ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit Would Be ‘Shocked’ If There’s Any Football This Fall

The lack of sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic is something that fans hope will resolve itself in the coming months. Things like the NBA, NHL, and various soccer leagues around the world are all on hiatus, while Major League Baseball had to push back Opening Day. Still, the hope is that measures that people are taking will lead to coronavirus peaking in the next few months, which leads to sports returning sometime soon after.

There is another side to this coin, something that sounds plausible but no one wants to happen: With how sports make the humans who play them stand within close proximity to one another — not to mention how they’re played in front of crowds that pack in tens of thousands of people — there is a risk to holding games regardless of whether fans are in attendance with how easily this can spread. Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN is aware of this, and as he explained, it’s why he’s skeptical that there will be games played once the NFL and college football seasons roll around later this year.

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens,” Herbstreit said, per TMZ. “Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a [coronavirus] vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

Now obviously, Herbstreit is not an expert in infectious disease or anything, and there is probably no one on earth who is rooting harder for this prediction to fall flat than Herbstreit himself. Still, the point he raises about how difficult it could be to justify playing football is a fair one, because even if the games are played without fans, one sick player has the potential to lead to a snowball effect that impacts two universities/franchises and the communities where they are located.

There is still a ton of time between now and when seasons are slated to kick off, and the hope is that the things will get to a point where coronavirus is contained a bit more, the U.S. is better-suited to fight it, and scientists are able to identify treatments to bridge the gap between where we are now and the point at which a vaccine is discovered. If that doesn’t happen, though, it’s not hard to imagine a world without football once this fall rolls around.