May 26, 2020
With burgers on the grill and surrounded by family one missing piece of a normal Memorial Day Weekend could simply not be ignored, the group usually found huddled around the TV watching baseball. Baseball has not been the only sport though, by this time of year we are usually deep in the NHL playoffs watching the remaining hockey teams close in on the Stanley Cup, tennis players compete in the French Open, or jockeys race horses in hopes of winning the Triple Crown.
The last few months have been a strange time in the world of athletics. The annual rhythm of sports seasons is so ingrained in our culture that it feels unnatural to have spring turn to summer without our favorite pastimes going on. Even on a longer timeframe with the postponement of the 2020 Olympics it is safe to say the normal tempo for sports fans is out of sync.
As fans, this has been a tough time, but even more so for the organizations, players, vendors, and broadcast media which depend on them for their livelihood. An ESPN analyst estimates that the economic cost of the immediate shutdown of sports in the US could be 12 billion in lost revenue and hundreds of thousands of jobs this spring and summer. This number could quickly balloon to 20-30 billion of the 100 billion a year US sports industry if college and professional football seasons are put on hold.
Several of the smaller colleges which rely on fans buying tickets to physically attend games will find it hard to justify the continuation athletic programs that may have already been losing money. Without a football season this fall many small businesses which cater to fans at games will likely go out of business, which will also mean lost tax dollars that are used to support local communities including police and fire departments.
According to research done at Syracuse University only half of athletic departments in the Power 5 conferences brought in more money than they spent on their collegiate sports programs. Of the money brought in the majority is from football, for many athletic departments over 75% of annual revenue. In fact, with revenue from football ticket sales excluded only two athletic programs in the Power 5 conferences manage to break even, the University of Georgia and Texas A & M.
Whether for the players, fans, or the many business organizations that support & surround athletics in our country, it is important that we find a way to resume play. Like many other aspects of our lives, at least temporarily this will have to be done differently than in the past. However, I remain hopeful that at next year’s Memorial Day we will have baseball playing on the TV with fans in attendance, and that our other favorite pastimes will resume in some form much sooner than that.