The change from the summer to the fall season is always one of my favorite times of the year. In a normal, non-COVID-19 world, children would head off to school, our youth would be participating in fall sports, and many local events would be held for our community to attend.
The college football season would be underway, and stadiums would be full of fans supporting their alma mater. In professional sports, baseball would be completing the World Series, the NBA, the NHL, and the NFL seasons would have started. But not this year.
Depending on where in Nevada you live, children may or may not be attending school. Teachers are tasked with the almost impossible mission of teaching remotely, juggling alternating attendance schedules of students who are physically attending school, or sometimes trying to combine remote teaching with in-school attendance.
Our local teachers have told me stories of parents yelling at them that, ‘you’re getting paid to teach our kids. Why do I have to do your work for you?’ They have parents who refuse to send their children to school and others who want them to come every day and not on an alternating schedule. It’s not the teachers’ fault that they were dealt with an impossible set of guidelines to follow. They have to follow the directives given to them by school boards and superintendents trying to make sense of the policies handed down to them by the state.
College sports are still sorting out how they will handle the fall football season, with some schools canceling sports altogether and others moving forward with fans in attendance. Professional sports have taken the approach of playing games without fans.
They have placed cardboard cutouts of fans in the stands, piped in fake fan noise, and modified season schedules. Taking a page from the ’70s science fiction movie “Logan’s Run,” the NBA chose to place all of the teams into a protective bubble, sheltering their players from the rest of the world.
Not surprisingly, fan interest in professional sports has waned drastically. It’s just weird to try and watch a game without fans in attendance. Professional sports athletes have chosen to compound the issue of waning fan interest during COVID-19 by bringing politics into the mix.
The BLM movement is especially prominent in the NBA, where uniforms and basketball courts display BLM support messages. Professional athletes have also inserted themselves into the presidential election. Athletes have expressed support for their candidate of choice, further alienating themselves from fans who don’t support their candidate. Fans look to sports for entertainment, not to be lectured on how they are supposed to think politically.
It should be fairly obvious to even the casual sports fan why professional sports are moving forward with their seasons and giving the appearance of normalcy.
It’s about the money. TV contracts, player salaries, endorsements, and other financial considerations drive that bus, not because they are concerned about fans. Sports betting is another factor for those sports to move forward with pretend seasons. Sports wagering is a large part of the income for casinos.
The casinos are hard hit from the shutdowns and restrictions. Even under its current pretense, having professional sports played allows casinos to open their sportsbooks.
Speaking of casinos, Vegas casinos are crushed financially by the loss of conventions.
Las Vegas has spent years building up its Monday to Thursday business by attracting conventions. Friday to Sunday has always been busy, driven by tourists who want to come to Vegas for the weekend to party.
That weekday business has been lost; in some cases, probably forever, as some events have elected to move to other states with fewer restrictions on attendance. I am still trying to understand the 250-person meeting limit and the 1,000-person limit on conventions. It seems like an arbitrary number pulled out of a hat with no real scientific reasons, either pro or con, on how many people should be allowed to gather.
The Vegas convention plight is just one example of how COVID-19 has changed our lives. Medical data is lacking, the WHO, the CDC, and government officials give conflicting guidelines, and no one seems to know what to do.
I like fall. This year, not so much.
Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at email@example.com