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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Hard Knocks: Covid-19 Edition

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Professional sports are a microcosm of American life, a heightened reflection of our anxieties and frustrations, our hopes and dreams and fears.. At no time in history has this reality been more true, than in 2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing. It’s certainly telling that (for many) Covid arrived when the NBA season was suspended in March. Now in August, with 5 million+ infected, and the NBA playoffs in full swing, all eyes turn to the NFL.

Hard Knocks
19 August, 2020. Hard Knocks promo photo courtesy of HBO.

“Hard Knocks” is a television series on HBO that provides many avid football fans with their first real look at how one NFL team each year is preparing for the gridiron. In 2020, Hard Knocks travels to LA, following two teams–the LA Rams and LA Chargers, as the players and staff arrive for training camp. From the opening shot of players on a Zoom call, it’s evident this will be anything but a normal season of Hard Knocks

There is something inordinately fascinating about watching professional athletes engage in everyday activities like their civilian fans. From players arriving at training camp and getting swabbed for Covid, to Sean McVay airing out his frustrations over having to wear a mask, it’s engrossing to see how these titans of the arena handle the enormous monkey wrench that is Covid-19. Engrossing, but also disconcerting.

While the NBA has, so far, done an excellent job of limiting team exposure to the virus by implementing rigorous health protocols and maintaining “The Bubble,” the MLB has had no such luck. 21 members from the Marlins have tested positive for Covid-19. 18 players from the Cardinals have also tested positive. With the NFL season approaching, the Coronavirus will continue casting a long shadow over the league and this season of Hard Knocks. But on and off the field, watching how (and if) these NFL teams can work through the pandemic will be a singular viewing experience.

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