Last Sunday saw a historic performance by the Dallas Cowboys as they overcame a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons.
But the storied NFL team may have added another feather to their 10-gallon hat: The Cowboys had 21,708 people in attendance for the game, what they declared to be “NFL COVID-19 record.”
Given that most NFL teams have limited attendance to a few thousand fans, it wasn’t a high bar to set. Eighteen of the league’s 32 teams are limiting attendance to less than a quarter of capacity. Sunday’s attendance at AT&T Stadium was about 27 percent of the 80,000-seat capacity.
We wish it weren’t so but one of the teams that won’t be welcoming fans this year is the New England Patriots. The Kraft Group, owners of the team and of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, announced recently that no spectators would be allowed in this year because the venue did not receive an exemption from the state to reopen.
Although disappointing, it is the right move by the state and the team.
Coronavirus infection rates have been spiking in Massachusetts and across America. COVID-19 appears ready to sweep through the country again, possibly fueled by large, unregulated gatherings around the holidays.
Although we disagree with him on some business regulations, Gov. Charlie Baker is right in stressing that Bay Staters be vigilant in wearing masks and staying socially distant.
It’s imperative that hospitals not be overrun with the disease, that COVID-19 be kept away from vulnerable populations in long-term care facilities and, most of all, that we avoid another shutdown like the one we endured this spring.
Thousands of area fans are Patriots season-ticket holders. They enjoy not only cheering on the six-time Super Bowl champions but the fun and friendship of tailgating before and after the games.
But the priority this year needs to be containment of this pandemic, which has claimed nearly 10,000 lives in Massachusetts and almost a quarter of a million Americans.
Last Sunday, those Cowboys fans at AT&T Stadium no doubt felt that the reward of witnessing their team’s comeback far outweighed the risk of exposure. But that’s what you expect in a state where football is practically a religion.
Yes, football is important here, too. But our health, and the safety of all around us, are more important.
So, a tip of the helmet to the state and to The Kraft Group for shutting Gillette to fans for the season.
But keep in mind a saying more often used in baseball: Wait ‘til next year.