I want to begin this morning with a reference to Cassandra in Greek Mythology. Cassandra was given the gift of seeing the future by Apollo; but when she did not “deliver her favors to him”, Apollo added a curse to her gift:
- She could see the future, but no one would ever believe what she foretold.
[Aside: Most of her prognostications fell into what we would call the “gloom-and-doom category making her acutely aware of her “gift”.]
With that brief introduction, let me assure everyone here that my middle name is not Cassandra. The following juxtaposition in time is purely coincidental:
- Yesterday – writing about MLB’s possible reopening – I said that MLB and the MLBPA must not get into a public spitting contest over pay issues when MLB’s fanbase is in a far more economically precarious state than either the owners or the players. I stand by those remarks. If you want to re-read them, you can scroll down below this rant and find yesterday’s rant directly below.
- As if on cue, the Washington Post currently reports that “… the union is already rejecting MLB’s economic proposal before even receiving it.”
One of the buzzwords of the day is “optics”; we talk about the “optics” being wrong when some public figure does something outrageously gross or something that is highly privileged. Even though I have no idea what the MLB proposal might be – and even if it is something that would make Ebenezer Scrooge look generous – it is BAD OPTICS to reject something before you know what it is. I said yesterday that MLB and the MLBPA “have a history of finding ways to shoot themselves – and each other – in the foot.” In this instance, it seems to me that the union could have waited until the proposal arrived on their desks to let it be known that they disagree.
Please take a moment to read Thomas Boswell’s column on this mater in today’s Washington Post; here is the link.
Obviously, this situation is going to be messy. Even the ongoing pandemic cannot get these two sides to come to their agreements privately, constructively and expeditiously; both sides are hopeless. Having the recent memory of watching a Senate Committee receive testimony from Dr. Fauci and three other medical folks regarding the state of play between US citizenry and COVID-19, I can easily picture in my mind what “feckless” and “meaningless” and “pompous” mean.
- The only way the MLB/MLBPA situation can get worse would be for the Congress to convene a hearing on that matter and to have it televised nationally.
- The owners and the players will have already aggravated the fans.
- The Congress has aggravated political partisans – and could use those hearings to aggravate baseball fans turning partisans from both sides against them.
If there are any adults in positions of responsibility at MLB HQs and at the top of the MLBPA, please come to an agreement quickly and keep the story as an internal one instead of a media circus.
All during the time of the pandemic spread – and the suspension of sports events worldwide – there have been speculations about reopening sports without fans in attendance. There has been a UFC event without fans; there are horse racing events without fans at the racetrack; stretching the definition of sports, Wrestlemania happened without fans in the arena; the English Premier League is planning to play games in June without fans in the stands. Here in the US, leagues have acknowledged that such may have to be the case for their return to action but only the NFL seems to have said clearly that if that is the price of playing a normal season then that is how it will have to be.
- Translation of the NFL position: We can make do with the money we take in from TV, radio and “corporate partnerships”.
The fact that other pro sports here have not made the same sort of commitment made me wonder why the NFL figured it could get by but entities such as MLB or the NBA might not. The following are not accurate calculations; they are guesstimates and nothing more. I have tried to use reported values for TV rights contracts along with estimates of total league revenues based on team salary caps as a percentage of that total league revenue and guessed at “sponsorship fees” to arrive at what portion of league revenue comes from fans in the stands. Here are my guesstimates:
- NHL: 50-55% of the revenue is from “fans in the stands”
- MLB: 45-50% of the revenue is from “fans in the stands”
- NBA: 45-50% of the revenue is from “fans in the stands”
- NFL: 15-20% of the revenue is from “fans in the stands”
Note: I could not find enough data even to come up with a guesstimate for MLS.
If I am even close to accurate here, the reason the NFL can be as resigned about playing in empty stadiums is because that revenue source is not nearly as critical to the NFL as that revenue source is to the other sports.
Finally, I mentioned above that I had spent some time today watching Senate hearings involving Dr. Anthony Fauci and three other health experts from the US government. In light of that, let me close with this Tweet from humor writer, Brad Dickson:
“I wouldn’t say he’s on a lot of TV shows but it turns out Dr. Anthony Fauci was this week’s Masked Singer.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……