Time to pull the plug on the idea of fans in the stands in 2020
The only thing sports leaders should be promoting for fans right now is big-screen televisions, because the only way sports will have a chance to resume is if teams stay isolated and fans stay home.
Even without fans, it’s far from a guarantee that things will go smoothly enough to actually have college sports, baseball, football or the resumption of the NBA season. But at least if league and school officials pull the plug on the idea of fans in the stands today, they can put all of their attention and resources toward salvaging the 2020 seasons.
Owners, administrators and facility operators have enough on their plates without having to worry about things and people they can’t control. Even without fans, you’ve got a big challenge on your hands to keep athletes and coaches healthy and facilities and equipment sanitized at all times.
Keeping teams in a pseudo-isolated "bubble" isn't foolproof, but it can work if there are strict rules and the people living inside the bubble all have the same agenda. But when you start inviting people from the outside world into the bubble, you’re introducing a lot of variables that the sports world can't afford right now.
True, no fans will mean less revenue. Schools and franchises will be missing out on ticket sales, concessions, parking and more. But the hit taken there is nothing compared to the crippling blow they’d take if they try to bring too many people in too quickly and the whole thing falls apart.
That’s especially true in the college ranks. The cancellation of the NCAA Tournament and other spring events created enough of a financial hole. University athletic departments simply cannot face the idea of losing football television revenue on top of that.
So why not come up with a product that’s both safe and made for television?
It’s 2020. Get creative. Mic up the players and coaches. Figure out some new interactive features that will bring fans closer to the action. It’s worth a try.
After all, these seasons, no matter how they go, are going to forever be remembered as the weirdest and wildest on record. You might as well try to have a little fun in the process. Besides, whatever new initiatives don’t work can always be tossed out when things go back to normal.
Who knows? You might even stumble upon an idea that revolutionizes the way sports are consumed by fans watching at home.
I know it’ll sting. I know empty arenas will be a drag for both the players who feed off of them and the fans who usually fill them.
But at least watching on TV would provide a much-needed distraction from all of the craziness that may still lie ahead.
And you don’t need fans in the stands for that.