It goes without saying that the medical update on Damar Hamlin is of the utmost importance. His condition comes first, last, and in between. But since they don't know and can't know when they'll know, for the purposes of this discussion, the focus is on the Page 2 of this memo:
Obviously, the decision to not resume the game is a non-decision. At least for now. A wait-and-see approach that isn't going to make anyone happy, but probably wasn't designed to. Any proactive decision they did make at the moment would be rank with uncertainty. Variables piled on top of variables. All with the worst case scenario looming over everyone's heads. Meaning what happens if they move mountains to resume the game only to have Hamlin take a dramatic turn for the worse? What do they do then? Play on? It's a minefield. And in a league as image conscious and adverse to risk as the NFL, hesitancy is understandable.
But the questions are nevertheless piling up. Exacerbated by the fact these are not just two playoff teams, but top contenders in their conference? Do they make this game up at a later date? If so, do Buffalo and Cincinnati have to head into the postseason on a short rest, having to play three games each in a span of seven days? That's a player-safety nightmare scenario any time. But most especially when you've just seen a 24-year-old in peak health collapse with heart failure. Does the game simply get canceled? That's an awful compromise to make too, because there's the question of competitive integrity to consider. And if they don't bother to play this game out, do both teams finish with 16-game records while everyone else played 17? Do the Bills and Bengals settle for ga tie? Do they declare the result on the scoreboard final, with Cincinnati winning 7-3?
It's Kobayashi Maru, the unwinnable scenario. Where everything could go wrong, and the path to making the best decision is narrow and fraught with peril.
We're in unchartered waters in a certain sense. But there's some historic precedence. Like 2001, when they canceled the week after 9/11, rescheduled them all for the week after the season was supposed to end, then canceled the Super Bowl bye week. Then of course there was 2020, when practically every week meant some game being affected by the Covid protocols, games on Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday nights or whatever. It was a mess, but the fact they got every game in is the number one thing Roger Goodell's supporters point to as the reason he's making the big bucks and belongs in Canton.
Whatever they end up deciding, it's hard to imagine anyone complaining. I mean, there's Skip Bayless. But any rational being with a human soul will think of a young man fighting for his life before they gripe about 2/3 of a football game. And if like me, you handle most difficult decisions by making non-decisions and hope it all works itself out, you can relate to the inaction on this one. The only thing that is even remotely certain at this point is that whenever these two teams do take the field, especially Buffalo, it's going to be an outpouring of emotion the likes of which football hasn't seen since that first week back after 9/11.
As always, thoughts and prayers for Hamlin and his family.