There are, no doubt, many people who would agree with the FiveThirtyEight.com pollster that they will sow some oats when the powers that be come to their senses and let the healthy people out of their unhealthy homes.
Silver, who, among other things, cut his teeth as a sports analytics geek, has captured their zeitgeist: “Let my sports people go!”
They want to return to the old days, filling the stands and pouring billions into the dream factory of sports.
But it remains a case of: “Not so fast!”
I’ve written about the importance of gate receipts, beer sales, parking rights, suite sales and merchandise income that would be generated to the health of modern sports – in particular the health of $30-million-a-year player contracts.
If those seats don’t fill up or if corporations decide luxury suites are a bad look, then a whole lot of people are in line for a big financial haircut.
But knowing what we know now, following our graduate course in second-hand epidemiology, is it also likely that people will flock back to the public arenas and stages? That they will transition from scared crapless to devil-may-care in a week?
With people from the U.S. president through to the heavy hitters in public health saying that the hand shake is done after five millennia of use, how interested are people going to be in sitting six inches, not six feet, from some over-refreshed football fan or a Grateful Dead aficionado whose shower hasn’t been working?
The notion that the public – particularly the fussy Canadian public – is going to forgive and forget the virus scare is a huge assumption at this point.
For instance, having seen the success of the National Football League’s virtual draft last weekend, what are the odds that corporations and sports organizations opt for safer, tech-based gatherings with no chance of being sneezed upon?
Or that fans might not just choose to put their feet up at home with friends and a 100-inch TV screen to catch their sporting heroes at play?
They now know another pandemic is inevitably coming when COVID-19 has gone – it’s just a question of when. So why hasten that day?
Let’s examine a few more post-COVID-19 assumptions that are likely to affect whether fans herd out to the ballpark or concert hall.
Take public transit, for example. We’ve been lectured for decades by woke urban types that sprawling suburbs and cars with single drivers are the road to climate hell. They’ve promoted public transit and stacked living in their lectures in the social justice warrior media. It was considered bad form and bad climate conservation to use the fossil-fuel formula.
A dose of COVID-19 reality by Pat Murphy
But after seeing the New York subway or other famed mass-transit systems become trampolines for spreading the virus, how many fans are going to hop aboard the train with thousands of others to attend an event?
For the foreseeable future, I think most people will opt to drive or stay home – either working from home or watching sporting events on TV.
The only people cramming onto public transit will be those with no options. But they don’t generate enough income to support the massive networks of trains, buses and subways in the modern metropolis.
Further, in the wake of COVID-19’s killer embrace – and the hysteria it produced – will fans be inclined to travel to out-of-town games or championship contests if it requires air travel and staying in hotels or motels?
The masked reality of air travel in the future is sure to discourage a segment of the fan base. And how much will fans want to risk that the room they’re staying in is properly cleaned or the person changing the pillow cases doesn’t carry some exotic virus?
The production and safety of the food chain has been another issue of concern during the pandemic. Who will line up at food concessions in stadiums or theatres unless they can be assured the food and, even more, the servers aren’t hosting a buffet of germs and viruses?
And while many fans will ignore all this to attend their heroes’ games, what happens if the performers themselves decide it’s not safe to go up-close-and-personal with a rival in the football, hockey or basketball game?
Or if the officials and referees don’t want an earful of abuse and a nostril full of a killer virus?
Will players wear masks? Or have their temperatures taken between shifts or possessions?
We’re about to discover that resuming life as it was is somewhat trickier than first thought. With the toothpaste out of the tube, can we be assured that a population petrified of someone getting within six feet will suddenly pretend it was all a bad dream?
Nate Silver might then find himself like the Maytag repair man – the loneliest man in town.
Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster.