Like the cases and the testing and the mortality rates, themselves, the general sense of optimism and pessimism about life in general does not proceed in any kind of obviously linear way. It’s tough to even pin down a trend, to be honest. Sometimes it’s high, sometimes it’s low. Sometimes it feels like things are going to get so much worse, sometimes it feels like things are trending in a good direction.
Bubbles Without Families
As the NBA considers “bubble” concepts for its return, one thing it will not consider is doing so in conjunction with a family-free quarantine:
Several sports leagues have talked about isolating players from their families in order to play the season.
The NBA won't do it.https://t.co/KmGmXaRDqb
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) May 3, 2020
We understand and accept that having families with players at a bubble location (i.e., all games in one place) would necessarily increase the risk of an outbreak within the bubble, but I also do think there has to be a line somewhere. For me, it’s right there at the idea of asking players to quarantine away from their families. If players unanimously wanted to do it, that would be one thing. But I just don’t think it would be right for the league to demand it, and I also think – just from a pragmatic perspective – it would be a PR nightmare if the league *did* demand it. I just don’t think this works (for the NBA or any of the other leagues) if you’re not getting total buy-in from the players, and that means ensuring they are safe and mentally OK.
My guess is that any plan that comes to fruition in any of the sports will either involve players being able to be with families, or the period of isolation being 100% certain and relatively short.
The TV Impact of Ending Seasons Early
Good lord. So, I knew that there would be implications for local TV deals if the NBA and/or NHL could not complete their regular seasons, but I figured it would be the clawback of some money already paid out, not the kind of draconian penalties that are discussed here:
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 3, 2020
It sounds like there isn’t certainty that this is the case, but reportedly, SOME local contracts have some severe penalties in place if a regular season is not completed and broadcast: the contract rolls over to the next year, which could mean almost TOTAL LOSS of local TV revenue the next year.
We’ve talked about the chained risk that RSNs face from cable providers (if the channels don’t provide live sports content, cable providers might try to cancel their carriage deals), and this is just another link in the chain. I still think the sides – the many, many sides – would negotiate/litigate financial outcomes, but these reports suggest most of the leverage might wind up on the side of the RSNs and the cable providers, rather than the leagues and teams. Thus, some surprisingly extreme urgency to finish up regular seasons that have very little left in them.
NFL Stays Home
The NFL has already made one scheduling change for the season ahead:
NFL update on 2020 season schedule.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) May 4, 2020
It’s certainly possible, likely even, that the NFL would be able to stage a game in the UK later this year. But the logistics and costs that go into planning and preparing for it would make for a significant risk if you wind up not being able to do it. So, it gets cancelled now to mitigate some of that risk. Simple enough, but a bummer for the league, I’m sure.
Kids Playing Sports in the COVID-19 Era
We focus on professional sports here, obviously, but the ability to get kids playing sports again – safely – is at least as important in the long-term. Some of the early thoughts on how that can happen:
Doctors, scientists and sports leaders are outlining the path back to playing fields for children in grassroots sports — an exercise that will help inform major organizations on how to get their industries up and running.
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) May 3, 2020
The super short version is that it all looks very familiar to you: testing, tracking, small groups, etc.
Our first indication of how sports teams might proceed in the face of positive tests after returning to action:
German league: Cologne’s players are continuing to train despite three positive tests for coronavirus at the club. https://t.co/MSHQx8bzwO
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) May 2, 2020
Basically, with hygiene and testing and quarantining protocols in place, the team/league do not feel they have to shut down training because of some positive tests. I suppose that’s where most sports want (need?) to be – some people are going to test positive eventually – but it will certainly be met with scrutiny, especially if even more players/personnel test positive thereafter.
Baseball in Asia
As discussed this morning, the KBO in South Korea starts its regular season tonight, without fans, though it’s possible they will come eventually.
That tracks with Taiwan, where baseball started last month, and now fans are very slowly going to start coming back:
Taiwan’s sports fans continue to get the good news we can only wish for. Its baseball season started April 12; its fans will start returning to the games (in small numbers) shortly: https://t.co/WH5vosM0Ks
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) May 4, 2020
As for South Korea, your early TV schedule at ESPN:
ESPN will air six KBO games per week. Here's the schedule for this week! pic.twitter.com/QB0mb9srDZ
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) May 4, 2020