Coming up on the end of week four here, I think, and how is everyone doing? I remembered that today was Friday and I needed to do a news roundup, which was the first day in several that I remembered what day it was, so I feel like things are looking up! Except for the fact that large numbers of people gathering in close confines is looking like the main way this virus spreads, and that describes perfectly spectator sports and music and theater and many other things that make life worth living, so that’s not so great. And, of course, nearly 17,000 people have died and tens of thousands more deaths are expected, and that’s not counting all the people who are dying uncounted at home. Small victories may be victories, but they’re also small.
Eventually this will all be over, though, whatever “over” means, and it’s not too soon to start wondering about what the sports world will look like on the other side. Especially for sports journalists who are twiddling their thumbs right now and hoping that their employers still exist once the worst of this has passed:
- Whole lot of talk this week about how teams could be driven out of business by going part or all of a year without income, starting with Jared Diamond’s big Wall Street Journal article about how this could be devastating for minor-league baseball teams that are “an integral part of many communities” and average “21 full-time employees, who on average are compensated about $62,000 a year, including benefits.” That’s fairly misleading — just because health insurance is expensive doesn’t make your job any better compensated — but also Diamond doesn’t look into what government programs might be available to help pay those workers. The new Paycheck Protection Program, for instance, provides forgivable loans to small businesses to cover payroll costs, and even lets businesses with lots of seasonal workers get reimbursement based on variable work dates. (I initially wondered if major-league teams could use this to cover player salaries, but Congress smartly capped the program at $100,000 per employee.) The PPP runs out at the end of June (unless it’s extended), and implementation has so far been a disaster, but it’s certainly one way that minor-league teams could help defray some expenses to survive until things return to some kind of normal. (Diamond also writes that “minor-league clubs are expected to receive rent abatements from local municipalities for further relief,” which is something to keep an eye on in case this is more than just what all small businesses are offered.) As I wrote a week or two ago, the government is going to determine the winners and losers in all this, and small sports franchise owners seem better positioned at least than, say, undocumented workers who are out of work and ineligible for all the newly expanded unemployment benefits.
- And speaking of major-league teams, Forbes’ latest MLB franchise value estimates are out, and have gotten lots of attention for showing teams being worth more money despite the coronarecession. Except that Forbes’ numbers appear to be based on baseball still playing a 100-game season, which indeed MLB is pretending is possible, but that’s very much in question. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers don’t show a big jump in value despite being about to open a new stadium, so maybe air-conditioning isn’t such a vital part of the sports business model after all?
- And speaking of things being very much in question, the CEO of Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee has said that the 2020 Games may not be able to be held in 2021 either, since “I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not.” True dat.
- In marginally more promising news, the Korean Baseball Organization is still readying itself for an early May opening day, though that could easily change if South Korea sees another virus flareup or if even a single player or team official tests positive. But there’s at least a chance you’ll be able to see the likes of Dan Straily and Hank Conger in action in a month or so, if that’s what lets you hold on to hope for the future.
- Here’s a dumb article about how several NHL teams could be forced to move thanks to coronavirus losses (where are they going to go, the Moon?), and here’s a dumb article on how the Arizona Coyotes need a new arena even more badly now that nobody is going to arenas at all anymore. Sportswriters gonna sportswrite!
- Construction is continuing on the “Field of Dreams” ballpark in an Iowa cornfield that is suppose to host a single game in August, and which is reportedly “reminiscent of the old Comiskey Park in Chicago,” which, uh, right. Shouldn’t all these workers be getting requisitioned to build ventilators or masks or something?
- No vaportecture this week, but there is video of someone driving by the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium with some of its LED lighting on. If referring to a stadium as “the Death Star” is still a thing we do when this is all over, we’ll know that normalcy has truly returned.
Be well, stay safe, and see you Monday!