So this week was a bit strange, huh?
With the spread of the coronavirus around the country, we saw the unprecedented stoppage of sporting events around the world and in the United States. Starting with several universities canceling conference tournaments, the NCAA decided to ban crowds from its venerable tournament. That alone was big news until the NBA suspended operations after a player tested positive. The resulting snowball turned into an avalanche the likes of which we have never seen. Play stopped after 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination, but not like this. We will see how things shape up long-term but in the meantime, we can start to wonder what comes next.
After the positive test of Rudy Gobert (two days after his ill-conceived hijnks with the press corps’ mics and recorders), the NBA immediately suspended operations. While Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner said that it would be about 30 days at this point, the season could still be in jeopardy if the spread of the coronavirus worsens.
We can be looking at the NBA picking up with the playoffs and running them into July. Not a bad prospect, but there are many things to consider outside of the virus. The NBA has to worry about TV revenue (a big portion comes from playoff broadcasts); the loss of revenue may affect player salaries and negotiations and potentially the draft lottery. The Olympics and players’ union requirements will also factor into the future of the NBA season.
In almost the same category as the NBA (minus the Olympics), the NHL suspended their season after the NBA. With multiple teams sharing the same locker rooms and facilities, it made sense. We can also be looking at hockey in the summertime as well. The league can pick up with the playoffs (which, in my humble opinion, is the greatest playoffs in any sport), but other questions also factor in as well. You will also have to deal with the players’ union here. Players might not get paid during this time, so look to management and unions to work closely to make sure the suspensions for both the NBA and NHL don’t cause labor issues as well.
The NHL has asked teams to make sure that arenas are available through the end of July, but that also brings up logistics. Running both the NBA and NHL with adapted schedules into the summer might be too much to sort out.
The NHL does have a rule that says that in the event of a shutdown, the team with the most points would be the Stanley Cup champion if the season doesn’t continue. That would mean the Boston Bruins (ugh) might get the Cup. I don’t even think Bruins fans would be happy if it ended that way.
Well, the good news is you wont get insanely mad this year that the girl at work who picked winning teams based on which mascots were “cuter” will have a better bracket than your highly researched, data-driven bracket.
Joking aside, March Sadness is real. The NCAA decided to cancel both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments and it looks like they will not be rescheduled at this point. The bad news continued when word spread that both the Men’s and Women’s College World Series were also canceled. Most schools and athletic conferences have canceled or suspended team sports.
The NCAA will lose a lot of TV money due to the cancellation of the Big Dance. And a lot of sponsors, advertisers, and corporate partners won’t get the return on investment they would from the exposure.
But…. The real losers in this is the student athletes. Not going to get into if they should get paid or not, but the fact remains that a lot of seniors across many sports just saw their athletic careers potentially end with a series of press releases.
Will players lose this year of eligibility? Will they be able to come back next year? That question looms large as scholarships and recruiting come into play. Most schools have also canceled recruiting activities as well so look to see the fallout from that.
College football has been affected with the cancellation of spring games and practices. Look for more schools shutting down football activities in the next 2-3 weeks.
Even the most die-hard baseball fans would have to admit there has been an attendance problem the last few years. Ticket sales have dropped, and teams have struggled to fill the seats. Luckily, the TV money is what moves the league now. But when the coronavirus news spread, MLB was forced to cancel all spring training games and have, for now, pushed back Opening Day by two weeks.
Believe it or not, this might be good for baseball long term. There have been calls to shorten the season to the original 154 game length or even more. Fewer games might make things more meaningful in the dog days of summer and keep attention spans locked in. But there are major drawbacks too. Instead of baseball owning the summer like they usually do, they will have to potentially compete with the NBA, NHL, Olympics and MLS who now will be on TV as well.
Right now, the NFL has not been affected much other than practice facilities being closed down. But the big question right now is the draft. Scheduled to take place in Vegas this year, the NFL might be skittish to have the event with such a large crowd attending. League meetings have also been postponed and players will soon find out if they have to attend dreaded OTA this summer.
While most leagues have a security blanket to fall back on for now, the upstart reincarnation of the XFL doesn’t, so it made sense that they were among the last to announce the end of their 2020 season. The first year for any new sports league is tough. What makes this bittersweet was that the XFL was doing really well and had a lot of good press. (Those sideline interviews were pretty awesome.)
It sounds like the league has enough capital to get it through its first three years, but the loss of exposure will hurt. That being said, look for Vince McMahon and his team to come back stronger in 2021.
NASCAR flirted with the idea of racing with no fans in the stands. While it would suck for fans wanting to attend, there was hope that racing would still continue as planned. But it looks like the first race since the news, set to take place in Atlanta, has now been postponed. NASCAR has an extremely long schedule from February to October so it will be interesting to know if these races will be raced at all this year. As more states issue decrees prohibiting large gatherings, look for the potential for more cancelled races.
The most expensive and glamorous sport in the world was put into park yesterday when the Australian Grand Prix, the official start of the F1 season, was cancelled. It was surprising it got that far. The McClaren team had already pulled out due to a team member testing positive for coronavirus, and the likelihood that all teams and drivers who hang out in the paddock and pit lane have been exposed is high.
But the organizers waited until right when fans were lining up before cancelling. This morning, they also cancelled the Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix, which were to be held next. The Chinese Grand Prix had already been postponed
With the events rotating around the world, it is hard to imagine Formula 1 (as well as Formula 2 and Formula E) being able to transport hundreds of drivers, mechanics, engineers, team members, tv crews, and logistic personnel around the world without any risk. There is a good chance most of the season might be scrapped.
Major League Soccer announced a delay in the season relatively quick. The Women’s and Men’s teams also cancelled friendlies that had been scheduled. MLS has grown rapidly in teams and fans the last few years, so this is a setback as far as capitalizing on the growth. That being said, the biggest challenge to MLS would be when play resumes. They have held their own (and then some) competing with baseball in the summer. But a delayed NBA and NHL schedule would definitely hurt attendance and most importantly TV ratings.
Champions League and European Soccer
Leagues across the continent have been cancelled. Serie-A, Italy’s top tier league was the first following the disastrous outbreak that has gripped that nation. Spain followed suit with La Liga. Today the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga have been suspended as well. These leagues were headed into the final part of their season. While they don’t have playoffs like American league sports, they do have a promotion and relegation system in place. A prolonged suspension could cause significant issues with that, as promotion into top tiers and relegation into lower level tiers usually results in a gain or loss of tens of millions of dollars.
The PGA yesterday announced the suspension of all tournaments up to the Masters, giving sports fans around the country hope that the “Tradition Unlike Any Other” would survive the onslaught of cancellations. But hope died this morning when the Masters put out a statement saying all activities would be postponed. Much like NASCAR and Formula 1, the steady stream of events on the calendar might make it hard for even a venerable event like this to be held this year.
The massive summer event will be held in Tokyo, Japan this year. While we don’t have any word yet on the impact to the Summer Games, national teams and governing bodies have put a hold on training and activities while the coronavirus is dealt with. The growth of the virus will have an effect on the Games if things get out of control. The mass amount of people that would come into and exit Japan for the one-month sports extravaganza would likely test the government’s abilities to track any carriers from countries that have had outbreaks. That is, unless they ban certain countries from attending. In all likelihood, look for the Olympics to keep things on track as is and look to see what other sports leagues and organizations do in the next few months.
While the loss of sports is huge, and the impact on local economies will suffer, we do want to note that it seems like all leagues, organizations and government officials are doing the right thing during this time of uncertainty. Hopefully it is all over soon and we can back to being fans again.