NASCAR Resumes Sunday, MLB In Talks To Start
NASCAR Resumes Sunday, MLB In Talks To Start
When the whole world locked down, it also meant that pretty much all live sporting events were halted indefinitely. For sports fans, quarantine would have been much easier with actual new events to look forward to. But now, NASCAR is on its way back this weekend.
Up until this point, the only “new” sports that anyone has been able to watch has been the KBO League. It speaks to just how dire the situation had been for sports networks that ESPN actually negotiated for and won the broadcast rights for professional baseball in South Korea. But now, NASCAR, which really is the ideal “social distancing” sport, is going to start their engines this coming Sunday.
On Sunday at Darlington, NASCAR will return to the racetrack for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic forced it to pack up and abandon Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 13, as teams were preparing their cars for the weekend’s first practice session ahead of what was supposed to be the season’s fifth race.”
Now that fifth race will be run two months later and at an entirely different racetrack. It will be held with no fans in the grandstand and no laps having been turned in practice or qualifying. Teams will do their work in unusually small groups, restricted to 16 crew members, including the driver. Big organizations routinely have three times that many people on their credential rosters, from mechanics and engine tuners to team owners and family members.”
Now, this is certainly not a complete return to normal by a long shot. But with a limited number of crew in the pits (though you know medical staff will be standing by) and no audience except on TV screens, NASCAR (and any auto racing, honestly) is the best way to revive the American sports experience with a minimal amount of risk.
Auto racing was widely considered a leading candidate to become the first sport to return, thanks to the lack of physical contact between competitors and an already existing emphasis on safety. It is the only sport in which competitors — drivers and pit crews — have long plied their trades on Sunday afternoons wearing gloves, face coverings and helmets.”
Will the ratings for the next several NASCAR races be through the roof? You bet – especially given the frantic schedule that NASCAR will be pushing in order to get their season back on track. Will that motivate other sports to get moving? That’s debatable.
The other major spring/summer sport, Major League Baseball, where the owners have sent a proposal to the players’ union that has several big changes – including introducing the designated hitter to the National League.
MLB owners proposal for 2020:
– 82 game season beginning in July
– Universal DH
– 14 playoff teams
– Use of home stadiums (must have local & state government approval)
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 12, 2020
The players’ union does not seem particularly sanguine about revenue-sharing. Unlike other professional sports, MLB players are guaranteed their entire contract if they are eligible to play. With no fans in the stands to begin the season, team revenue is going to be insanely low. Some players are spouting off about the loss of pay, but others probably just want a chance to play, even under a shortened schedule. The concern for the players, of course, is if they agree to any of these changes, will the owners then press to make them permanent? You can bet that this will be hotly debated behind closed doors – and that doesn’t even begin to touch the health concerns that players have. Baseball is a fairly low-contact sport, and while you might be standing near another player on the field, how would you even try to socially distance inside the dugout during a game? And if baseball cannot convince their players that they can safely play and get this figured out, forget convincing the NBA to restart or the NFL to begin.
That is why what NASCAR is doing this weekend is so very important. Sports fans are desperate to watch something new, not reruns. Our desires and expectations have been blunted by months of “classic” games and documentaries. Something, anything, new and live is going to draw more eyes than anything else right now. If NASCAR has a ratings smash this Sunday, expect that other sports will be paying attention to both the number of people watching and that advertising revenue – and it will probably horrify the media elites. People are hungry to watch something other than their Zoom meetings and the incessant droning of press conferences.
Gentlemen, start your engines.
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