Sports fans are feeling the absence of their favorite form of entertainment, as the COVID-19 pandemic ha led to the cancelation of games for every major American sports league for the foreseeable future.
“I usually wake up on weekends with soccer on,” Nick Franco said. Franco is a junior optical engineering major at University of Rochester, and a self-professed sports fanatic. “I’d have watched this years March Madness, plus the NBA and the NHL would be playing right about now. That’s all not happening.”
Programming on sports channels like ESPN has been decidedly nostalgic of late, playing recordings of games from decades ago.
The tactic is not working as well as the broadcasters might hope. According to SportsPro.com, ESPN’s ratings have dropped, by at most 50% from this time last year. The NBC-owned Golf channel has seen viewership drop by 39% from the beginning of March.
ESPN, as a result of the loss in programming, has also expanded its SportsCenter coverage and made the program into a sports news resource of some note, reporting on everything from the delay of the Chinese Basketball Association to the suspension of Wimbledon.
As sports were canceling left and right, SportsCenter became a valuable resource for fans trying to follow the closures. However, only so many sports can cancel before there are no more to report on, as SportsCenter host Scott Van Pelt said in an interview with USA Today.
Franco said he has started watching the reruns of games, to fill the gap, but he is watching less overall.
“It’s actually kind of refreshing to see how much football has changed watching games from ten, fifteen years ago,” he said.
As a sports fan, he things the effects of the pandemic and social distancing will keep him away from in person games for a while after they restart.
“I’ll be watching from home for a couple of months, just in case of another spike in cases,” he said.
There are also the concerns about how live sports would start again in the first place. Experts disagree on whether the return of sports games will be met with great enthusiasm. There is also the consideration of whether or not fans will have the money available to attend a live sports event.
While games are canceled, franchises and leagues are being faced with financial concerns as well. As leagues lose almost every major source of revenue, so to do players. Not only major-league sports have been canceled, and for minor-league sports players who rely on the money they make from playing games to pay rent, the results of these cancelations can be felt hard.
Franco said that he thinks no matter when or how sports return, they will be met with enthusiasm from fans, whether that be from the living room or the arena.
“It’s made me realize just how much sports contribute to everyday life,” Franco said. “Even the president is getting pissed off that there aren’t any sports on, and my brother has said he doesn’t even know how to function without live sports anymore.”