Friday roundup: Zombie apocalypse in full effect, go and get a late pass

So as you all undoubtedly know by now, everything is shut down. The NBA is shut down for at least 30 days, the NHL is shut down indefinitely, MLB has canceled the first two weeks of the season, MLS is on hold for a month, this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament may be moved to 2021 so maybe the Champions League and Europa League can finish up in June and July, the XFL is shut down maybe for good, and even the Little League is on hold until April 6. And all those dates are just minimum wild-ass guesses: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a calming voice of reassurance as ever, said yesterday that this “could easily be a six-month crisis” — and even if you dismiss him as just a guy who gets his every stray thought printed in the newspaper because he’s an elected official, as I wrote yesterday for FAIR, it’s still very much true that nobody really knows how long this will last, or how to decide (or who will decide) that the curve has been effectively flattened and life can go back to normal(ish) now.

So instead of dwelling on that, let’s dwell instead on another aspect of plagueworld that overlaps somewhat with the mission of this site: the economic impacts of shutting stuff down. I’m sure somebody out there is thinking, “But Neil, you always say that economists say it doesn’t matter much to the economy whether one sporting event or another is played, because people will just spend their money on something else like going out to eat or to a bowling alley instead. So why won’t the substitution effect save us now?”

I am, as I have to take pains to remind journalist quoting me from time to time, not an economist, but I think I can explain this one well enough: There’s a huge difference between one sports team or league shutting down and everything shutting down. Once everyone has completed their panic-shopping therapy and stocked up on a lifetime supply of toilet paper, they’re mostly not going to be looking for other things to spend money on — they’re going to sit at home and watch the Netflix subscriptions that they already paid for. And meanwhile a bunch of them are going to be out of work, and still more will be out of work once restaurants and barber shops and the like have to close for lack of business, and that will mean even less business, and soon enough the entire economy has shut down in a cycle of fear.

I was lucky to get a first-hand example of this in high school, when my U.S. History teacher had each of her classes play a game where each student was one player in late-19th-century frontier society, either a farmer or a railroad company owner or a banker or I forget what else. This made for lots of fun experience with the consequences of unregulated capitalism — I remember one friend of mine contracted to make a loan to another friend, and set the interest rate but not the term of the loan, and our teacher refused to step in and rule on when it had to be paid back because a contract is a contract — but in another class some friends of mine were in, it got even more severe: There was only one banker, and he refused to loan anyone any money at less than usurious rates, and the entire class plunged into an economic depression.

Anyway, there are lots of reasons this is going to be really bad in many, many ways, even if all these closures aren’t too late to avoid the old people being left to die in ERs that has reportedly been taking place in Lombardy. (I do not make a very good voice of calm, either, sorry.) But eventually this crisis will be over, and it’s still worth thinking about what the world will look like when we come out the other side. After all, with no sports to watch we’ve got plenty of time on our hands.

Not that everything being shut down has brought sports subsidy demands to a halt, because some things are just too big to fail:

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11 comments on “Friday roundup: Zombie apocalypse in full effect, go and get a late pass

  1. Sounds like you had an awesome US History teacher in high school. That’s a cool project that sounds like still pays off today.

    1. She was fired at the end of that year — apparently the school administration was okay with her being a socialist, but not with her being a lesbian. #1980sAmerica

    2. So I had a high school teacher who did something similar (and it likely was the same game-farmers, industrialists, workers, and a banker). I remember I was a worker and we organized fairly quickly but it was irrelevant as we also had a student who was the single banker who decided in the 2nd round to double the cost of lending. The farmers got a bit of money from industry and the banker for their food but the workers starved.

  2. Something sports adjacent did start back up with everything else shutting down: Deadspin is publishing again. Any opinions on the new people or are they just going to toe the corporate mandate of “sticking to sports” so it’ll be fake Deadspin?

    1. I think one look at the site will answer that question.


      1. I was trying to avoid actually going to the site unless it was something good. I just saw it linked to from elsewhere. I looked up the editor’s name and he seemed like a New York guy so thought you’d have an opinion on him.

        I don’t get why they’re trying to keep the Deadspin name. If they called it something else they’d probably get as much traffic without all the baggage.

        1. I went there for just long enough to see that the content is terrible, even by bad sports blog standards. (Sample headline that thinks it’s being “snarky” but misses the mark completely: “Hate In The Time Of Coronavirus: A Guide to Despising Duke — Even When All The Games Have Been Cancelled.”)

          I’m sure they’re keeping Deadspin as the name because somebody justified a whole lot of expense to get that brand, and they’re loath to admit they burned that investment to the ground months ago.

  3. I am genuinely disappointed with Vince McMahon. No, not for engaging in a second sport that causes life altering brain damage for it’s employees (well, the non-management ones…)… I was just certain that after landing in a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the only sports league on earth still playing, he would instruct his $55k p/a employees to do just that.

    What kind of billionaire shrinks from that? Doesn’t he realize he has a responsibility to his shareholders?

    Plus, I have big money on the Houston OilNeckRigDrillers to win it all this year…

    I guess you just can’t count on anyone anymore.

  4. Life comes at you real fast. One minute it’s March 2020. The next, it’s March 17743, as you whiz through the vastness of the universe all alone (the saga did not answer the question, does your pet live forever as well?).

    FoS: I am learning to be patient. Please transmit every 217 days, after you’ve a sufficient charge, any tidbit of sports schadenfreude. My memory banks are missing data as to Beckham’s Inter Miami, if they ever played a home game, in Miami. Nine.

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