Friday roundup: Return to some pretense of normalcy (for now, depending) edition

Morning, everybody! We’re coming up on halfway through June, and the sports world is beginning to awake from its pandemic-inspired slumber: Spain’s La Liga soccer league held its first restarted games yesterday, with fake crowd noise and CGI fans (I’m watching via DVR right now: the fans disappear periodically and are replaced by ads, something I’m sure league broadcasters wish they could do in normal times); England’s Premier League is set to begin games next Wednesday. Japan’s J League is set to restart on July 4, with fans possibly returning at reduced capacity a week later. Germany’s Bundesliga, meanwhile, is several weeks into its restart and going full speed ahead despite occasional players testing positive and going into quarantine.

Over in the U.S. — currently 7th worldwide in new Covid deaths per day, behind Chile, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Sweden, and the UK — the NBA is planning to finish its season and then play the playoffs entirely at Disney World starting July 30, though it’s not certain that all players will show up given they’d be isolated from their families for seven weeks at minimum. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has promised “100 percent” that there will be a 2020 season of some kind, though again, it’s always possible lots of players will just stay home rather than risk their health to get less than a third of their regular salaries in exchange for a month-long preseason plus a month and a half of games. MLS is relaunching with a World Cup–style tournament at Disney World, to be followed by a season as yet to be determined. The NHL is shooting for a playoff tournament starting in August, maybe, depending. The NFL is still insisting it will be able to play its regular season as usual in September with full stadiums, though individual teams are planning otherwise.

In short, the grand sports epidemiological experiment has begun, and we’re just going to have to keep checking back week to week to see how it’s turning out. Playing fan-free games in regions with low current infection rates seems to be working out okay — at least if you don’t mind that players will occasionally keep turning up infected and have to be quarantined, which is fine enough on public health grounds even if it might leave players antsy — but how that translates into fans in seats, or a world where a second wave kicks in starting in September just as leagues are in full swing, remains a work in progress. The best bet remains not to plan anything more than a few weeks in advance, which is understandably hard when you’re trying to steer an aircraft carrier of an institution like a sports league, but for individual fans we can just enjoy whatever’s on TV this week while we wait for our ticket refunds to trickle in one month at a time.

Anyway, on to the week’s stadium and arena news:

  • To the confusing lack of firm information about the Carolina Hurricanes‘ new arena lease, add the news that Hurricanes owner Thomas Dundon has “termination rights” and the executive director of the local sports authority is mumbling about how maybe it’s time for a downtown arena. This still looks to be in the long-game phase — if you’re not playing the long game during a hopefully temporary global health crisis, you’re pretty dumb, not that sports team owners can’t be dumb when necessary — but it’s worth keeping an eye on, because we know well that sports team owners and elected officials love nothing more than to meet behind closed doors to plot things while waiting for the money to return.
  • Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is defending spending tons of city money on a new Flames arena and other big development projects as the smart thing to do during an economic downturn, and he has a point in terms of government spending being a smart thing to do when the cost of borrowing is cheap and people need jobs so they’ll start spending again. Whether it’s a smart thing to spend that money on a new hockey arena when the city is in the middle of slashing school budgets is another question.
  • Henderson, Nevada has issued some renderings of its planned arena for the Silver Knights (what the Vegas Golden Knights‘ farm team will apparently be called, which, okay), and I gotta say, they are seriously lacking in batshittery. Long-distance images of generic fans, with no lens flare or fireworks or Mitch Moreland? Okay, there’s a giant statue of a knight and one fan raising his hands in the air in the parking lot for no particular reason, but step up your game, Henderson, America needs entertainment, or else we’ll have to start pretending that our game consoles are hockey arenas!
  • Speaking of long-term vs. short-term thinking, people who want to own major-league (or minor-league) sports teams are lobbing plenty of lowball offers, but aren’t getting many takers.
  • Here’s an article about how college football teams will only let you into games if you’re old or rich, which seems about right for America.
  • Wait, there was a baseball stadium named after Marge Schott? Who ever thought that was a good idea?
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9 comments on “Friday roundup: Return to some pretense of normalcy (for now, depending) edition

  1. There has been great work done by the State of Vermont’s Department of Health tracing a COVID cluster from a March 10th UVM basketball game. You can see the map of who was infected (and the tracing is ongoing). It is not the level of Atalanta hosting a big game in Milan but it shows the value of contact tracing and the vulnerability people have at sporting events.

    1. The reporter, Kate Jickling, apparently drew the original connection to the game and deserves credit for discovering the connections. After that reporting the Vermont DH started tracing and found more cases.

    2. That’s super-interesting, thanks! With very little hard data out there, these anecdotal reports are going to be key in trying to guess what’s safe and what’s not.

  2. Nenshi really took a heel turn there if you all recall his past statements reported here, guess there were plenty saying it was to be expected, but I in the audience still gasp

  3. Also pro track and field is back, sort of. The “Impossible Games” pro track and field were held this week in Norway. No fans in the stadium (although a few people were overlooking the stadium using cherry-pickers and from housing). They broke a few Norwegian records (there were also a few Finns and Swiss there) in infrequently raced distances.

    The men’s 2000m (the event used a lot of non-standard distances so records could be broken) had a Norway v Kenya virtual match. They were on different tracks thousands of miles away but they started at same time and were racing each other (best 3 Norges v 3 best Kenyans). Interestingly, Kenya had much worse weather (wet and windy) and the Kenyans were out of competitive shape and only managed the last two of the 5 finishers.

  4. Politicians like Nenshi are the reason why the Depression lasted ten years. This guy wants to spend on public transportation, a convention center and an arena, when we have no reason (other than hope) to believe that crowded spaces will ever be safe again in our lifetimes?

    If you want to create jobs, try film tax credits or building/widening roads or give Amazon a kickback for a DC. Let’s accept that things have changed and live in reality.

    1. because film tax credits and kickbacks to Amazon for distribution centers they were going to build anyway are great investments? If crowded spaces aren’t ever safe in our lifetimes then we might as well just fold everything up and live as subsistence farmers.

  5. If Alberta is like Ontario you can’t borrow money for the school’s operating budgets. There the taxes for school are partly from property taxes (a rate set by the Province and the municipality only serves as the pass-through) and its supplemented by additional funds from the Province. The city itself doesn’t have access to the money nor adds to it. The board of ed is a separate entity from the city as well.

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