The new sports normal?


By Michael Stegall - From the Sidelines



As we approach midsummer, it seems that some sports are about to restart. It will be good to watch a little baseball and football again!

This pandemic, whether your belief is that this is overblown or not, has certainly changed the way athletes and organizations will do business.

At this time, NASCAR, MLB, and the NFL, are either not allowing spectators or planning to allow some in the future. I wonder how this will be accepted?

When will organizations decide to allow people to attend? Whom will they allow to attend? How do you space people out effectively? These are all questions that need answered, and there really is no good way to do it. Someone is going to be left out and I think this will hurt the sports in the future.

NASCAR was the first major sport to start their season without spectators. Major League Baseball and the NFL are contemplating the same, but looking to add spectators in the near future.

NASCAR’S television viewership for their first race at Darlington this year was up 38% over the last race last year, the largest jump in 3 years. I am sure sponsors and owners were thrilled with this development, but will it stand true when, and if, spectators return?

I have a feeling that this “layoff” of sports may turn out to be a double-edged sword for the sports. With nothing else going on, I believe that new viewers, people who watch a lot of TV, and sports enthusiasts may just continue to watch. The same may be said for baseball and football.

However, I believe this could be a future problem, too. If you are season ticket holder for any sport, and you are told that this year you cannot attend, how will that be received?

Will people decide that watching on television is a lot more convenient, and not renew tickets? Will they decide that spending hundreds of dollars is not worth it when it can be seen from your living room?

As I get older, going to these events, fighting the crowds and the ridiculous prices for food and beverages ($8 for a beer at the Bengals games, seriously?), is just not worth it! I can sit home in my easy chair, put my feet up, have a beer and some snacks and enjoy the event without all the cost and hassle!

So what happens if spectators decide to stay home? What will owners and sponsors of these huge stadiums do? I am sure that young sports enthusiasts will continue to go to events, but the older, diehards who have supported their teams, drivers and players for years, will they decide to watch it at home?

Will we start to see half empty or more stadiums? That would be a huge loss of revenue to the owners? What will that do to merchandise and food and beverage sales? What happens If television revenue does not keep up with the costs? If I owned a team, this would cause me sleepless nights!

I do see a bright spot though; this could really help local teams and sports. Here in Darke County, we have some great High School teams and one of the biggest attractions in the world, the Eldora Speedway.

Eldora will continue to thrive simply because it is a smaller venue that provides great entertainment at a very reasonable price!

It is a shame that our governor decided not to allow the plan that Eldora and our Health Commissioner, Dr. Terry Holman, provided to them allowing them to open under strict guidelines. I thought we were going to allow each county to decide for themselves, but that is a topic for another day! When this is over, I am sure Eldora will come back strong as ever! I am not so sure of some of the bigger tracks and stadiums.

These are questions to be answered later this year and for a few years to come. I will continue to watch on TV because I am a sports junkie, and I like High School Sports.

Major League, NFL teams, and NASCAR have not received a penny from me for several years from attending their events. It is easier from home. Will this become the “new normal” for sports? Time will tell! That’s the way I see it from the sidelines! Enjoy your summer everyone!!

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By Michael Stegall

From the Sidelines

Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner

Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner