The MLB’s first brush with coronavirus, with 13 games postponed so far amid an outbreak among the Miami Marlins, illustrates the dangers of a league operating in stadiums across the country.
The MLB had opted to create three geographic divisions within its two leagues, with teams shuttling back and forth between cities.
It took less than a week from the season opener for COVID-19 to strike a team. Seems sending 30 players and their coaches pinballing around the country, passing through airports and staying in hotels, is not as secure as hoped.
This will worry both the NFL and its TV partners.
To date, the only change the NFL has announced is the cancellation of preseason. The current plan is to play a regular season, with squads of 60-plus coaches crisscrossing the country. Given MLB’s experience, this looks to be inviting trouble.
Why take such a risk? A big reason, to the tune of close to $8 billion, is the revenue from the league’s TV and media deals for the 2020 season.
There will be pressure, too, from the NFL’s TV partners. In a year when COVID-19 has severely hit ad revenues at networks, the NFL’s massive audiences represent the last chance to salvage the year.
Should the league end up postponed or, even worse, cancelled due to several teams contracting coronavirus, the impact on the bottom lines of CBS, ESPN, FOX and NBC will be severe.