JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The “Duval” cheers, the lights and the Jacksonville Jaguars were all in action again, but it was clear that Week 3 at TIAA Bank Field was different from my last visit, in 2019. When I attended that hot, early fall home opener, I talked to strangers seated next to me, stood in line close to people, and enjoyed the battery-operated fans that blew air in our faces to last with over 100-degree temperatures inside the stadium.
I’ve always found you can make a quick emotional bond with nearby strangers around just because you happen to be fans of the same team, but it was nearly impossible to do that on Thursday night. You would have had to scream to even get the attention of your neighbor because each was seated so far away. Social distancing markers gave guidance on spacing for fans in line to buy concessions and memorabilia (or use the restroom) and face coverings were mandatory. These are the new realities for N.F.L. fans attempting to experience football in the flesh during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jaguars fans were excited to be home again, with their team having gotten off to a surprising 1-1 start, but there was a cautious tone that hung in the air against the Dolphins. Miami got out to an early lead and never let up, winning 31-13, but fans still stuck it out until nearly the end of the fourth quarter, perhaps enjoying a tiny bit of the normalcy we all have yearned for during the pandemic.