Warren Moon welcomes NFL as distraction: ‘Sports have always been there for us’
The Hall of Fame quarterback shares his thoughts on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected his world
In the United States, Washington has been among the hardest hit by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee moved quickly to respond to the expanding health crisis, and Washington now ranks among the leading states in testing and travel restrictions. Daily life in Washington, as well as many other states, has been dramatically altered as citizens practice social distancing in an effort to contain the virus.
Warren Moon, the only African American quarterback enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, lives in Redmond, Washington, located about 15 miles east of Seattle. At 63, Moon is in a high-risk group to fall ill if infected. And with schools closed as a result of the virus, Moon can relate to other parents who are waging a daily battle against teenagers glued to video games.
In a conversation with The Undefeated recently, Moon, echoing the thoughts of many, discussed why the loss of sports has been so hard, the difficulty of necessary social distancing and his new understanding of Fortnite.
I’m in the sports business. I’m also a sports fan. I follow everything that goes on in sports. Obviously, everything is shut down. And it has to be shut down for some time. But you’re not getting a lot of information about when things will change. You’re not getting a lot of information about when things will get back to normal. And that’s because the experts, the doctors and the scientists, don’t know. They’re still trying to get a handle on all of this. Still, it’s difficult. Usually in times like this, when there are tragedies or just any horrible thing that happens to the whole country, sports have always been there for us. We’ve had sports to make us feel better. Whatever the situation might be, you can always go to sports to get away from it, if only for a little while. It can help … it just makes you feel better.
It’s an escape to whatever bad is going on in your life, or the lives of everyone else in the country at the same time. Right now, we don’t have that. We don’t have sports. And I know there was a lot of talk about whether the NFL should go ahead with free agency and the draft. I know people thought it wouldn’t be a good look. And I understand that. You’ll have all these guys in free agency making all that money. You’ll have [first-round] draft picks getting these big contracts. And with the rest of the country suffering, people losing jobs and worrying about paying their rent, bills and feeding their families, it just wouldn’t look right. But people, sports fans, also need this. They want to have something else to talk about. They need to have something else to talk about. I get that, because everything is so difficult right now.
No one in my generation, or the generation before mine or after mine, has ever experienced this. The last time we experienced anything like this was with the flu in 1918. I fly a lot, so I was moving around a lot when this whole thing really started growing here [in the United States]. At one point, [Washington] was kind of the epicenter. Well, the first epicenter. At the time, up here, and only a few other states, were the ones that had cases. Then you saw how it started to spread. Now, it’s all over the country, and obviously more in some places than others. Early on, we really didn’t know what the official numbers were because we didn’t have the testing kits. We weren’t getting people tested to see if they might have it. A lot of people felt like they may have had symptoms, but we didn’t have a way to get them tested. Reading the newspaper and watching the news, and it was clear we needed the testing to find out what the true numbers were.
I’m in that age range where they say it is the most dangerous. I’m 63 years old. I’m in really good shape and everything, but that’s something I have to be a little bit more concerned about than most. You think about friends of yours, guys you played the game with over the years, and you know they’re around your age, too. You definitely think about it. When you’re young, you think you’re invincible. But that’s just not the way it is. So I was definitely on top of it. I was on top of it from the beginning, especially because I travel so much. Before everyone really stopped traveling, I was on a lot of airplanes. I definitely took precautions. I carried my wipes to wipe down my seat and my area. I made sure to have my hand sanitizer. I was doing all the things I was supposed to do in terms of trying to stay away from a lot of contact. But you know what? Still, you never really know.
I was even getting window seats on planes. That was one of the things people were advised to do. That was something I never did because I always liked to be on the aisle. The problem with being on the aisle … you just get exposed to all those people walking by you. They might cough or bump into you or something if you’re sitting on the aisle. So from now on, whenever I really start traveling again, when things get back to normal, I’m sitting at the window. I like to be on the move, but you have to stay in the house now. You do it reluctantly, but you have to do it. It’s hard sitting around doing nothing. We just need to do it. It’s the smart thing to do.
It’s really tough on kids. My son is up in his room on his video games. He has some buddies that he plays with, and they can talk to each other through their headsets and all of that. They love that stuff. I can’t hear him at all when I ask him a question, when he’s talking to me, but then I can hear him upstairs yelling with his buddies to get this one or that one and to help him. To have him home during the day during the week, it’s definitely different. There’s a whole different personality when they’re playing those games with their buddies. They’re not in school and they can’t play with their friends, so you want to let them be involved with them. The video game lets them do that. You just have to find the right balance. I make him go outside and exercise. I go outside and throw him some passes. But his flag [football] league has been postponed because of this, so he’s disappointed about that.
There are just a lot of lessons to be learned right now. A lot of lessons about how we have to respond in hard times. And the lessons aren’t only for kids. They’re for all of us.
As a senior at the University of Washington in 1977, Moon was selected as both the Rose Bowl MVP and the Pacific-8 Conference co-Player of the Year. Because of the racism of the era, however, many black quarterbacks were pushed to move to another position by coaches who assumed they lacked the smarts to play football’s most important position. After being undrafted by the NFL, Moon went to the Canadian Football League and became a star. The NFL noticed. Following a bidding war, the Houston Oilers signed Moon. During both the 1990 and ’91 seasons, Moon led the NFL in passing yards, producing almost 9,400 combined. In 1990, Moon was chosen as the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls. At 41 in 1997, Moon, then with the Seattle Seahawks, was selected to the Pro Bowl after passing for 25 touchdowns and almost 3,700 yards. In 2006, Moon was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s the only player enshrined into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.