Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pro US Leagues Too Optimistic

It's not hard to come across one of the major pro sports leagues in the US offering out some outlandish idea on how to get going. ESPN (if anyone is still watching) gives just about all of them some air to breathe simply due to having not much else to talk about. From there you see the social media trial balloons that get bounced around. Eventually one or two might make their way to the major TV networks for a laugh.

The fact of the matter is this - It is becoming increasingly clear that sports will look completely different for at least the next two years.


The Atlantic has a clear thinking piece that lays out how things might be able to reopen. It's worth a read, even if you are consuming just about everything COVID-19. In it, they ask the question: “Everyone wants to know when this will end. That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”

This process might take several weeks to unfold, and even at the end of it, none of the experts I spoke with was comfortable with the return of crowded public spaces. Gottlieb’s road map, for example, recommends that until a vaccine or an effective treatment is produced, social gatherings should be limited to 50 people or fewer. That will be especially challenging in large cities: An average Manhattan street or subway car is the equivalent of a mass gathering. Elsewhere, concerts, conferences, summer camps, political rallies, large weddings, and major sporting events may all have to be suspended for at least this year. “It’s hard for me to imagine anyone going to Fenway Park and sitting with 30,000 fans—that will almost surely be a bad idea,” said Ashish Jha, an internist and public-health expert at Harvard. “This isn’t going to look like a normal summer in America.”
That's a generous quote, but important to the world of US sports. No matter how you slice the timeline, "the norm" of consuming sports entertainment is likely over. No league will reopen it's doors to large crowds for the foreseeable future (meaning: years) for insurance purposes alone, nevermind the collective fear most people will have in regards to getting sick.

We may see clunky endings to European soccer leagues and perhaps even the NBA in this calendar year, but from a future-thinking perspective - the pro party is over. Salaries will be completely slashed and stadiums will be burdens on local cities.

Leagues (and cities that have teams) should plan for this now. I've been keeping an eye out for someone to think realistically instead of trying to shoehorn in games in Las Vegas or Arizona. I've yet to see it.

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