Corona Episode: What Will Sports Look Like this Fall?
First, Happy Easter, Passover, or Spring Solstice! This one is different, but let’s remember to reach out to loved ones.
I’m a huge college football fan and because of COVID-19, like many people, I’m wondering what will sports look like post-shutdown? Here I’ll focus on football, but this discussion applies to all sports where people contact each other. Our sports world is about to get really weird, really fast!
The New Post-COVID Sports World
After the U.S. spending 3X in the last few weeks on COVID-19 the amount that we spent on World War II in 4 years, the idea of putting tends of thousands of people in a stadium shoulder to shoulder and then making young people contact each other without social distancing suddenly seems off. This applies to football, soccer (the other football), basketball, hockey, Lacrosse, and more.
The First to Go Will Be the Crowds
Until we have a really good vaccine, there is no way that we are going to jam 50-80,000 people into a small space, shoulder to shoulder. It’s just not going to be permitted by public health officials. Nor should it be. One football game could cause an outbreak that would cost hundreds of millions to contain and billions in lost revenue as that area gets locked down. Hence, this fall, it’s very likely that we will be watching all of our sports on-line or on TV, sans crowds in the stadium.
How Do You Protect the Players?
My wife and I were talking about this yesterday. How does this work? Well, necessity is the mother of invention, so here’s my post-COVID football helmet design:
I have taken the liberty of plugging all of the holes in the helmet with N-95 filter material. The ear holes can turn into a microphone and speaker system and our football players already use face-shields and gloves. This coronavirus football helmet will also need to have a Tyvek collar to prevent air from escaping or coming in from below. Now you could also just make everyone wear an n-95 respirator, but given that it’s hard to exercise in those things, it would have to be a special one with penalties being thrown for dislodging another player’s N-95 mask! In fact, let’s look at the new rule book!
The New NFL/College COVID Rule Book
Here are some new penalties that I think we’ll need:
- 10-yard penalty for a “Tyvek Collar”-Grabbing another player’s Tyvek helmet collar.
- 15-yard penalty and first down for puncturing or dislodging a player’s N-95 material or mask
- 5-yard penalty for not using hand sanitizer between downs
Pre-game COVID Testing
It also makes sense that all players will need to have rapid COVID-19 tests right before the game. However, these tests aren’t foolproof, hence it’s critical to have all of the protective gear I’ve described. Meaning, you can have someone in the early stages of the infection not show positive. So expect entire team surveillance programs involving daily testing, temp checks several times a day, symptom checks, etc… Think about losing a star running back right before the opening whistle as he tests positive! The Vegas odds-makers will go insane keeping up with it all!
Will All Sports Teams Make It?
Think of all of the lost revenue from the lack of full stadiums. The NFL and to a lesser extent college teams were already dealing with an epic decline in packed stadiums. Now they’re going to have empty stadiums! While the NFL will be fine, I suspect for some smaller college programs, this could mean that it’s easier to suspend the season than to take the financial hit. The same will likely hold true for smaller regional soccer teams. If these groups are smart, they will be renegotiating their streaming deals now so that if you want to watch the NFL or college, you need to pay a fee. Something south of a ticket at one of the new deluxe stadiums but north of your monthly cable bill. Sort of like pro boxing and pay per view.
The upshot? I haven’t yet patented my crazy football helmet, but I suspect that in closed-door meetings this week, the powers that be in the NFL are starting to plan for the post-COVID world! They may now be looking for a team virologist to complement the team orthopedic surgeon!