The bulk of the National Football League season kicks off today.

The Baltimore Ravens are seeking a Super Bowl ring while the Washington Football Team is seeking a new nickname, a much-needed culture change and a respectable showing in the NFC East.

More importantly, we hope the 2020 NFL season helps us take another step toward some sense of normalcy here on the Eastern Shore and across the country.

But we are also realistic. This is 2020 after all.

We hope the season gives a needed boost to local restaurants and sports bars that in the past have gotten significiant business from fans coming in to watch games.

We should all think about any opportunity to support local businesses in Easton, St. Michaels and other towns including restaurants showing games even if we have to endure a few Patriots, Steelers or Cowboys fans.

It would be great if Lamar Jackson and the Ravens get over the hump and make their way to the Super Bowl or Dwayne Haskins and the Washington team with no name can muster up seven wins.

But it is more important that the local businesses on the Shore survive the next few months and beyond. The COVID-19 situation has been getting better but small businesses and restaurants (and the workers they employ) continue to be threatened by the pandemic. They continue to be on the frontlines of 2020’s turmoil and upheavals.

The wild-card is how fans will react to the political agendas that permeate sports and many aspects of life these days.

The Houston Texans left the field for the national anthem before Thursday’s NFL opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Everyone has their First Amendment rights and we understand NFL players want to use their platforms to highlight concerns about race and justice.

But they (and the media) need to also realize that fans (and President Donald Trump) also have the right to disagree with those anthem protests and agendas. They also have the right as consumers to spend their time and money elsewhere. The very activist NBA is learning that with some declines in television ratings.

We just hope players protests do not end up hurting local restaurants and bars on the Shore who need a boost in business from sports fans.

NFL teams, stadiums and even the sports bars that cater to fans all have to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let’s hope for safety and fair treatment. That has not been the case in other instances where some activities (such as Trump rallies, church services and going to the beach) have too often been chastised while other activities (such as protests) have been given a hall pass when it comes to social distancing.

While a Super Bowl ring in Baltimore and respectability (and a new nickname) in Washington would be nice we should also put our collective energy toward really rooting for all those small businesses and jobs on the Eastern Shore that desperately need a good season.

They are the ones who deserve our support and loyalty.

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