Football fans have used the word “farce” or “farcical” a good bit recently. Enough so that I feel like we need to revisit the definition of the word to make sure we’re using the appropriate term. So according to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “farce” is…
“a savory stuffing.”
So we nailed it, you guys! Perhaps the fourth definition of the word is more appropriate here…
“an empty or patently ridiculous act, proceeding, or situation.”
Yes, that’s the one. That’s it. The scheduled Dec. 1 Ravens-Steelers game is definitely more “patently ridiculous” than “savory stuffing.” And I would know, having consumed roughly a Bradley Bozeman-worth of savory stuffing during the last week.
We shouldn’t have to say this. It is, of course, shameful that the NFL is going on with this charade. It was shameful that the Broncos attempted to let a coach play quarterback because they had none of the latter. It was shameful when the cartoonishly undermanned 49ers faced the Packers a few weeks back. We shouldn’t have to say these things out loud. They should be obvious. There is a difference between a team missing a player or two versus having to line up a practice squad receiver at quarterback. This isn’t legitimate professional competition. This is a savory stuffing!
So why is it happening? Because the NFL has the power to make it so. Nine million people watched the same players they wouldn’t have watched in the XFL line up for the 49ers against Green Bay a few weeks back. If the NFL shield is on the product, Americans will watch. If Tyler Huntley somehow ends up being the Ravens’ starting quarterback in Pittsburgh, Americans will still watch.
The NFL is going on with its show because, simply, it can. Sure, the league rightly pushed the game back from Thanksgiving, but it has decided to prioritize an attempt at keeping its calendar intact (including a Super Bowl date) rather than the legitimacy of the competition. That’s its right.
A number of Ravens fans have asked whether, with two dozen or so players unavailable due to COVID on top of other injury issues the team was dealing with, the team shouldn’t simply choose to forfeit the game because it isn’t worth the injury risk to the healthy players on the team to put them on the field with a group of players who aren’t good enough to be out there.
It is, in a practical sense, an absurd suggestion. As has been covered by any number of sources, if a game is forfeited that means the players aren’t paid. That includes both the healthy and COVID-impacted Ravens players as well as all of the Steelers players. It’s a non-starter.
But just for funsies, let’s consider a hypothetical where the Ravens could simply pay their players and the Steelers’ players as part of a forfeit. They still wouldn’t do that because they’re NFL partners. They have a responsibility to “protect the shield,” if you will. They have to play the violin while the ship is going down. If the NFL wants to pretend like none of this is actually happening, they have to go along with it. They agreed to participate in this sham, after all.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean I care remotely about the bellyaching from any particular fan base. Steelers fans had their turn to embarrass themselves last week (and did an ungodly amount of mental gymnastics when they learned this past weekend that apparently this pandemic can actually reach THEIR part of the globe, too!). Ravens fans are not immune.
When we run into circumstances like Baltimore’s or Denver’s, it is a reminder that the league should either cancel games (it did create an eight-team playoff backup plan, after all) or at least postpone to a later date. Screaming that another team should forfeit because its players were impacted by this crisis is pathetic. This isn’t Jack Reilly illegally letting Adam Banks play for the Hawks in the Minnesota Junior Ice Hockey League. This is major professional sports. The word “forfeit” should be taboo.
This is an international crisis. Yes, if Steve Saunders or any other Ravens coach/player was defying protocol it is shameful and they should be seriously penalized. But have you looked at NFL sidelines this season? There isn’t a team that hasn’t violated protocols. That doesn’t make it acceptable. It’s just a reminder that the whole “casting stones” thing isn’t so smart right now. This week the outbreak was in Baltimore. Next week it could be Cleveland or Arizona or Detroit. And COULD YOU IMAGINE what this would look like if we somehow had to watch a WORSE version of the Lions???
If you want football (and the ratings suggest that’s the case), you’re going to have to live with the idea that your team might have its schedule impacted a bit. The alternative to that shouldn’t be a forfeit. It should be canceling the games altogether because, again, we’re in the midst of a freaking pandemic.
Speaking of which, many of you are suggesting the entire NFL should simply take a 2-3 week break at the moment. And we’re basing the idea that the pandemic can be totally solved in 14-21 days on, what, exactly? The last time pro sports leagues took a break, they didn’t return for 3-4 months. Of course we should be asking whether the NFL should be playing right now. But a “momentary pause” just wouldn’t work for the league because there’s no definite date in sight for when, and I repeat, the pandemic will be over.
In the meantime, we just keep eating our savory stuffing.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox