In one of the greatest anachronistic gags in the history of the animated series The Simpsons, Grandpa Abe Simpson, says to his wife in 1969, while viewing Super Bowl III: “Quiet! I’m trying to watch the Super Bowl, if we don’t support this thing, it might not make it!”
Back then the NFL championship game was still fledgling, not the American holiday and pop cultural tour de force that it is today. While Super Bowl LV, the 55th Super Bowl and the 51st modern-era NFL title game championship game, will certainly “make it,” there are still lots of questions and issues surrounding it.
You don’t need to make a living composing NFL predictions to realize that this game could pushed back a week or two. It might also become the first Super Bowl played in front of only a small, limited number of fans, or perhaps even no fans at all! As you are probably aware, we’re not handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States very well.
The issues surrounding the lack of any national plan, or even true leadership, are well outside the scope of this article, but what’s going on in the state of Florida, specifically, is relevant here. The next Super Bowl is scheduled to be played on February 7, 2021, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. This will be the fifth Super Bowl hosted by the Tampa area and the third one held at Raymond James Stadium; yes, the stadium with a giant pirate ship behind the stand that borders one of the end zones. The game will be televised nationally by CBS.
As of right now, the league plans on moving forward with a full crowd for the Super Bowl. The state of Florida, led by Governor Ron DeSantis, removed all social distancing mandates for sporting events earlier this month. This is not out of any flattening of the curve, or minimizing/eradicating the virus in the state. It’s simply because the man, whose detractors nicknamed “DeathSantis” has overtly prioritized the politics of re-opening over public health concerns.
College football teams in the sunshine state have been signficantly impacted, rather adversely, by the pandemic. At the start of the 2020 NFL regular season, the league forbade on-field entertainment (including halftime shows and national anthem performances) at games that admit spectators. These are typically integral elements of the Super Bowl entertainment schedule, and the overall experience of “the big game.”
Like we said, Super Bowl LV, like all its predecessors, will be as much about marketing and pop culture as it is about football.
These events connected to Super Bowl LV will probably be produced off-site if we have restrictions in effect by then. No one can say for sure, but it does look, at least right now, like the second wave has started, and epidemiologists have repeatedly warned us that the second wave could be even worse than the first (to the extent that we’re even out of the first wave yet!).
It is expected that the bye week before the Super Bowl could be eliminated (good riddance! also, another great Simpsons reference to be made there) and the game itself could be moved back as many as four weeks. Yes, pending developments on the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, in Florida and Tampa especially, could bring the first March Super Bowl ever. It all depends on how COVID affects the 2020 NFL season, and how many games are delayed, and how long.
The experts are saying we’re all in for a rough winter, but then again they have gotten a few key things wrong here and there.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated, Chicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.