During this bizarre time of quarantining and social distancing, athletes and sports fans across the country are reeling. There are only so many times you can watch re-runs of sports games that big-time networks, such as ESPN and NFL Network, are running daily.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about when and how sports will return this summer or fall. Will society return to complete normalcy? Or will we have to wait until 2021 to fill the stands of Citi Field or even MetLife Stadium? For starters, let me just get it out there. Nobody knows. I mean nobody. Not even doctors.
Some leagues, such as Major League Baseball, are formulating plans to return in the near future. MLB is proposing to play the season in Arizona. They will get rid of the American and National League and assign teams to their spring training divisions. There will be no fans allowed, and players will stay at hotels. Since there are many empty hotels at this time in Arizona (or any state for that matter), this plan could actually work. Players will be tested regularly, but if one of the players on a team tests positive, there goes all of the plans.
To combat this issue, the MLB will allow teams to have expanded rosters, so there will be extra players that can take the place of any player that may test positive. The plan is extensive, and outlined brilliantly by ESPN baseball writer Jeff Passan in a recent article.
The big issue, and this is with any sport, is that there are so many people that are present at a sporting event, not even including the fans. Let’s start with the team. A baseball team has around ten coaches, public relations and media staff, announcers and their production team, at least two bullpen catchers, trainers and front office people that may travel with the team. Not to mention the four umpires that are present at every game.
How can MLB protect all of these individuals, pay them and play a season? While this plan for the MLB should be approved due to the desperation of sports fans and players, it is not going to be easy. Of all the different people I mentioned, their age groups vary, and some may have preexisting health conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus.
In the near future, there probably will not be many mass gatherings, especially at baseball games. When it comes to football, there is optimism that things can return to normal. Then I see an article from the Los Angeles Times about the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, saying that sports may not happen until 2021 in Los Angeles. Considering the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams will be opening a new stadium this fall, that sounds really disappointing.
Would it be realistic for sports venues to do what supermarkets are doing? Limit the amount of people in the stadium and prevent fans from sitting next to each other by only selling a limited amount of tickets? This does not seem realistic, since fans will be forced into close quarters when ordering food at a concession stand or catching the train after the game.
I have asked myself multiple times during this quarantine, what life will be like post COVID-19. It will not hurt if everyone becomes a little more sanitary. In terms of sports, will people be reluctant to go to games, even after the government tells us it’s okay. A lot of it depends on the economy and how long sports owners can operate without revenue. That is why I think, all sports will return in the near future, no matter what restriction will have to be put into place. Baseball will be sure to broadcast the games, since most of the teams’ revenue comes from their television deals. National networks, such as CBS and NBC, will be dying to get their hands on live baseball games. I mention those two networks because they do not have any broadcast rights to the MLB currently. There will surely be competition for broadcast rights, which will
generate a ton of revenue. Even if teams will lose money on ticket sales, they will be able to make money in other ways.
At the end of the day, this situation is fluid and the health and safety must be the priority. While everyone hopes life will return to normal before the upcoming football season starts, we should be able to enjoy baseball in a few weeks. Football may be played in empty stadiums this fall, but for now, let’s cross that bridge when we get there.