Return of the NFL

The quiet Sunday afternoons that punctuated the end of every week during the COVID-19 pandemic have been filled with an age-old staple: the return of football. The NFL season started on Sept. 10, becoming another one of the nation’s beloved sports to return amid the worry of a season impacted by the pandemic.

The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans squared off in the season opener with limited fan capacity; the NFL is the second major sports league behind Major League Soccer to allow fans into events. This kicked off week one, which saw all 32 teams play.

The NFL plans to play a full, 256 game season over a 17-week span, with each team playing 16 games, like a normal year. According to ESPN, the league plans on testing athletes daily, except on game days, in hopes of limiting any COVID outbreak.

Teams were also not allowed to have the typical, four-week preseason schedule as they normally do, causing many of them to hit the ground running with no build-up of competitive play.

It may not seem very significant given the state of the pandemic, but the return of football is yet another welcomed norm that many have been yearning for over the past six months.

This is most evident in the University of New Haven’s Bartels Hall on a Sunday night. While sitting and eating dinner, the picturesque view of sports’ importance in a state of disarray becomes clear. Clusters of students, none allowed to eat more than four or six at a table together, all united as the week two matchup of the Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers played on the television.

“Everything just seems like a normal Sunday night, eating at the dining hall with my friends,” said sophomore, criminal justice major, Kymani Yearde. “It’s a nice escape.”

On TV, Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, rolled out of the pocket to his right and threw across his body, on the run — a pass that has become the signature of last year’s MVP. The ball found wide receiver Tyreek Hill as he fell and rolled into the endzone for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

The Bartels crowd responded with a variety of “oohs” and “aahs,” pleased by the skill displayed on the screen.

For a moment, everyone who watched the game as they ate dinner seemed to forget about the situation around them. In a time of utter abnormality, the scene could not have felt like a more normal Sunday night.