Football is finally back, and not a moment too soon. I think I speak for everybody when I say I’m looking forward to some sense of normalcy in my life. Granted, football played in empty stadiums doesn’t exactly scream “normal”. But watching the sport that I love will provide some much needed relief.
The NFL season kicks off Thursday night with the defending champion Chiefs hosting the Texans. The Bears will get their first bite of the apple Sunday in Detroit against the NFC North rival Lions.
I can’t express how surreal this whole season kickoff seems, but I suspect I’m not alone. When COVID-19 struck in late winter and all the professional sports leagues began shutting down in the spring, I felt hope that the NFL would resume business as usual in the fall.
But alas, even the NFL altered much of its offseason work and put in place extensive guidelines for the upcoming slate of games.
There were no organized team activities this offseason. Training camp schedules were altered. And there were zero preseason games. It’s difficult to fathom that actual football will be played this weekend. In some regards, this feels more like the upstart XFL about to kick off than the No. 1 sports league in America.
I hope and pray that these players and coaches stay healthy, chiefly for them and their families but also selfishly for myself and other football fans. Football provides a paycheck for thousands of people associated with the league. But it also provides entertainment and an escape from reality for the millions of fans who invest time in it.
In an era when politics is injected into every area of our lives, I hope that the NFL doesn’t get too carried away with any political messaging. At a time when we’re divided into our political tribes, I’d like us to be able to cross those lines and rally around our favorite sports teams without worrying about where other fans — or the players we’re rooting for — stand on political issues.
Let’s get this season underway! And Bears fans, let’s hope the navy and burnt orange can start the 2020 season on the right foot with a big divisional win on the road.