Sports startup faces major challenges

baseball
MLB/MGN

Four months ago on March 12 the entire sports world stopped playing games because of the coronavirus pandemic. We have endured a lot of pain and suffering since then. Last week, MLS restarted but has already been forced to pull out of its return tournament due to positive COVID-19 cases.

Remember a month ago when Florida reopened first and invited everyone to come and do business? Now, over 30 states, many of them red states, and just as many cities are spiking, coronavirus positive tests booming. Florida had 11,433 cases in one day and is averaging over 10,000 positive cases daily.

Last week was the worst week on record with74,000 positive tests in one day. And Disney World has reopened.

We have lost 135,000 American lives to the virus. Over three million have tested positive in the U.S., and Arizona, Texas, Florida and California are surging. It’s freighting. Starting up the sports industry is not easy when people are testing positive in record numbers and hundreds of lives are still being lost daily.

Our national leadership void being misled by Donald Trump has deceived millions into gathering socially, drinking and partying as if COVID-19 were behind us without a mask and spreading the virus at an alarming rate.

Starting up has headaches and unknown challenges. MLB and the Twins’ 60th season starts it’s 60-game 30-team sprint on July 24. The NHL is jumping right into the Stanley Cup playoffs on August 1with all the games in Canada; the Wild will play Vancouver.

MLB had 71 players last week test positive for COVID-19. Imagine if that were the NBA—they would stop the Orlando bubble return plan for 22 teams and eight games now. Last week in the Ivy League, the first Division 1 Conference made the decision not to play any games this fall.

The conference of course does not award athletic scholarships and has no cable TV network like the Big Ten Conference, the number-one revenue generator in all of college sports. With 14 schools the Big Ten decided they are going to play a 10-game schedule only against Big Ten schools. No non-conference games. Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said, “We may not have a college football season in the Big Ten.”

Big Ten athletes choosing not to compete this year won’t lose their scholarships. The Pac 12 is following the Big Ten plan with conference games only this fall. Stanford has already decided they will drop 11 sports programs in 2021.

What about the SEC, Big East, Big 12 and ACC? University schools have to decide to open up first. College students like Minnesota’s 45,000 still pay to attend for housing, classes and activity fees. That’s how the universities survive. However, they can’t cash in on billions of revenue dollars and streams from football and basketball.

Not without fans in the stands and TV contracts with ESPN-FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC and others with student athletes not playing. Pro Sports and NCAA universities have many different sets of issues, problems, headaches, challenges, all brought on by the public health crisis COVID-19.

The PGA Tour without fans has gone four weeks with few problems; still no fans and a few players and caddies testing positive for the coronavirus. Tiger Woods will play next week at the Memorial for the first time in five months.

He might play the following week here in Blaine at the TPC 3-M Open. It’s time right now for the conference commissioners, athletic directors and coaches to start dealing with the reality. Because of so much uncertainty amidst the huge national spike in positive coronavirus cases, the college football season is slipping away.

About Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald is a longstanding contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday and Friday at 9:10 am, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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