Are Sports Without Fans a Suitable Alternative?
So many questions, so few answers. We really don't know what's going to happen to Sports over the next several months. The sports don't know either.
We all could be in isolation for weeks or months--nobody really knows for sure.
And while you could argue we would. normally be in a "Slow" period for sports, that's not totally true as Sports are not limited to the Professional, College or Amateur versions. We shouldn't forget Little League and kids leagues either.
This past week on the OSG Sports College Football "Review" Podcast , we discussed--sometimes loudly, whether or not there should be discussion about postponing the College Football season. While both Jon and Wilkie argued we shouldn't, I believe it is the perfect time to have these discussions.
For Professional Sports, and the high-profile College Sports, it's absolutely the time to have this discussion. We're talking about not million, but BILLION dollar businesses (yes, that includes College Football) who's very existence relies solely on TV Revenue and Fans attending games.
Simply put, no games, no TV contract and no ticket or concession purchases. None. The money goes back to the Network while empty stadiums don't generate any money. And no payouts would help the Networks pad the coffers, it comes at the expense of the teams or sport. In Pro Sports, it would not ruin or bankrupt them, but College Sports--particularly football, would be in deep shit.
The money train would come to an end.
No, it would not end Universities as we know them, but it would totally change College Sports. Not having the millions from TV money, the losses from empty stadiums would likely cause most Athletic Departments to end any sport not named Football or maybe Basketball. The inability to pay the operations costs of an Athletic Department would be devastating.
The Pro Sports franchises would be damaged--though not likely beyond repair for similar reasons: No fans, no games means no income.
As I type this--the plug hasn't been pulled on MLB, the NBA, the NHL, the NFL nor College Football. There has however been plenty of discussion about what to do, how the games could still be played and thus far, the alternatives don't sound like much fun.
Yes, I know The Masters, The Final Four, Wimbledon and the Olympics have all been postponed--but those are a different topic of conversation altogether.
The NBA's most high profile player, LeBron James had initially gone on record saying "I ain't playing if I ain't got the fans in the crowd". Mind you, the statement was made BEFORE the NBA postponed their season, but to be perfectly honest, he's right. It applied early in this Pandemic and it applies even more now.
So many involved with Sports will tell you the games are "An Escape" from the problems within society and in many ways I agree with the statement.
Not this time. No, it doesn't have to do with the nay sayers who are trying to rationalize the Covid-19 outbreak or downplay it, calling it a "Hoax" and the closing of a majority of society as an "over-reaction". It has everything to do with the awkwardness and appearance of Sports in empty arenas.
Having a College Football game without fans is quite possibly the most depressing sight you could provide to fans. Would the fans watch? Probably. Would it be same? Not even close. Part of experience in a College Football game is the crowd, the bands and the energy they bring to the stadium. All of which would be lost.
Honestly, that same description would fit just about any Sport played in an empty facility.
That's why I don't think it serves anyone's purpose, should it come to that point to have games without fans. Yeah, sure, I know that wouldn't matter as the Pro Sports League's and College Football would likely want to get paid, even if it means taking the fun out of it.
Sure, athletes are some of the most "Self-Motivated" people in Society and life today. They are highly disciplined (mostly) and push themselves very hard. But they also derive a tremendous amount of energy from the fans at their events. It's the motivation to push harder, to get excited about what they are doing.
Empty stands provide none of that excitement or energy.
It's still early and there is time before we have to make a final decision on Sport. There is a lot of hope things will subside and we can try returning to normal by the end of the Spring or early Summer all of which might render this conversation moot.
I hope for all of us that's exactly what happens....