Sports Came Back in 2020. Now Comes the Hard Part. – The New York Times

Sports Came Back in 2020. Now Comes the Hard Part. – The New York Times

The Lakers won the N.B.A. championship on Oct. 11, ending a season less than two weeks before the next one would normally start. League officials have yet to say when play will resume.

“We will react to the state-of-the-art science,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. “I can’t say when, but I can say that whatever we do we will do with safety being our top priority.”

Casey Wasserman, the owner of a sports marketing and talent firm who has close relationships with the leaders of several leagues, said he was confident the N.H.L. and the N.B.A. would aim to start their seasons by early winter, perhaps with slightly shorter schedules of roughly 70 games, and to complete their playoffs in June, as usual, so they can return to normal schedules for the 2021-22 season.

Major League Soccer is considering starting sometime in April rather than in early March. The W.N.B.A. played 22 regular-season games this year instead of 34, as in 2019, but it ended at roughly the same time, putting less pressure on scheduling for next year.

Still, as they so often do, sports are serving as a reflection of society. No one can say when most people will stop fearing large crowds, and the steps toward normalcy have had setbacks riddled with positive coronavirus tests.

Even with payment from media contracts, teams and leagues still stand to lose billions without the so-called bums in seats. Spectator spending brings in roughly 25 percent of the N.F.L.’s $15 billion in revenue, about one-third of baseball’s revenue and roughly 40 percent of the N.B.A.’s. For other sports, such as hockey, soccer and tennis, the share is substantially higher.

Also, for any number of reasons — including too much competition, an oxygen-sucking presidential election and a distaste for watching games in empty stadiums — millions of fans have largely rejected the version of pro sports that the pandemic has wrought.

Television ratings plummeted for nearly every league — 61 percent for the Stanley Cup playoffs compared with 2019, 49 percent for the N.B.A. finals, and more than 40 percent for the United States Open tennis and golf tournaments and for baseball’s playoffs.

Ratings for the N.F.L., which did not have to alter its traditional schedule, have fallen the least, by 13 percent.

Throughout all the ups and downs, constant testing has been vital. Every league contracted with a private lab to perform multiple tests each week and produce rapid results, usually within 24 hours. N.F.L. players are tested and screened for symptoms every day.

Already the league has conducted more than 450,000 tests, and the handful of positive cases have come not from the gridiron but from off-the-field activities like dining, according to the league and the players union. In Major League Soccer, tests occur every other day and the day before each match.

This content was originally published here.

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