To Play or Not to Play ... What's the Question?
June 1, 2020 | View PDF
This is the season of non-seasons, like no other time in our lifetimes. We may or may not have baseball this year, we may have football this fall, but we might not. We do have NASCAR, but no fans are allowed.
The news each day brings less clarity and more confusion about the future of sports events. NASCAR is surviving only because it makes more money from television than on fans in the stands. Come to think of it, perhaps this is one of the things that makes this particular motor-sport attendance, experiencing a spiraling decline in fan participation at races over the past decade. Is it over exposure on TV; perhaps. From my vantage point it’s more than that. It’s the boring uniformity of the cars; remember when it was call “Stock Car” racing. Well these are not stock cars anymore. The cars these days are tightly controlled race cars with only the body skins separating them, and these are very similar. Gone are the days of the Allisons, the Petty’s and Red Farmer. No dark horse favorites and no single manufacturer that can dominate races. In the desire for parity the NASCAR races are just, mostly, well, boring. No wonder attendance at races have fallen dramatically.
Major League Baseball has yet to come up with a plan that management and the Players Union can agree on. Several MLB players have stated that they will not play for a reduced salary or a prorated salary. Perhaps they believe this is a wise negotiating tactic. MLB does depend on fans in attendance to make the game work. Let me clarify for a moment. Without the fans in the seats, it’s difficult or impossible for the teams, particularly the small market teams, to make the financial end of the game work. So without the ticket revenue it's hard to imagine covering the average MLB team payroll of $122 million per team. Now that’s for a full season, not half a season. How many players will report for a prorated salary is anyones guess. It appears that MLB will start the season at or near the All-Star break in some fashion. The guidelines are draconian and there will be no fans present. It’s also very likely that some of the “stars” will be missing in action. So much for everyone doing their part in a tough situation. South Korean Baseball is being played, with no fans, but rather of pictures of fans on poster boards occupying the seats. I find it interesting that in my lifetime, it was not unusual that MLB payers held a second job during the off season, but that is when the notion of helmets replacing hats was very controversial.
The NFL is convincing me that they are playing the games and working all of the details out later. It looks almost like business as usual for the NFL. The plan currently is to play the entire season, and there will be some form of health screening in place to admit fans to the game. Additionally, the NFL has announced what the protocols are going to be for the players relative to COVID-19. It looks like daily testing for each player and a stringent isolation for infected players. And by the way, the average team salary expense is $188 million. The NFL plan is for a full season, so they at the moment, do not have the issues with revenue compared to MLB, with half a season and no fans.
The NBA may or may not start practice and may or may not have a session as of this writing. The NBA team average payroll average is $130 million. Most of the revenue is television revenue, and frankly the NBA’s plan is so convoluted its impossible for me to write about it.
So there is the contrast between these four professional sports. MLB, this is the plan based on no fans in attendance and the NFL plan, business as usual, well sort of, but fans in attendance. NASCAR, no problems, we don’t need fans. The NBA, well I’m just not sure.
The NCAA football commissioner is still somewhat confident in a complete yet adjusted season. The thinking here is that the games involving across USA travel is problematic. So for example, games involving USC and Alabama will likely be canceled, with each team rescheduling a conference or regional team. Will this reshuffling of schedules actually include more conference games or more of the “cup-cake” U games. This remains to be seen, I surely hope it is the former rather than the latter. Spring season has been cancelled with one prominent coach telling us that his team can be ready to play in four weeks if necessary. Does that mean an earlier fall practice or does it mean the season will be pushed back a few weeks, or a combination of both. Obviously the choice and decisions here are vastly different than Major League Sports. Let's remember that the player athlete is also, and most importantly a Student Athlete. And in this arena the safety and health of the Student Athlete must be the most important consideration. There are no million dollar contracts for our kids and the health concerns are, and most be the deciding factors.
Locally, kids sports are also have an extraordinary responsibility to the kids that play. Babe Ruth Baseball has cancelled the season here in central Alabama. Dixie Youth is wise and still waiting. Three of my four grandsons are playing Dixie Youth Baseball. Sure I want to see them play, but not as much as I want them to be safe. And I’m confident that’s what everyone wants.
We live in the world we have, not the one we necessarily want. And the times we are presently in just puts an exclamation point on the previous sentence. There can be no political rational in the decisions the adults make for the kids. No conspiracy theories, no agendas, just keep them safe. Set good examples for them. Yes we’re all in this thing together and there are better days ahead. When? We just don’t know. What we do know is this: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good”