I know that I am not the only one experiencing “Coronavirus depression” with no Major League Baseball, Stanley Cup or NBA playoffs, March Madness cancelled, the Kentucky Derby and Indy 500 rescheduled for later in the year, etc. To put it bluntly, the last couple of months have really stunk in so many ways. So my goal for this blog is to highlight the positives and help prepare sports fans for what to expect moving forward.
Just like we have seen from the health experts and pandemic modelers, nobody really knows for sure how the future will play out or when we will have a proven drug therapy or a vaccine. But we can make educated guesses based on the past and what we know today. As far as a vaccine, President Trump is optimistic that we will have a vaccine by year’s end. However, he also said recently that he thinks the virus will die out on its own and we won’t need a vaccine.
I love the optimism and will refrain from what I would like to say here to steer clear of anything that seems political but I think most health officials and experts would disagree. I want to make it clear that I am probably more sick of all the politics during this pandemic than anything else. Who’s right, who has been wrong is nauseating and NOT the point of this blog.
It took 20 months to come up with a vaccine for SARS, but does every realize that to date, we still don’t have a drug therapy or vaccine that has been proven to be both safe and effective to treat the SARS virus?
This my friends, forces me to have a much more realistic outlook than I would like to have. In every day life, I tend to be optimistic about most everything. I do think we will eventually come up with a vaccine or drug therapy that will be proven safe and effective. But when? Unfortunately, I don’t think it will be in 2020 and I am fairly confident about this looking at drugs and vaccines in the pipeline. I am not an expert but I am a pharmacist who understands the science and drug approval process.
Current drugs on the market that have been proven to be safe for other indications will be our best hope for a speedy drug therapy. Some appear to help shorten hospital stays and recovery time but none have shown to be the “silver bullet” thus far. Viruses are much harder to develop drugs for than bacteria and I believe it is going to require a completely new drug or biological agent to kill this virus. With drug trials, even if they are sped up by the FDA, it will still take over a year, if not longer, to prove safety and efficacy in drug trials.
In Phase 4 of the reopening of the US, in order to have packed stadiums and large public gatherings, it will require either a proven drug therapy or vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. So at best, expect to see stadiums 25% full the rest of the year. This doesn’t bode well for pro sports leagues like the NHL where most of their revenue comes from gate receipts. Forbes magazine reviewed the 2017-18 NHL season and found that 75% of the NHL’s revenue came from tickets, concessions and gameday merchandise sales.
The NHL has yet to cancel the 2019-20 season but the writing is on the wall as they say. I don’t see a way that the NHL can move forward playing in arenas with 25% capacity unless they renegotiate television contracts to offset the lost revenue from gate receipts. But since a large portion of the NHL’s television contract money comes from the Stanley Cup playoffs, they might be able to come up with a revised playoff format and resume the season starting with playoffs. Or perhaps they can strike a deal with the NHLPA to reduce player salaries to accommodate decreased gate receipts.
As for MLB and the NFL, I think they will be able to pull off a season in front of no spectators or 25% capacity. But you can bet for the 2021 seasons, the salary cap and total payroll will be greatly reduced to offset any losses this year. Just expect that crowd noise is not going to rattle opposing players. Not ideal but I can live with it for a year.
NASCAR is resuming their racing season next Sunday May 17th with Sunday Wednesday live races. UFC had a fight this past Saturday night. Horse racing has mostly continued with spectator-less venues since online betting can keep the sport afloat. MLB is rumored to be restarting spring training on June 10th. So it is getting a little better. I am almost giddy to see NASCAR resume racing and I really haven’t watched much NASCAR the last 10 years or so. But I am so desperate for any live sporting event. I have even watched the Korean baseball league on the ESPN channels if that gives you an idea of my desperateness.
Overall, as with increased security measures we have seen for sporting events over the years probably related to 9/11, for the new normal, I would expect to see thermometer guns for temperature checks coming into the gate until this virus is behind us. We all can live with that. Just hope that you don’t spike a temp due to a non-contagious bacterial infection or your going home. But with the influenza and how deadly it can be, will thermometer guns and not having a temperature be the “new norm” for attending a sporting event or concert? I think so.
2020 is going to go down as the year that sucked. But it will slowly get better moving forward as long as we have tempered and realistic expectations.
Stay healthy my friends.