Has there ever been a time of such uncertainty in American sports?
Never have so many sports been cancelled altogether, re-scheduled, or put on hold. We've had interruptions and disruptions for World War II, 9/11, labor disputes and earthquakes, but I can't remember a time when every sport was affected and the entire sports world was at a standstill.
March Madness and college spring sports have been cancelled. Major League Baseball, the NBA, PGA and NHL are all in limbo. The 2020 Olympics has been postponed.
Even horse racing before empty stands has been suspended.
The virus has yet to peak in our country, and looking ahead, one must wonder whether there will be an NFL or college football season this fall. More and more folks are expressing doubt, as spring football is cancelled and “shelter in place” orders are extended.
ESPN's respected college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said last week, "I'll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I don't know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up. Next thing you know you got a locker room full of guys that are sick. As much as I hate to say it, I think we're scratching the surface of where this thing's gonna go."
Meanwhile, lots of sock drawers have been cleaned out. Lots of plants planted, walls painted, adult beverages consumed, old movies viewed, and dogs walked. Restaurant take out is booming and Amazon, suddenly, can't deliver the next day.
When things resume—hopefully sooner rather than later—will sports be the same? Will we sit in crowded stadiums, shoulder to shoulder with 75,000 of our closest friends?
Attendance was already trending downward. Even college football in the rabid SEC had a significant decline this year. What if the virus lingers or ebbs and flows? If it is seemingly under control this summer, but then returns in the fall?
Will more and more fans opt to just stay home with their 60" HDTV, permanent parking spot, stocked refrig, and remote? Will games be played before empty stands, existing strictly as TV content?
Sports administrators and marketers everywhere are pondering these questions.
And right now, there are no answers.
HS Seniors May Suffer: The biggest COVID-19 losers—from a sports standpoint—may be high school senior spring sports athletes. Not only will they miss the opportunity to compete and show their stuff this spring, but they also may lose their opportunity to land college scholarships. If the NCAA grants an extra year of eligibility to spring sports athletes whose seasons were cancelled, there will be very few grants available.
Bravo: Some quick hurrahs to sports figures who've made truly significant contributions in these dark days (partial list):
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, donated $5 million to virus prevention in Louisiana. That's not chump change. $5M represents about 20% of Brees’ salary and over a third of his take home pay.
New Orleans Pelicans' rookie Zion Williamson is personally paying all the event staff salaries at Smoothie King Center. Not bad for a 19-year old kid.
Warriors’ superstar Steph Curry arranged for an online chat with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease expert who is leading the nation's efforts against the coronavirus. Not many folks could've pulled this off, and Curry's questioning was quite knowledgeable.
Stay safe, everyone.