A Shot in the Park: Immunization in Sports

Before the 2021 NFL season began, the Las Vegas Raiders announced a “get tough” policy, requiring proof of immunization.

Before the 2021 NFL season began, the Las Vegas Raiders announced a “get tough” policy with regard to COVID-19. Any fan not showing proof of immunization would not be allowed to attend games at Allegiant Field, the Raiders’ new domed stadium, adjacent to the Strip. About 700 season ticket holders refused to comply with the rule and were either given refunds or tickets for 2022 and beyond. The rest acquiesced, including thousands of patrons who lined up to receive injections outside the main gate, so they could watch the team play in their new home away from Oakland, their old hometown.

Allegiant Stadium, proof of immunization
Raiders require proof of immunization.

The Raiders thoughtfully provided these vaccination stations to encourage and promote herd immunity. Taking a page from the late Wilford Brimley’s corn flakes playbook, team president Mark Davis said it was “the right thing to do.” But was it? After all, it takes two weeks for each dose of either of the two major vaccines to take effect. Therefore, it’s pointless to give people injections, then allow them to sit next to each other indoors for several hours.

What’s more, the Raiders discriminated between customers who were fully immunized and those who only had (or got) one injection prior to entry. Those who had the full complement of shots did not have to wear a mask; the rest did — along with a yellow bracelet identifying them as such. Grotesquely false analogies with the Holocaust, totalitarian tyranny, and Hillary Clinton notwithstanding, this made no sense at all since the whole purpose of wearing a mask is to protect others from getting coronavirus, not oneself — or have we forgotten that there are others?

Hence this “Super” bowl became a Superspreader before the half-time no-show started, and all the players huddled together in the locker room, engaged in germ warfare among themselves, without their face masks. Not to mention all the people who stated (on radio, TV and the internet) that they had no intention of getting a second shot but were forced (sic) to get the first one against their will, as a condition for watching the Raiders perform in person. Standing on one leg is like being slightly pregnant, a trifle drunk, or half-dead. It’s not even a crutch, but a waste of time, money and precious bodily fluids, including an ever-scarcer supply of vaccines, worldwide. True to their logo, the Raiders turned a blind eye to all that.

Yet no amount of civic hype can obscure the fact that their “get-tough” strategy is both soft-headed and short-sighted. It is also a travesty of “sports medicine,” like ignoring concussions and downplaying severe brain damage until it’s too late. Or perhaps it’s a sign of what happens when minds and bodies suffer from a Cartesian split — one intent on striking it rich, the other on enduring (and inflicting) pain. There’s a name for that: it’s called Ahab syndrome. It’s been going around lately — since 1851, at least. The NFL appears to have caught the bug, but bad.

If I were in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t bet on the Raiders to last very long. They never showed any allegiance to Oakland in all the years they were there. Having cheated on ’em in LA, they came home to Alabilly, only to get wanderlust again, forsaking Hollywood stars for those out in the desert. Happens all the time, especially when you lose sight of your roots, or believe that making money while appearing to be virtuous isn’t the main thing, but the only thing.

Meanwhile, all the folks who got vaccinated once but won’t be fooled twice are fooling themselves. From now on, they should keep both eyes open, wear a patch on each arm, and cover every loud mouth in the house — or stay put in the sandbox.

Dennis Rohatyn
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