NO FANS...LIMITED FANS
Imagine going to an Eagle home game and seeing no tailgaters.
Imagine a football game at Lincoln Financial Field and not hearing FlyEaglesFly, or an E A G L E S chant, or the Rocky theme?
It would be surreal and wouldn't feel right.
Now imagine being a player and not hearing any of that.
In fact, not hearing anything at all except Carson barking out instructions, or Jim Schwartz telling his secondary to be alert to a screen.
For most of the world, nothing has felt right for the past four months. It's a surreal time
And the football season, which is scheduled to kickoff for real on September 10th, at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the SB54 Champs, may be in front of an empty house.
These are the realities facing the Eagles, the NFL, and the legion of faithful fans. So what will that be like, sound like, feel like.
I don't know, and I played college football at Duke where football was as popular as tennis; and that is no knock on Duke Tennis.
I have a nephew who has been the QB of Denison Football Big Red in Denison Ohio form the past four seasons. I have made it to a couple of his games during that time. It is non scholarship, Division III football that is spirited but is largely played in front of a few thousand fans.
Ten years ago I coached the Bergamo Lions in the Italian League of American Football.
Never had more fun in my life. We played in the championship that year against a team from Catania, Sicily in Catania on a Saturday afternoon.
If I estimated correctly the hotly contested championship game netted maybe 500 fans. I could tell my right tackle, Pepe, from the sidelines that a blitz was coming off the edge and he would alertly pick it up.
Noise and atmosphere were never an issue of a headwind in the ILAF.
I believe we will get the September 10th and kickoff the 101st NFL season between the Texans and the Chiefs. A Lot can happen in the next three months leading up to that start.
Everything from vaccines, to better and more accurate testing to no second wave attacking our population.
No one knows. But fans are instrumental to any sporting event and they may be barred from going. Or their could be a limited fan base that will be allowed into the games.
Either way the game will change for the players. Gone will be home field advantages with the opposition trying to communicate in stadiums where they cannot hear anything. I doubt any place will be setting noise records in the first half of the season.
Players are going to have to really press their own buttons to get themselves motivated and prepared. Gone will be the "juice" from the crowd. Emotion is such a big part of football and players really feed off of the crowd's emotion.
Especially on big downs. Key third down plays. Short yardage situations. Goal line stands. Two-minute drills. and finally the end of games where the team with the ball last can win it or lose it.
Those moments may be void of the crowd's reaction and will take away from the "bigness" of the situation.
It has often been a cliche' amongst real rival kind of games that "we would love to meet you in a parking lot or in a schoolyard" to settle our score.
To settle the feud. I may have even said that myself when talking about an opponent. Well it may feel like that at the start of the season.
Players are going to have to be a true self starter and the coaches are going to need to drive this point home all week. I have been on a football field every Sunday as a player and a broadcaster for nearly 40 years.
I love pregame rituals. Players love frolicking and stretching and warming up and generally transforming themselves into warriors for 60 minutes of mayhem. That may feel the same until the introductions and lineups are announced.
But moments later a kickoff is going to start a game and mentally one has to be ready. Never will the mental part of the game be more important.
I recall one afternoon at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Panthers, fresh off of a Super Bowl defeat, were scrimmaging on a sultry, humid, afternoon on a field a good distance away from a few fans that had endured the hundred degree heat. Cam Newton was barking out signals.
Luke Kuechly on the other side, was checking his defense into the right look. The offense vs defense battle was on.
I was watching with Mike Mayock and was as into the competition as any of the players or coaches. Good work on both sides at a very high intensity level.
This is what games could feel and look like in September as the world continues to adjust to the new normal.
For Doug Pederson and the Birds, who are bringing back a veteran team with only a few changes to the coaching staff, they will have the advantage in a quarantined universe of having great continuity in a division that has seen complete change.
But those advantages stop if CoachP doesn't employ a variety of tactics to make sure his squad is ready September 13th vs. the Washington Redskins at 1 pm at FedEx Field.
There are normally a large contingent of Birds Fans in that 80+ thousand seat stadium that may be locked in their man cave instead at home. It could sound and feel like that Panther scrimmage I attended a few summers ago.
Who adjusts the quickest to the new normal of live sporting events may start the season 1-0. It's going to be an adjustment for everyone.
Pumped in crowd noise has been suggested but will not be allowed.
It will be a real battle for those who love it the most and can create the atmosphere in their own head that I love the competition and can't wait to play my perfect game regardless of fan participation.
Eagles football 2020; for the love of the game I can't wait for the kickoff! *