I’m not a betting man, at least not with my own money, but I do have some predictions for Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the unlikely event these help you win someone else’s cash, you’re welcome.
1. Lots of Security. Security outside and inside Raymond James Stadium will be robust. The crowd will be considerably smaller than full capacity, which will help keep lines moving and hopefully encourage fans to follow social distancing guidelines. There will be only about 25,000 people in the stands, of whom one-third will be “health care heroes” whose tickets were comp’ed for the game. A nice gesture.
I am blessed to have a number of smart friends who work this game each year, so I am confident that the NFL has not forgotten about all the usual threats, from armed bad guys to sellers of counterfeit merchandise, even while they try to enforce CDC guidelines for social distancing, face covering, and hand washing.
Here are my recent comments on this weekend’s festivities to my CBS-TV affiliate, viewed through the lens of how Phoenix is equipped for the return of the game to our city two years from now. Local TV always has a local angle.
2. No Guaranteed Outcome. The game officials may play a big part in the outcome, or none at all, but disappointed fans will have no legal recourse. This was most recently an issue two seasons ago, when New Orleans Saints fans felt like they were denied a trip to the Super Bowl by a blown call near the end of that year’s NFC Championship Game. Older fans (or long-suffering Jets supporters trying their own futile version of a Hail Mary) will remember Spygate. Same result – the fans lost – as I explained in this article in Sports Illustrated.
I think this is as it should be, for several reasons. First, the game officials do an enormous amount of work to prepare, and they take their duties seriously. I have some personal insight into this. When I worked in my first firm in Phoenix, my boss was Ed Hochuli. Yes, the famous ref with the biceps and the detailed explanations of penalties was a lawyer (shock!), and every so often he would blow us young pups away by telling us his weekly routine, which involved at least as much time with the rulebook as with his home gym. But as impressed as we were with Ed, he never claimed omniscience, and he admitted that he and his crew missed some calls. To err is human.
3. The Importance of Revocable Licenses. More importantly for Adelman on Venues readers, the legal term for a ticket is a “revocable license.” In exchange for purchasing a right to watch an event in person, a ticketholder contractually agrees to the rules of conduct of the venue or event operator. For the SI.com story, the point was that no particular outcome was promised, and therefore no lawsuit based on disappointment with that outcome could prevail.
For event professionals contemplating how to safely reopen during the long, uneven wind-down of the COVID-19 pandemic, this revocable license concept is important in a different respect. Everyone knows what to do: Socialdistancing-facecovering-handwashing. How to enforce these simple rules to the maximum extent possible is now the challenge.
Fortunately, every license is conditional, and if the licensee violates a condition, then their license can be revoked. You know the line, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” That’s an example of a license. During pre-COVID times, you could condition attendance on people leaving behind their personal assault rifle or bottle of moonshine – during the pandemic, requiring licensees to wear a face covering properly at all times is no different. I have previously explained that there is no Constitutional “right” to refuse to mask up. Before you reopen for business, whenever that happy day arrives for you, add another rule or two to your Guest Code of Conduct. It could save lives, and it will certainly save livelihoods.
Unfortunately, the skills necessary to be a good enforcement person are significantly different than the skills necessary to administer a rapid test or use a thermal scanner. Politely but firmly telling people that they must do what they prefer not to do, that they are tired of doing, is part of no COVID compliance officer training I have seen. When I am the health and safety enforcer on site, I augment my badass lawyer vocabulary with a brightly colored fez. The law is on your side, but beyond that, I suggest using whatever works for you to get the job done.
Stay safe. It’s getting better – not fast enough, but faster than before.
P.S. As for Sunday, no self-respecting Patriots fan would bet against Tom Brady.
Author’s Coda: The final score was Buccaneers 31, Chiefs 9. Tom Brady was named Most Valuable Player.