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The NFL has had a great pandemic

  • GQ

    The Divisional Playoff Weekend featuring four games that were thrilling up until the final score is the latest triumph for the NFL amid the pandemic. "The Kansas City Chiefs’ overtime win over the forever-brutalized Buffalo Bills very well might have been the most amazing playoff game of the last 25 years," says Will Leitch. He points out that, looking back, the pandemic has been good for the NFL. "You know who has had a great pandemic? (Other than billionaires, Amazon, dogs and the manufacturers of Zoloft.) The NFL," says Leitch. "COVID-19 hit in March 2020, just after the Super Bowl, and so the league didn’t have to halt its season mid-stream like almost every other major American sport. Tom Brady announced he was leaving the Patriots and joining the Buccaneers later that month. The NFL Draft in April 2020 was the first real virtual sporting event, a massive success, and briefly made the mammoth league (and its lunkheaded commissioner) almost charming. The NFL somehow made it through its whole schedule and even had fans in the stands for the Super Bowl. And the 2021 season, despite the Delta and Omicron waves hitting at its beginning and end, has been a smashing success, with 75 of the 100 highest-rated television programs all year being NFL games. Heading into the pandemic, the NFL had been dealing with cascading crises, from the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick to the former president screaming that if players kneeled, owners should 'get those sons of bitches off the field.' Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 billionaire owners he represents tended to make these crises worse, and it wasn’t that long ago that many people (including this idiot) wondered if the sport itself was entering some sort of death spiral. But almost two years into the pandemic, the script has been flipped: The league might just be more powerful than it has ever been." With the Divisional round of the playoffs, Leitch adds, the NFL offered a product that was escapism in its purest form. "This weekend, and really for the last two seasons, when we have watched NFL games, we have not thought about the league’s problems, or its treatment of players, or its crass commercialism," he says. "The NFL, in a way that really only it can do, has provided through the pure kinetic, violent, face-melting intensity of its games, another place to go that is not where we currently are. It allows us to scream, in joy, in despair, in rage … in release. Yes, the NFL gets away with everything. This weekend didn’t just show why we let it. It showed why we’re grateful to do so.

    TOPICS: NFL, Coronavirus