Friday roundup: Fresh subsidy plans for Titans and WFT, Flames arena “paused” amid overruns, Boston Globe can’t stop clowning on Pawtucket for not wanting to spend $150m on stadium

Happy Friday! I have a ton of week-ending stadium news to bring you today, or at least there’s a ton of news out there whether I’m bringing it to you or not. What is it about that that is confusing?

Onward:

  • Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, according to DCist, wants to use “some of” the county’s $1.6 billion in state funding this year to build — wait for it — “infrastructure improvements” for the Washington Football Team‘s stadium that would include “restaurants and places to shop.” It sounds like Alsobrooks is only talking about $17.6 million, maybe, but still this earns a Stupid Infrastructure category tag until proven otherwise.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wants to use $2 million a year in state sales tax money (figure roughly $30 million in present value) for upgrades to the Titans‘ stadium, though actually it could end up being more like $10 million a year (figure roughly $150 million in present value) if more development is built around the stadium, plus he wants to give $13.5 million to Knoxville for its Tennessee Smokies stadium. Did Lee call this an “infrastructure” plan? Not that I can find in the Tennessean’s news reporting, but everybody drink anyway.
  • The Calgary Flames‘ $550 million arena plan, which already includes about $250 million in public subsidies, has run into $70 million in unexpected cost overruns and is now “paused” until the team and city can figure out who’ll cover them. Actually, the report is that the Flames owners are demanding $70 million, and previously the city and team agreed to split overruns 50-50, so maybe it’s really $140 million over budget? Either way, there’s already a petition to scrap the whole deal, though “trim a little from the team’s design and both sides kick in a little more money” seems a far more likely outcome, especially with Mayor Naheed Nenshi declaring it “far better to have these issues sorted out at this stage than to have unexpected cost overruns after construction has begun.” (Are known cost overruns actually better than surprise ones? Discuss.)
  • The Boston Globe, not satisfied with its glowing report last month on Worcester’s new stadium for the Red Sox Triple-A team (top farm club of the Boston Red Sox, owner of the Boston Globe), ran two separate opinion pieces this week slagging Pawtucket officials for not offering up $150 million in subsidies like Worcester did and thus losing their team: Dan McGowan, the Globe’s Rhode Island politics reporter, wrote, “Imagine what we could have had if our leaders showed even a tiny sense of vision” and “It too often takes only one politician to spoil a really good idea” while condemning “extremists on both sides of the [stadium] debate” who think a thing can be either good or bad (while also calling the Worcester stadium “great”). The very next day, Mike Stanton, a UConn journalism professor who writes occasionally for the Globe, wrote that former Rhode Island House speaker Nicholas Mattiello “rightly deserves blame for his role in killing the PawSox,” though he also blamed WooSox owner Larry Lucchino for “demanding extravagant taxpayer support for a new ballpark” and harming negotiations for, I guess, less extravagant taxpayer support? Anyway, the Globe wants you to know that Worcester has a shiny new baseball stadium and Pawtucket doesn’t, and let’s not speak of what else Worcester could have done with $150 million.
  • Six Republican Congressfolk — Sens. Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, and Marsha Blackburn, and Rep. Jeff Duncan — have cosponsored legislation seeking to end MLB’s antitrust exemption in response to the league pulling the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta over Georgia’s new voting-restrictions law. This is part of a long line of proposals to yank the league’s 99-year-old exemption from antitrust laws, which never seem to go anywhere; the last time by my count was when more than 100 Congresspeoples wrote a letter in 2019 threatening to rescind “the long-term support that Congress has always afforded our national pastime” if MLB didn’t back down on its plan to eliminate more than 40 minor-league franchises, a letter that was signed by none of Lee, Cruz, Hawley, Rubio, or Blackburn, all of whom were in office at the time. (SPOILER: MLB didn’t back down, and Congress did.) Waving the antitrust-exemption stick has become the standard way for federal representatives to express their anger at baseball over one thing or another, in other words, but actually using it is apparently beyond the pale, either because of partisanship or lobbyists or both, pick your poison.
  • Another U.S. representative, Georgia’s Buddy Carter, has introduced legislation — or maybe just drafted legislation and sent it to Fox News, he doesn’t seem to have actually submitted it to Congress — to block MLB from relocating non-regular-season events except in cases of natural disaster or other emergencies, under penalty of allowing local businesses to sue for damages for lost revenue as a result of the move. Which, as Craig Calcaterra notes, would be hilarious because it would put MLB in the position of having to argue in court that its events have no economic impact, which is pretty much the truth: “The evidence — like, all the evidence from multiple studies — would actually be on MLB’s side in such a case! And it’d likely win! And all it would cost MLB is the ability to continue to lie about how big an impact All-Star Games and stadiums and things have on local economies when it suits its interest.”
  • The Cincinnati Reds are offering discounted tickets to fans who can show they’re fully vaccinated, and Buffalo officials say the Bills and Sabres will be required to limit attendance to the fully vaccinated in the fall, though New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’ll be the judge of that. Whatever the eventual admittance policies end up being, having going to things like ballgames (or traveling internationally) be less of a hassle if you wave your vaccine card seems likely to be the best way to encourage more people to get their shots, which is the only way to get to herd immunity, which is the only way to prevent lots more deaths and more re-closings of things like ballgames, so this is good news regardless of whether sporting events turn out to be insanely risky or relatively safe.
  • Finally, I can’t let this week pass without noting that the Buffalo Bisons, who have been temporarily relocated to Trenton to make way for the Toronto Blue Jays, who will be spending the summer in Buffalo thanks to Covid travel restrictions, will be playing their home games as the Trenton Thunder while playing road games as the Bisons. No word yet on how this Frankenstein monster of a franchise will be listed in the (checks revamped minor-league nomenclature) Triple-A East standings, though I wholeheartedly hope the Thunder and Bisons get counted as two different teams, ideally with players forced to wear fake mustaches in New Jersey and go by assumed names. “Marc Rzepczynski? No, he plays for Buffalo, I am of course Shmarc Shmepczynski, would you like my autograph?”

Maryland approves $59.5m for Hagerstown ballpark to lure league whose teams have lifespan of mayflies

So, the Hagerstown Suns. They’d fielded a team in the South Atlantic League since 1993 and in other minor leagues for a dozen years before that, playing all that time in Municipal Stadium, built for an earlier set of minor-league teams way back in 1930. Then came the Manfred Snap, and the Suns were vaporized, along with 17 other minor-league baseball teams. The unaffiliated Atlantic League then offered a team provided that Hagerstown build “a facility that meets or exceeds the league’s standards,” a gambit that has worked stunningly poorly for a series of cities that ended up with no teams and stadiums abandoned before they reached drinking age.

You undoubtedly already know where this is going:

On Monday, a bill that would allow the Maryland Stadium Authority to serve as project manager for a new facility proposed for Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue cleared its last hurdle in the Maryland General Assembly. The authority can also issue up to $59.5 million in bonds to finance the acquisition, design, construction and related construction expenses.

Sixty million dollars! The Atlantic League stadiums for the now-defunct teams in Newark, Camden, and Atlantic City only cost about $24 million apiece, and while those were all built around the year 2000, that’s still only about $37 million in today’s dollars. I’m a fan of the Atlantic League (or used to be, before it shuttered all the teams I could easily get to), but that kind of money is crazytown. How could anyone in the Maryland state legislature — which passed the bill 44-0 in the senate, and 131-5 in the house — justify such a thing?

[State Sen. Paul] Corderman said previously the facility could also host movie nights, fireworks and other events, and bring more people through the city’s downtown to support other businesses in that area.

Because you absolutely couldn’t host movie nights at a baseball stadium that hasn’t been renovated since 1995! The mere idea is absurd!

Anyway, there’s another $59.5 million in cash transferred from taxpayers to baseball owners as a result of MLB’s minor-league contraction scheme, and even if it’s baseball owners in a league MLB doesn’t control, I’m sure they’re happy enough for the Atlantic League, which is now a “partner league” where MLB can do things like test-drive new rules. The best we can hope is that other cities that lost teams don’t follow suit in desperation to land any replacement franchise at all, and — oh, what now?

The city’s Economic Development Corporation is in discussions with the Atlantic League — a quirky eight-team league that signs former pros, but isn’t affiliated with Major League Baseball — to take over the lease from the defunct Staten Island Yankees at the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, THE CITY has learned…

[Former Staten Island Yankees president Will] Smith [not that one, or the other one, or the other other one] said the EDC and City Hall should be prepared to make numerous changes to the stadium — including installing synthetic turf, increasing parking capacity and adjusting seating.

I knew this was going to be bad — I believe the phrase I used back in December was “the next round of stadium roulette might not be too far off” —  but I didn’t quite think it would be this bad this soon. Give MLB commissioner Rob Manfred this: He may be kind of a mumble-mouthed doofus, but he’s carried out this game of multi-million-dollar musical-chairs extortion to perfection. Does Cooperstown have an Evil Genius wing?

Friday roundup: How to tell a dump of a stadium from a marvel, and why “stupid infrastructure” should become a term of art

I have nothing introductory to say this week other than that I’m wondering if you kind FoS supporters would give me $2 million in 24 hours if I made more robots out of lacrosse masks. So on to the news:

New Jersey city now spending $94m to rebuild Negro League stadium, maybe somebody should say something?

When last we checked in on Paterson, New Jersey’s plan to rebuild its old Negro League stadium, the price tag was still uncertain. Well, it’s uncertain now, too, but in a different way:

The estimated cost of the Hinchliffe Stadium reconstruction project has climbed by more than 20% in the last two years, rising from $72 million to $94 million, according to public records.

Yikes! I’m as big a fan of preserving historic sites as the next person, but $94 million for a stadium that will be used by no one except maybe some high school teams seems like a lot, even if the project also includes building some housing and parking garages. How are local officials justifying this expense?

[Mayor Andre] Sayegh hopes that rebuilding Hinchliffe will help revitalize the area around Paterson’s Great Falls National Historical Park.

Oh, revitalization, of course. Because when deciding on whether to visit a crazy-ass waterfall in the middle of a city, the first thing you think is “But will there be a renovated Negro League baseball stadium nearby where I can watch high school sports?”

Much of the money for the project is coming from state and federal historic tax credits, so Paterson officials can at least argue that they’re using other people’s tax money for the rehab, though is significantly less reassuring if you live somewhere other than Paterson and so are one of those other people. The upside, I guess, is that we would be gaining a historical site preserved to look like … you know, what would it look like, actually? Years into this project, I still can’t find any renderings, though there are lots of pictures of the trees growing through the current grandstand, and what’s less vital than trees?

 

 

Tennessee senator says Knoxville stadium would cannibalize tax money, mayor replies “But it’s newwww!”

The Tennessee Smokies stadium sales tax increment financing bill, which would siphon off $65 million in future sales taxes to build a new stadium in downtown Knoxville for a minor-league baseball team to local rich guy Randy Boyd, took another step forward last night, passing the state house’s finance committee. The night before that, though, the bill got a hearing in the state senate ways and means committee, and there was a bit of a dust-up over exactly how tax increment financing works:

[State Senator Bo] Watson expressed concerns the develop would encourage local people, those who already shop and dine in the region, to go to the new site instead, and bring less revenue to the state.

“Minor league baseball is more regional. So people who are coming to the games now, they’re eating at restaurants that the state is now collecting sales tax on. You’re going to simply transfer them to one area to another area, so at the end of the day the state loses tax dollars because we’re collecting even less in this zone than we would be collecting if they were in the other part of the city,” Watson said.

That’s the substitution effect, even if Watson didn’t quite explain it as clearly as he might have. (The idea in a nutshell: If you just substitute sales tax collections in one place for collections in another place, that doesn’t actually leave you with extra money to hand out to the Invisible Fence guy.) It too often gets overlooked in development deals, so it’s nice to see someone raising it as an issue here.

Knox County Mayor Glenn “Kane” Jacobs, though, had an answer for Watson’s argument:

“It’s one of the most prime locations in Knox County. It produces no money in sales tax. No money whatsoever. So whatever that it does produce will be an increase,” Mayor Jacobs said.

Um, no. I mean, yes, the stadium site itself would produce more tax revenue, but that’s not the same as saying the state would get more tax revenue overall — especially when the Smokies would just be moving from the suburbs to the city. The only way it would increase state tax revenue would be if more people came to visit from out of state, which is certainly possible, but $65 million worth of people? That would require a study, but admittedly it’s far easier just to point at a plot of land and say, “Empty! Let’s make it not-empty!” and leave it at that.

I wish I could tell you more about the bill’s chances in the state senate, but aside from a quote from the TIF district bill’s sponsor, Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, that the stadium would be a “transformational economic development project,” the local news outlets don’t have much on what the other 36 senators think. (Republicans hold a 30-8 advantage in the chamber, but Watson, Jacobs, and Massey are all Republicans, so this clearly isn’t breaking down along partisan lines.) I’ll see what I can do to find out more; in the meantime, if anyone wants to be Field of Schemes’ Tennessee legislative correspondent, let me know.

Here is your Texas Rangers opening day superspreader porn

The Texas Rangers held their home opener yesterday, as promised at full capacity at their new (if you don’t count the games last season with no fans or the NLCS and World Series with some fans) stadium. Did every news outlet on earth give it in-depth coverage, so that readers could google in awe and/or horror at Texans packed cheek to jowl watching sports during a pandemic? With sweet, sweet clicks at stake, what do you think?

Let’s start with the New York Times, which used an Associated Press drone (I think) to capture people waiting to get in to the park in socially distanced lines, sort of:

You can’t tell all that much from that image. For one thing, are those fans wearing masks, as the Rangers and MLB said would be required? Or ignoring the mask requirement, as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott encouraged them to do? Let’s take a closer look inside the stadium:

That’s not a lot of masks! Of course, there is a loophole to the mask requirement at ballgames this year, which is that you can remove them while actively eating and drinking. This photo, though, as should immediately be apparent, was taken during the national anthem, when presumably most people are not eating or drinking. “Sorry, I can’t put my mask on, I’m busy chewing on patriotism!”

Let’s next try the opposite end of the news spectrum from the New York Times, KULR-TV in Billings, Montana, which was likewise all over the story with an item headlined “Maskless fans pack sold out stadium in stunning display,” though it turned out just to link to a CNN video:

That’s epidemiologist Michael Osterholm in the corner, about to say that “already we’re seeing the surge” in places like Michigan and Minnesota despite those states ramping up vaccinations, saying in the next six to ten weeks, we’re going to have more viral spread thanks to reopenings and not yet enough shots to counter it.

Want your packed-stadium photos in pointless-video form? We got that too:

As we’ve discussed here before, pandemics are not clean-cut moral dilemmas, so there’s no sure way of knowing what the result of the Rangers’ experiment with non-distancing will be. The roof was open, so there was tons of air circulation, but also people were right next to each other largely without masks on, which is pretty much the only good way to get infected while outside:

“The risk is lower outdoors, but it’s not zero,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. “And I think the risk is higher if you have two people who are stationary next to each other for a long time, like on a beach blanket, rather than people who are walking and passing each other.”

One recent study found that just talking can launch thousands of droplets that can remain suspended in the air for eight to 14 minutes. But the risk of inhaling those droplets is lower outdoors.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens over the 4 to 14 days before passing judgment on whether the Rangers owners were unthinkably reckless or acceptably reckless here. And even then, it may come down as much to luck as to good or bad planning, as a handful of people shedding virus in the wrong place can easily make the difference between explosive spread and not much. At least Rangers execs limited full attendance to opening day — they’re switching to distanced seating after yesterday’s game — which should make for an excellent controlled experiment in how much difference distance makes in preventing viral spread at outdoor, unmasked events. Those sports team owners, always thinking about the future journal articles!

NYCFC exec: New stadium should be done sometime between 2026 and never

It’s time again to check in on the NYC F.C. stadium plans, which have been stuck in “talk optimistically without any actual details” mode for, oh jeez, almost three years now. Team CEO Brad Sims posted a Q&A with himself on his team’s own website last week, and one of the Qs by the not-at-all-straw-man-questioner was “We really need our own Stadium – what’s the latest?” Sims’ answer was a masterpiece of PR-speak (translations below):

As we have always said about our Stadium project, we must ensure support from our community boards, community leaders, and local elected officials – and working with them to ensure that the project aligns with their goals and expectations is priority one.

Translation: We need city government to do a bunch of things for us, including closing streets, tearing down a highway ramp, and evicting the parking garage owners who our partners the Yankees brought in to help get their own stadium built 12 years ago. And that could take a while.

COVID did slow down the work to secure land, but that process has picked up significantly. More steps to go, but it is moving again in the right direction.

Translation: We’ve made no progress over the past year, but will soon. We hope. Maybe.

Things like land assembly and public approval process are far more complicated in NYC than any other MLS Club has ever had to deal with.

Translation: Durn people!

From the time we enter the public approval process, we are plus or minus four years out from that point to Stadium opening, if everything goes as we hope.

Translation: The city land use approval process takes about a year, and then it’ll take maybe three years to tear down all the garages and highway ramps and build a soccer stadium. Also, “plus or minus,” because that’s the kind of thing that sounds professional, and it definitely means “about,” not that we’re hoping to start building by time-traveling into the past, because that always works out poorly.

Q: How do I get tickets for the home opener on April 24th at Yankee Stadium?

Translation: Moving on!

Let’s not be too hard on Sims: He has to say something about his team’s stadium plans, and if you can’t say something concrete, say something blandly optimistic. Still, there’s zero evidence that the team’s convoluted financing and land proposal is any closer to reaching fruition than it was when it was first leaked in 2018. Of course, it’s possible things are going on behind the scenes — there’s a long tradition of that in The Bronx — but for now, alarm and/or hope should probably be down somewhere around DEFCON 4. That’s bad news if you’re an NYC F.C. fan mostly concerned about not having to watch home games at your rival’s stadium, but potentially good news if you’re a New York City resident mostly concerned about not wanting to see your tax dollars and public land going toward building a new home for a team co-owned by two of the wealthiest sports businesses on the planet. If you’re both of those things at once, well, fight it out amongst yourself.

Friday roundup: NFL to shop for overseas host cities, plus the attack of the no-good, terrible stadium names

How’s everyone doing out there? Did you, like me, spend much of yesterday watching baseball games and wondering why MLB bothers to have mask rules if half the fans are keeping their masks off at any given time, and then wondering if this is really the right thing to be concerned about rather than all the people who are leaving the game and going to indoor sports bars, and then wondering if disregard for mask rules is a reasonable proxy for being careless about going to bars as well? I hope not, because that is very much my job, and the mission of this site remains Thinking Too Hard About Things So You Don’t Have To.

Which is one nice thing about Fridays: No thinking too hard, because all the leftover news gets boiled down to a single bite-size bullet point, ideally with a quip at the end. It’s like pre-wrapped meals of stadium facts, and here’s this week’s assortment:

  • The NFL is adding a 17th game to its season, mostly so it can charge TV networks more for the extra game but also to create more games that can be played outside the U.S. to help increase the league’s international visibility, and the operators of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium and Vancouver’s B.C. Place have both said they’ll throw their hats in the rings. You can read my thoughts about Olympic Stadium here; suffice to say that it’s simultaneously perfectly serviceable and not at all what sports owners consider state-of-the-art at selling people things other than a seat to sit in. It’ll be very interesting to see whether the NFL makes its international game hosting decisions based on which markets it most wants to break into or which cities offer the snazziest stadiums. (Or which cities offer straight-up cash, that’s always a popular NFL move.)
  • Indy Eleven USL team owner Ersal Ozdemir got his approval from the Indiana state legislature this week to take more time on how to spend his $112 million in state stadium cash, and team officials replied that they will now take their own sweet to to “finalize the site” “in the coming months.” Given that Ozdemir at first asked for the cash so he could get promoted to MLS and then later decided, know what, maybe he’ll stay put in the USL and avoid all those expansion fees but still get the snazzy new digs, there is a non-zero chance that he decides to ask to use the money to build condos or a space laser or something.
  • The Henderson Silver Knights have sold naming rights to their publicly funded and owned under-construction arena (I know it doesn’t make any sense, this is just how naming rights are allowed to work in most of the U.S. with few exceptions) to the payday loan company Dollar Loan Center, which means the arena will now be called … also the Dollar Loan Center? Shouldn’t it at least be the Dollar Loan Center Arena? This seems like very confusing branding, among other things, though I guess it’ll at least be amusing when people use Google Maps to try to find places to get high-interest advances on their paychecks and end up at the Silver Knights ticket window.
  • Also in the terrible names department, we have the Miami Marlins cutting a deal with a mortgage loan company that starts with a lower-case letter, which is going to wreak havoc among sports department copy editors across the land. (Just kidding: All the sports departments have already fired all their copy editors, pUNCtuATE and spel tHiNgZ however U want!!1!)
  • Here’s some video of the under-construction Phoenix Rising F.C. soccer stadium, which when it was announced last December would be ready for 2021 I predicted would be “off-the-rack bleachers that can be installed quickly,” and which indeed looks exactly like that. No robot dog showrooms or giant soccer balls are visible, sadly, but the USL season doesn’t start for another three weeks, so there’s still time to find some off-the-rack robot dogs.
  • And finally, across the pond, Everton F.C. finally had its stadium plan approved by the Liverpool City Council, meaning the £500 million project can move ahead. The city is loaning a little over half that money to Everton’s billionaire owner Farhad Moshiri, but Moshiri is then supposed to repay it in actual cash with interest, so the only real concerns are why Liverpool needs to act as banker for a rich guy, and whether it’s a good idea to build an oceanfront stadium when the oceans are already starting to rise. Those other countries have such quaint problems compared to America’s!

Moving All-Star Game to fight Georgia voting law would mean putting people’s rights ahead of MLB’s profits

The Georgia state legislature yesterday passed SB 202, the voting law that is probably best known as “You can now be arrested in the state of Georgia for giving food or water to people waiting on line to vote.” The law contains a ton of other provisions as well, though, like requiring an ID (rather than just a signature) when voting absentee, limiting the number of drop boxes for placing ballots in, and banning the use of mobile voting sites, among other things. It’s all a pretty transparent move by the Republican-led legislature to make it harder for people to vote who might vote against them, which mostly means African Americans who are more likely thanks to geography or income to be hampered by the new restrictions: The no-food-or-water rule, for example, was apparently inspired by a single white woman with a gun who was outraged that get-out-the-vote groups had been giving free pizza to people who were waiting on line to cast their ballots.

The new law is so restrictive, in fact, and so reminiscent of blatant Jim Crow–era attempts to disenfranchise Black people, that it’s drawn the attention of some in the sports world, who have suggested a boycott of the state along the lines of the actions taken after North Carolina passed its anti-transgender “bathroom law” in 2016 — actions that resulted in that law’s partial repeal one year later, and its eventual complete expiration at the end of 2020. MLB players association president Tony Clark said last week that baseball players were “very much aware” of the Georgia bill and that if there were a chance to discuss moving this summer’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta, he would “look forward to having that conversation.” And yesterday, an even more prominent president chimed in on behalf of that idea:

President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would strongly support Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Atlanta after Georgia enacted new voting restrictions that disproportionately target Black residents.

“I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsibly. I would strongly support them doing that,” Biden said in an interview with EPSN SportsCenter host Sage Steele. “People look to them. They’re leaders.”

Obviously, Biden and other Democrats have a selfish reason to be promoting voting rights in this case: The people being disenfranchised are more likely to vote Democratic, which is the whole point of Republican legislators passing the law in the first place. (I mean, many of them probably also passed it because they just don’t like the idea of Black people deciding who runs their state, but then we’re getting into serious chicken-and-egg territory about the reasons why someone in Georgia would choose to become a Republican legislator.) But something can be in your self-interest and also the right thing to do, and … sorry, what were we talking about? Right, the All-Star Game!

It’s important to remember that MLB did not decide to hold its 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta because they felt the city deserved it or were under the delusion that Georgia would be a pleasant place to spend time in July. They did it because — here, let’s explain by way of a list of the last 10 All-Star Game hosts:

2011: Phoenix
2012: Kansas City
2013: New York City
2014: Minneapolis
2015: Cincinnati
2016: San Diego
2017: Miami
2018: Washington
2019: Cleveland
2021: Atlanta

The common theme here is that the stadiums involved were new — or, in the cases of Kansas City and Cleveland, newly renovated. MLB has long used the All-Star Game as a reward for cities that have coughed up money for new or renovated ballparks; the last time it held the game at a stadium that wasn’t at least freshly refurbished was Yankee Stadium in 2008, and that was meant as a sendoff in advance of the Yankees’ new extremely-publicly-funded stadium opening the following year; before that, you have to go back to Fenway Park in 1999 to find an All-Star Game that wasn’t handed out as a prize for Most Willing To Subsidize League Profits With Public Money.

Moving this summer’s All-Star Game from Atlanta would no doubt be a logistical pain, though it isn’t all that much shorter notice (four months vs. seven) than the NBA had when it moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of North Carolina after passage of the anti-trans bill. As we were just discussing here last week, boycotts are strategies, not moral imperatives, and voting rights advocates in Georgia are still split on whether a North Carolina–style boycott is the best way to respond to SB 202. But if pressure builds to pull the game from Atlanta — say, maybe around Jackie Robinson Day, which is just two weeks from today — and MLB owners start to push back on it, that’ll likely less be about having to print up new merchandise or even the personal feelings of the almost uniformly white men who run the league, and more about interfering with sports owners’ underlying business plan of using carrots and sticks to maximize their profits.

Poll of Americans on reopening stadiums shows why not to reopen stadiums based on polls

There is a very dumb journalistic tradition that will not die of “Let’s poll people about what they believe about purely factual things.” So you take a question that should be answered with reporting — say, whether climate change is an imminent crisis, or whether Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction — and then parse the responses as if they mean anything more than just a reification of the ideas that the media itself has been telling people. It is truly very, very dumb.

Today is Major League Baseball opening day, and so the question the Washington Post chose to ask random Americans is whether they would feel comfortable attending a live sporting event. The answer is a resounding “it depends”:

About two-thirds say they would feel comfortable attending an outdoor event such as baseball (66 percent), but fewer than half as many (32 percent) feel comfortable attending an indoor event such as basketball. Nearly 2 in 3 people (64 percent) say they would feel comfortable if all attendees were required to wear masks, compared with 22 percent who would feel comfortable if there was no mask requirement…

More say they would be comfortable attending a stadium limited to 20 percent capacity (69 percent “comfortable”) than 50 percent capacity (50 percent).

That is simultaneously unsurprising — being outdoors, masked, and distanced makes people feel safer — and utterly meaningless, for a couple of reasons. First off, the questions were all asked separately, so it was either “Do you feel safe at an outdoor event?” or “Do you feel safe if people are wearing masks?” or “Do you feel safe if you’ve been vaccinated?”, with no way to respond “Only if these other conditions are met as well.” If a Washington Post pollster had been unlucky enough to get me on the phone, for example, I would have said, “I feel pretty safe at outdoor, masked, and distanced events right now, and once I’m fully vaccinated would consider indoor events, but not if people are unmasked, unless maybe the case rate is really low by then because so many other people are vaccinated — are you getting all this? Should I talk more slowly? Are you crying?” (This answer would be very hard to fit into a “data visualization,” as fancy journalism types these days call bar charts.)

The poll results are also meaningless, though, because the most reasonable answer would be “You’re the ones with the resources of a giant journalistic enterprise here, you tell me whether I should feel safe.” Doing that would require asking people who actually know things — fancy journalism types call these “experts” — what is and isn’t safe, and then reporting their answers. For example, here’s Anthony Fauci telling the New York Times for its baseball opening day story what he expects to transpire over the coming weeks:

“I would expect that as we get through the summer — late spring, early summer — there’s going to be a relaxation where you’re going to have more and more people allowed into baseball parks, very likely separated with seating, very likely continue to wear masks,” he said.