Whenever you're in the midst of a serious tragedy, there are few moments more awkwardly difficult than when you have to transition back to the mundane aspects of real life. No one wants to be the first to bring them up and come off as uncaring. But things still go on, and have to be addressed. Even in the worst of times, there are still meals to be prepared, bills to be paid, kids and pets to be taken care of, jobs to be done. It's not about being insensitive; it's about responsibilities that don't resolve themselves.
(Just as a quick example. I mentioned in a recent Knee Jerk Reaction that one of my best friends since we met in middle school lost a noble and hard fought battle with cancer. [Note that together he and I won our Fantasy League, and lost our final this past weekend. With a score of 69.00. The money is no good where Brink is now, but a 69 joke is eternal. Bless you, my friend.] Years ago he worked at my Town Hall, and I had to go there to get some zoning thing approved. I asked the older woman behind the counter if she ever worked with him, she said yes, asked how he was, and I broke the news to her. As she broke down in tears, I held her hands and we talked about our mutual friend as we wept together. And after what felt like a respectable period of time I said, "Now about my plot plan …" Which she approved. He would've wanted it that way.)
I bring this up because there is the very awkward and not at all as meaningful business of this Sunday's game, Patriots at Bills. The one that Bill Belichick is calling a one week season.
With the NFL still uncertain how to proceed moving forward, short of announcing the Bills at Bengals game will not be resumed this week, his team is obviously going through their normal preparation for it. The only change in the schedule has been that the players did not have their typical Wednesday press availabilities, per order of the league, who thought it was best to give them another 24 hours out of respect to Damar Hamlin's condition. As of now, the plan is for team captains to meet with reporters tomorrow. Other than that, it's been business as usual in Foxboro.
In the old Donald Rumsfeld sense, all we know at the moment is what we don't know. Namely, whether the league would consider postponing this week's game.
It goes without saying but still can't be stressed enough: No one is demanding answers. We all have issues with how the NFL is run. Very legitimate ones. But this is not that situation. These are human beings forced into a situation no one has dealt with before. In a position to try and figure out what the least bad option is. The cheap and easy thing would be to demagogue this to one extreme or the other. Even if you want the social credit points that come with saying "How can you talk about playing football at a time like this?" you'll have to answer why you're talking about talking about playing a football game. Instead of building a rhetorical Russian Nesting Doll, the culture of pro football - management, teams, media, fans alike - have to figure out how best to handle this. There's no GPS telling us how to find the right solution.
As someone who wants the Patriots to win this game whenever and under whatever conditions it's played, I can't even hazard a guess how that would play out. The atmosphere in Orchard Park will probably be a mix between the first post-9/11 games and the first post-Katrina in New Orleans. I've mentioned Daryl Stingley before in this context. And the first time he was able to visit Foxboro and was introduced to the crowd, they gave him a Standing-O that went on so long that a clearly aggravated Howard Cosell said basically "enough is enough" and demanded we get on with the game. There's no question Bills Mafia will do the same at soon as the moment of silent prayer for Hamlin is over.
Beyond that, it's anyone's guess how these emotional days will affect the Bills or anyone else. (Or when.) It's a Butterfly Effect that hasn't even begun to impact anything more from a football standpoint than the game that was suspended. But surely will. Playoff spots and careers are hanging in the balance. So Stay tuned.
P.S. This might simplify things:
I say again, stay tuned. And ready for Sunday.