching it on TV; and very likely that sound will be more noticeable than it ever has before.

It’s for that reason why Saints fans who are still holding out hope for a 2020 Regular Season to even get played, must accept the “empty stadium concept” — since the entire NFL, the city of New Orleans, and the Black and Gold are unlikely to escape the ever-growing and encompassing consequences — of the scourge that is the COVID-19 / coronavirus…

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked previously as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending their games as a young boy during the early 1970’s, uptown at the old Tulane Stadium. He is also the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *