There’s no getting around it—I miss sports.
This isn’t to say that they should come back immediately or without fully considering the ramifications, just that the absence of major sports further decreases feelings of normalcy during a time of heightened anxiety. There’s something to be said for the fact that live sports were able to live in the background of our everyday lives, running constantly and offering a quick story for consumers to digest.
While classic games and documentaries have given viewers something to watch in place of nightly contests, many viewers have substantially shifted their media-viewing habits to adjust.
For fans, sports are a staple, and filling the void left by their absence can prove to be difficult. Viewership data from Numeris shows that viewers have shifted to watching other specialty TV channels.
Sports talk shows and podcasts have also felt the pinch. With the sports world greatly devoid of content, hosts have had to delve into the depths of topics to cover, focusing on historic events, conjecture about the steps sports will take to return, or simply news about the virus itself.
Despite this, it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Individual sports like the UFC have already begun to make their way back into the market while the NHL has released a 24-team playoff format for when they are able to resume. The NBA has had its own rumours about a 16-team playoff where teams would face off disregarding conference alignment.
No matter what direction sports take heading into the future, leagues will have to proceed with the utmost caution. NBA commissioner Adam Silver stating that the league should not resume play if a single positive case will shut them down again. In the MLB, owners and players have found difficulties reaching agreement on how to start the season back up, with players apprehensive to take on reduced salaries and concerned about proper safety.
Viewers are chomping at the bit to digest live sports content again. The Score has reported that the NFL draft drew a huge lift in interested viewers.
Those who remain are sapping every available piece of content they can. The Last Dance captured the attention of viewers for weeks, but came to its conclusion Monday. Pieces like this, while popular, are unable to cover the sheer hours of programming that were once filled by live sports. Viewers are seeking the routine and availability of sports programming, and it will be interesting to see the steps that sports leagues and networks take to make the past a reality once more.
No matter how much of a void is left by the absence sports, risking the health of athletes, support staff, and the general populace is not worth restoring a sense of normalcy in the sports-loving portion of the population. Sacrifices are made in unlikely places, and this is one that sports fans should be prepared to get through.
– An op-ed by Ryan Hurlbut