Little did we know that the real solution to a completely safe, socially distant football season in 2020 was right under our nose the entire time.
On Thursday morning, my email inbox was graced with odds for a fictitious—at least for now—“throw-off” between Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Bills quarterback Josh Allen (God bless gambling sites and oddsmakers, a group of people whose hustle knows no end). For those in need of catching up, Mahomes had expressed some disappointment in finishing two points below Allen in throw power ratings in the latest Madden video game and suggested a throw off. Allen, in a recent interview with NFL Network, said that the two had actually planned on doing something for charity over the summer before COVID-19 ruined their plans.
But as we approach an NFL season that will, at the very best, take place in fits and starts, feature perhaps 60% of the best players and struggle to maintain product quality without the benefit of preseason training (not to mention put the long-term health of thousands of people at risk as the nebulous effects of the virus pinball around each facility) this staged football throwing competition provides a solid foundation for what this year should actually look like.
If you’ve ever experienced the hell that is offseason football Twitter, buried deeply within arguments about the value of running backs and the efficacy of play-action are players who spend some of their actual time on this earth arguing about who is faster, stronger and can throw the football further. It’s a painful and maddening experience. People who are big and strong and fast for a living love talking about being big and strong and fast but once you reach the highest rungs of non-Olympic athletics, actually proving who is unquestionably the biggest, strongest and fastest turns out to be more complicated and crooked than the World Cup bidding process.
Now is the time to end all of these meaningless spats in prime time for our entertainment. Marquise Goodwin and Tyreek Hill can stop challenging one another over social media, travel to a patch of grass in the middle of nowhere and race. Mahomes and Allen can resurface at some long-abandoned driving range and hurl footballs to their heart’s content. Offensive linemen can whip up bench press reps, haul sport utility vehicles in neutral and wolf down absurdly portioned ribeyes all from more than six feet away. Basketball hobbyists can have three-point contests. Charity softball hackers can have a home run derby. Old quarterbacks can golf. Coaches can play chess and poker. We can quantify the source of this meaningless online machismo, raise some money for a good cause and ultimately have some fun along the way. It will be like having the Summer Olympics but with Cris Collinsworth.
There’s still time to save the legacy of football in 2020. Instead of contorting our college conferences, shepherding players through hand sanitizer mist and bolting them behind plastic face shields, forcing them to smash together, we could celebrate athleticism and personality in its purest form. We could fill a prime-time schedule. We could have fun without risking lives. We could show everyone that the coronavirus is serious business and that we’re all willing to give up just a little bit to make sure it never comes back again.
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