Nevius: Silencing of sports speaks loudly
When the twin towers came down on 9/11, I was a suburban dad in the East Bay. Another father and I were coaching our 10-year-old daughters’ soccer team.
We had a practice scheduled for the day after the catastrophe. But people were just starting to process the horror of what happened. Youth soccer seemed kind of silly.
We talked about canceling. But we figured a couple of girls might show up. So we sent out an email saying we’re going to be at the field and if you want to drop by, we’ll see you there.
Everybody came. Not only all the players, but most of their parents. We talked about the attack, of course, but also about school and kids growing up and even … soccer.
That’s the role sports are supposed to play in a crisis. You could say they are a diversion, but they are also an invitation to normalcy, a reset of daily routines.
I’ve seen a few things written about this coronavirus pandemic that basically say, “This reminds us of how unimportant these foolish games are.”
I think it is the opposite. This move — to essentially stop playing all sports in this country and others — shows how significant this moment in time truly is.
This is going to be weird. And let’s state, right up at the top, that there are huge, life-and-death decisions and battles ahead. And in no way do sports compare with the global virus concerns.
But think about it. In the past, if the Giants, for some reason, didn’t play a game, we’d fill the sports pages with something else. Pick up some out-of-town games off the news wire.
There will be no wire. There will be no games. No basketball — no NBA, college, high school or pee-wee YMCA league. Ditto for baseball, football or hockey. Nothing at any level.
As you may have noticed, newspapers devote an entire daily section to sports. Now an entire industry is self-quarantined.
How about electronic media? ESPN has four channels — all sports, all the time. There are dedicated networks for the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and golf. Not to mention the TNTs and FS1s of the world who depend on daily doses of sports news.
At this point we’ve already run through the usual steps from Journalism 101. Coaches have been interviewed. Players are offering their thoughts. Disappointed fans have been located and quoted.
OK, that was Day One. Now what?
And let’s remember that this is not just an inconvenience. There is a very real, and very painful, financial cost. As my colleague Phil Barber pointed out the other day, the NCAA basketball tournament alone brings in nearly $1 BILLION to college sports.
Now imagine what sponsorship time costs during the NBA playoffs. Canceling those games — and there are a ton of them, several rounds, best-of-seven playoffs — would mean losses of bazillions. No wonder NBA commissioner Adam Silver is hedging, saying he will revisit the season suspension in a month.
And individually, teams are going to take a hit. The Giants, hoping to see a rebound in fan ticket sales after some disappointing seasons, have had to postpone their season opener. An iffy season can’t be helpful to ticket sales.