NFL season opens, bringing partially masked fans and completely masked stadium impact claims

The NFL season has started, something I mostly noticed because of the appearance of Defector’s (née Deadspin’s) “Why Your Team Sucks” series, and pretty much every news outlet in the U.S. had an article about how there were no fans in the stands and it was weird, something I am not going to bother recapping for you all because I already just did. Except in Jacksonville, that is, where this happened:

News4Jax reports that “officials were strict on the inside and made sure everyone followed the rules” and “News4Jax saw fans wearing masks except for when eating or drinking, and keeping distance in the stands from other pods,” which:

That looks to me more like “except when eating or drinking or talking to the person you’re probably not in a household with who is way less than six feet distanced from you,” but it’s something, anyway.

What the impact on Covid in getting-better-but-still-bad Florida (its death rate per capita is now second in the country), or on still-surging Missouri (where the Kansas City Chiefs allowed in fans for Thursday’s opener, which went not so well) is really hard to predict. That CDC study on restaurants was pretty clear that taking off masks to eat and drink is a major risk, though it’s conceivable that being outdoors will help mitigate that enough that it won’t cause an outbreak. It doesn’t look like anyone has tried to determine the impact of MLS games allowing in fans yet, and that study claiming Sturgis as a superspreader event has been largely debunked, so we’re left with things like that Champions League game in February in Italy, where nobody was masked or distanced or anything, so that’s tough to draw comparisons from. So allowing fans at NFL games is still a giant human experiment, one whose impact in all likelihood won’t be clear for a couple of months yet, at which point it will be too late to do anything about it, because that’s how modern humanity rolls.

Meanwhile, in Inglewood, the Los Angeles Rams opened their new $5-to-6-billion-ish stadium with no fans in attendance, but according the the Los Angeles Daily News’ headline, “a resurgent Inglewood has hope.” Number of Inglewood residents interviewed for the story: one.

“I haven’t felt this way since the first time my father brought me to a Rams game when I was 7 years old in the 1960s,” Inglewood Mayor James Butts said on Friday. “Even though we won’t have the crowds there’s going to be that same feeling because this is history being made.”

You can just smell the resurgence!

After all the vaportecture, I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least a couple of photos of the new Rams and Chargers stadium, so here’s a nicely postapocalyptic one, courtesy of USA Today:

And here’s a nice view of what the game would look like from the upper levels, if you were allowed to watch it from there:

Five billion dollars doesn’t buy what it used to.

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11 comments on “NFL season opens, bringing partially masked fans and completely masked stadium impact claims

  1. Drove by the Inglewood stadium on Saturday. Many signs in the area still pointed you to “Forum/Racetrack”. No signs in Inglewood welcoming the Rams and/or Chargers.

    Apparently $5 billion did not provide UV protection on the roof panels as sunscreen is advised daytime attendees.

    Have we been able to ascertain if the $5 billion figure is for the entire complex? If so, what’s the estimated portion for the stadium.

    1. We have not! I spent some time trying to find a breakdown while writing this post, and it looks like Kroenke has steadfastly declined to indicate how much he’s spending on the stadium and how much on other stuff. Which is his right if he wants, I guess, but it’s still slightly weird, unless he thinks “$5 billion stadium” somehow makes it look more impressive and not just extravagant.

      1. Yeah I don’t get why its so much more expensive than the Raiders stadium which looks great (I wish Cleveland could get something that cool). Also, I don’t get how this pencils out for the Rams. Lets say they put up $1 billion in cash and PSL sales. Assuming a 4% interest rate the remaining $4 billion will cost over $200 million a year in debt service. The Raiders meanwhile would have at most have about $800 million in debt (for about $50 million in debt service).

  2. Inglewood’s roof reminds me of the Astrodome roof that needed to be painted so that outfielders wouldn’t get killed by fly balls. That killed the grass, and brought us astroturf. Were the designers aware of this, and the roof won’t need to be painted so that punt returners won’t get killed trying to find punts in the sun?

    1. Footballs are a lot bigger (and darker) than baseballs. Also I think the Inglewood roof is more transparent instead of translucent, so hopefully there will be less glare. I don’t know if any ethylene tetrafluoroethylene roofs have been in use long enough to tell how see-through they’ll be long-term, though.

  3. The imitation fans are all wearing white body suits and the scoreboard is shaped like a carousel.

    That’s all I’m saying…

  4. Here’s Two Minutes Of The Sunday Night Football Broadcast Drooling Over An Empty New Stadium:

    https://defector.com/heres-two-minutes-of-announcers-fawning-over-an-empty-new-stadium-defector/

  5. I know FoS runs on snark (and thank god for it!), but to my mind you’re reaching today.

    In that Jax pic I count maybe 20+ faces. Of those I see two masks definitely off (guys drinking), and one mask pulled away, but not down (guy talking to someone in the next row). There’s maybe 80-90 seats in the pic, so we’re talking 25% occupancy. Is all that perfect? Of course not. But if that’s the most egregious example you could dredge up in three hours of game coverage, I would say people are doing a pretty decent job of following the recommendations.

    Regarding Kroenke’s stadium, sure Stan is a pompous blowhard who loves spending his wife’s family money. But the whole point of this site (I believe) is to point out the absurdity of public financing of sports arenas. Stan built SoFi with his own money, right? So let the commentators fawn and drool! Don’t we want more examples of just what private money can do? SoFi is the perfect counter-factual the next time some billionaire says a new stadium can’t possibly be built without public funding.

    1. If you watch the linked video, there are a fair number of people with masks off. Is it a crazy number? No. Is it enough to make these games a health risks? That’s for the virus to decide.

      As for Kroenke, he built the stadium (mostly) with his own money because public funding wasn’t made available to him. That’s better than the alternative, but there are still plenty of other absurdities to point out.

  6. New LA stadium attendees needing sunblock while inside. Hilarious.

    Down here in Houston, years ago, when daytime fans on one side of the stadium complained of the bright sun (and solar heat) the team just did the “smart” thing and closed the roof.

    But, so much for the couple hundred extra $ million spent on a retractable roof when the roof is rarely open.

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