Coronavirus

NASCAR and Golf Return to TV, Paving Way for Pandemic-Friendly Sports

Races reopened without fans this weekend, to mostly good reviews. Sports and entertainment are shifting to serve social-distancing needs.

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It was back to the races Sunday—but without any fans. After a 10-week hiatus, NASCAR resumed its season, one of the first major U.S. sports to do so since the COVID-19 shutdowns began.

With drivers, officials, and crew masked, with limited press access, and with no audience in the stands, yesterday's race in Darlington, South Carolina, still seems to have been a hit.

The race "could have gone wrong in a lot of ways," writes Scott Fowler at the Charlotte Observer. "Instead, it served as a symbol that things can still go right," carrying "an air of welcome normalcy."

"Consensus: A little weird, but OK once the race got underway," concluded Newser.

"I just want to thank everybody from NASCAR and all the teams for letting us do what we do," winner Kevin Harvick told reporters afterward.

Four more NASCAR races are slated to take place this month. Meanwhile, more contact-heavy sports—from the professionals to the little leagues—are still struggling to figure out when and how they might even begin to relaunch.

Yesterday also saw the return of televised live golf. A charity match in Juno Beach, Florida, had no live observers; players carried their own bags. ("The golf was uneven, the banter flat, the ending kind of unsatisfying. But it was certainly more fun than no golf at all!" concluded Alan Shipnuck of Golf magazine.) Last week, the PGA Tour announced its reopening plans.

Sunday's sanitized speedway and self-reliant golfers show how athletes are adjusting to the COVID-19 era. They also showcase how the pandemic could reshape popular entertainment, as some options stand much better poised to get back to business than others.

Minimal-contact sports like car racing and golf can carry on with reasonable adjustments. Basketball and football, not so much.

This doesn't just apply to sports. In the television realm, most production is still suspended, yet some reality TV programs have been able to persist while keeping participants isolated. The Voice and American Idol have carried on by having both singers and judges broadcast from home. And The Real Housewives of Atlanta recently hosted a virtual reunion.

"While it's still anyone's guess when traditional production can resume in Hollywood, many reality TV series are finding ways to adapt to the current reality, with subjects self-shooting with their camera phones or over video conference," notes the Los Angeles Times last week.

Shari Levine, executive vice president of production at Bravo, told the paper that a host of precautions could ultimately change the feel of the final product. That may mean "more of a documentary feel to it, because it may sort of feel more run and gun," as well as changes in the kinds of interactions that will be filmed. "I really think there is permission, even for Bravo, which is more of a glossy look network, to reflect exactly what's going on right now."

Some of these changes will be short-term fixes, but others have the potential to produce longer-term effects. That goes for the film industry, too, as COVID-19 is changing how new feature films are released and consumed.

Drive-in movie theaters, now one of the few safe ways to see movies outside the home, could become more than just a novelty relic of bygone times.

In addition, more new releases might be straight-to-streaming, as movies like Trolls World Tour prove it can be done with no economic downside. Trolls World Tour was released straight to digital rental on April 10 (for $19.99 per rental) and has already netted more revenue than the first Trolls, which had a traditional theatrical release.

If things return to normal fairly quickly, things like that might be but short-term blips in our viewing trajectory. But the longer the pandemic and the lockdowns wear on, the more likely they are to have long-term effects on TV, spectator sports, and other entertainments.

NEXT: Judge Robert Bacharach Guest-Blogging This Week About Legal Writing

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  1. watching Bundesliga was like being at practice … like I stepped off the field to get a drink while the rest of the team kept scrimmaging.

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  2. “Minimal-contact sports like car racing and golf can carry on with reasonable adjustments. Basketball and football, not so much.”

    Why not?

    On a tangentially related note, I really wish Reason had a sports-beat writer. Though I’m not sure how much overall demand for that sort of thing exists in the readership.

    1. There would be a lot of demand for it. But, the best reason can do is demand a minimum wage for college athletes. Because nothing says “libertarian” like the minimum wage.

      1. I thought they called for getting rid of the ban on earning money- minimum wage or whatever the market was willing to pay?

        1. There is no ban on earning money. There are just a private organization, the NCAA, that has decided it will only pay its athletes in kind. You are free to pay athletes whatever you like if you choose. Indeed, MLB does just that and drafts the best players out of high school. That the NBA and the NFL do not, is there choice as well. They should not be compelled to hire players out of high school if they don’t want to. And the NCAA should not be compelled to pay players in anything other than room and board and tuition if they don’t want to. If the players don’t like the deal offered by the NCAA, they are free not to take it. And indeed, many players do not.

          1. I’m not arguing their case. I am pointing out that all I have seen is that Reason authors have tended to argue against the NCAA’s prohibitions on athletes earning money. And the articles I recall all pointed out that the NCAA was free to do this, but that their reasons behind it are the type of anti-market reasons that they disagree with.

            1. And they are saying they have a right to tell private organizations how to spend their money. If reason thinks it is so bad, they should start their own sports league. The answer isn’t to tell people involved in a voluntary transaction your value judgement about that transaction.

              1. This has gotten bizarre, John. First we have shifted from your initial complaint that they were advocating for minimum wage- a complete distortion of the arguments. Now you are criticizing them for saying “they have a right to tell private organizations” what to do….

                Of course they have the right to do that. As do you and I. In fact that is literally what you are doing right now.

                I don’t think the prohibition on earning money as a college athlete is a big deal, and indeed it isn’t a huge Reason topic. But where they have argued the issue, they have been “Should Not” arguments, not “Must not” arguments. *shrug*

                1. At a base level, Reason has no right to demand that the NCAA pay their athletes any more than what they choose to do so. What if reason ran articles demanding fisherman or steel workers or any other person be paid more? Do you think that would be consistent with “free minds free markets”? I don’t. Indeed, reason doesn’t run such articles except for when it comes to NCAA athletes. That is what is bizarre.

            1. That is not a ban. That is a private organization making its own rules. If you don’t like giving up the right to make money off your name, then don’t sign the letter of intent and accept the scholarship. There is nothing wrong with the NCAA saying that is a part of the deal to play their game.

              1. That is not a ban. That is a private organization making its own rules. …to ban athletes from earning money.

                1. So what happens when they tell the NCAA to fuck themselves and they sign a pro contract?

                  They get paid.

                  It’s not a ban it’s a voluntary agreement. Stop being an idiot.

                2. Yes, as a part of a deal where they get paid in room and board in tuition. I am banned from making money at my job. I can’t go practice law on the side.

                  Do you just not understand how contracts work?

      2. I’m not sure the staff at Reason fully grasp the socio-cultural impact of athletic competition on a broad scale. Which is understandable, given that sports fandom is very collectivistic and tribal by it’s nature. It’s probably easy to dismiss it all as “silly games” coming from an individualist mindset. Thing is though, it’s all voluntary collectivism, and for any of it’s faults, it does provide a healthy outlet for many basic, innate human proclivities.

    2. Don’t put the idea of a sports writer in their heads. Welch will volunteer himself. Everytime he starts talking about baseball on the Fifth Column, I look down to see that I’m slitting my wrists without even realizing it.

      1. Does he go full George Will? Never go full George Will.

        1. I guess as long as he doesn’t go full Olbermann…..

          1. Olbermann is an asshole but when it comes to baseball, he at least knows what he is talking about. That guy is a savant when it comes to baseball history. You have to respect his knowledge. Will is just an asshole. He really doesn’t know shit about baseball if actually listen to what he says.

            1. Bad joke. I was more referring to Olberman’s political beliefs. I know he’s actually very respected as a sports guy.

    3. Every sport can do it.Those million dollar babies will take their chances,just like steel workers and longshoremen do for their stipend.

  3. While it’s still anyone’s guess when traditional production can resume in Hollywood…

    At some point they’ll start losing so much money that maintaining the concerted “we’re in this together” messaging of continued quarantine/lockdown/distancing will no longer be tenable. And then it gets interesting.

    1. It will get interesting when the Karens try to shut down football this fall. I think people’s patience for the lockdowns will have long since gone away by then. And canceling baseball and the NBA playoffs is child’s play compared to trying to cancel the NFL or trying to tell people they can’t attend games. I suspect that is when the shit is going to hit the fan.

  4. Did the pit crews have to work one at a time to change tires to maintain social distancing?

    1. They jolly well better have, or this flattening the curve stuff is not being taken seriously.

    2. hahahah,good joke….

  5. If the new normal is basically watching practices, I’m going to pass.

  6. What Elizabeth calls “long term effects” I call violation of people’s rights. Attending public events is otherwise known as the right to free assembly. Last I looked there wasn’t a “but not if there is a chance someone might get sick” caveat to the right to fee assembly.

    It would be nice if reason were bothered by this prospect. I guess it is too much to expect them to be outraged. But, it would be nice if they could at least see it as a bad thing as opposed to just “bad luck” or whatever.

    1. No shit. How many think pieces have there been with someone acknowledging that this is inevitably going to play out like any other virus and the new normal should basically just be the old normal with more sanitizer?

      1. None that I have seen. And why hasn’t reason written an article saying that the risk of getting sick is the price you pay for freedom?

        They love doing that when we are talking about terrorism. Hey, if the small chance of getting blown up is the price everyone has to pay so that Muslims can roam free, reason expects everyone to pay it. Yet, somehow they haven’t applied that logic to this situation. Maybe the risk of catching a contagious disease from being around people is one of the prices we have to pay for a free society? If everyone were welded into their homes, there wouldn’t be much of a pandemic problem now would there?

        1. This organization needs a serious editorial shake up. If we just wanted to nod along to the conventional wisdom, we would give ourselves lobotomies and turn on CNN or Fox News. Be better Reason.

          1. WE are in the midst of the most pervasive and significant violation of civil rights in decades or maybe longer. And reason is hardly concerned. You would think every single article about this published by a magazine claiming to be libertarian would be filled with rage over what is happening. Instead, you get navel gazing pieces and the odd “well this doesn’t seem right but on the other hand we have to do something” Soave brand of equivocation.

            1. If freedom as the highest possible priority isn’t what they’re preaching, than I’m not really sure what we’re doing here.

            2. Between the mass house arrest and Obamagate, the left has gone full police state.
              Yet Reason doesn’t seem to object

              1. Object??? Did you read that “The Libertarian Case for Mask Wearing” that “Reason” shat out a couple of weeks ago?

                Kool-Aid: Drunk.

              2. Reason has lost their sense of reason,
                the hatred of The Don permeates everything.

        2. Hell, I’d have enjoyed them even writing an article that attempts to rationalize/accept lockdowns from a libertarian perspective. At least that would be interesting from a libertarian perspective, as opposed to YET ANOTHER article talking about the FDA.

          I can only assume that the authors are afraid of being lumped in with the “science denying alt-right-conspiracy nuts” who seem to be the only people arguing that these lockdowns are absurd on their face.

          1. How about you admit the virus is dangerous but that freedom is more important than safety? Last I looked that was what libertarians thought wasn’t it?

            1. “How about you admit the virus is dangerous but that freedom is more important than safety? Last I looked that was what libertarians thought wasn’t it?”

              Yes, that is absolutely what I think they ought to argue. But, like I said, I’d be happy if they at least tried to make the argument “In this case, the threat of a virus trumps our freedoms- even from a libertarian standpoint”.

              The funny thing is that they have made some of the arguments in passing articles- that the lockdowns are causing more harm than good; that we have put too much faith in experts who are too often wrong; that people were doing the right thing in social distancing before it was mandated; that cracking down on the protestors is worse than compliance.

              But no one has come out and said, “Look, based on libertarian principles this lockdown is right/wrong”.

              This makes them concern trolls. Sure, they understand the lockdowns, but isn’t it a shame that all these jobs are being lost? That the models were so jacked up? In other words, it is the mealy-mouthed argument of people afraid to take a stand.

              1. It makes them cowards. The truth is that the “libertarian” position such as it is, is that the rights of the many or even the one outweighs the safety of the few. And that is a hard thing to say. You have to stand up and say “yeah grandma may die over this but if the alternative is taking away everyone’s rights, that is just how it has to be”. They don’t have the courage to say that. They don’t have the courage to stand up for their principles when doing so means saying something unpopular among their peers. So, they don’t say it. They just hmm and haw and do what you describe.

                1. And what they truly don’t understand is that you are never going to get people libertarian if you cannot get these Big Ideas (TM) through their heads. These pragmatic arguments will never win the war, because everyone and their brother can come up with counter-evidence.

                  Whether it is minimum wage, or gay marriage or capital punishment, the moment you slip down into pragmatic (“On balance, this has better outcomes”), you have already lost- especially when we live in a world where there are millions of socialist professors pumping out study after study somehow finding that minimum wage doesn’t reduce employment opportunities, or that the sky is green.

                  1. You are absolutely right Overt. Also, what is a “better outcome” depends on your perspective. Reason seems incapable of understanding that not everyone desires the same outcomes. The only way you can convince people to agree with you is to get them to agree to the principle not the outcome. Outcomes come and go.

                    1. Reason has fully embraced a fundamentally progressive perspective.
                      They are worthless

            2. I do and reason used to….

          2. You mean like an article that Bernie is the best candidate from a libertarian perspective? Sounds like another article where the comments would be waaaayyy better than whatever they write.

            If you think it’s only the “science denying alt-right conspiracy nuts” that want this bullshit to stop, you must be watching CNN. First of all there’s about 11 alt-righters nationally and to treat them like they matter even a little bit is to cede way too much ground to them. Second of all, I have a Warren supporting mega progressive brother in law who runs a nursing home that thinks this has gone on long enough and is beginning to go outside and to stores after being 100% behind the lockdowns.

            1. Remember when Reason used to love Elon Musk? Musk finally does something genuinely courageous and good and Reason hasn’t said word about it much less offered any praise.

              https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/tyler-o-neil/2020/05/18/anti-lockdown-champion-elon-musk-just-picked-a-side-and-its-glorious-n399440

              1. I know. It’s phenomenal. How hard are all the progressive mags going to have to memory hole all of their fawning praise throughout the years now that he’s threatening to become the real life John Galt?

                1. Reason has TDS,it colors every aspect of its existence.

              2. They’ve had stories in the Roundup about Musk and his public stance on the lockdowns several times in the last month.

            2. “First of all there’s about 11 alt-righters nationally and to treat them like they matter even a little bit is to cede way too much ground to them”

              Reason writes several articles about them

    2. Sports leagues, television and movie production companies, and other entertainment industries are private organizations. Unless they are being told by the government that they can’t operate, there’s no violation of rights. If MLB wants to not let you into their stadiums to watch games, and TV production companies don’t want to film shows which require a lot of people in the same place to create, that’s their business as private organizations.

  7. social-distancing needs

    The bloggers, or at least the headline writers, on this website are such unlibertarian pieces of shit.

    1. Your right to free assembly only goes so far as “social-distancing needs” allow. Didn’t you know that?

      1. That’s in Article I, Section 9, C[l]ause Fuck-You-Very-Much if memory serves.

  8. Minimal-contact sports like car racing and golf can carry on with reasonable adjustments. Basketball and football, not so much.

    NOW can we have REAL Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots?!

    1. I was just wondering what would open the door to the return of Battlebots.

    2. That’s the paragraph that really stood out to me. Even if one accepts the premise that the current pandemic requires extraordinary alteration, delay, and/or cancellation of public events, why does that preclude basketball and football competition from occurring at all. ENB simply asserts it without providing any support for that position.

      1. I doubt there is a group of people healthier and less susceptible to this virus than professional athletes. Why can’t the athletes make their own decision about the risks involved whatever they are.

        Same thing with the spectators. If you are terrified of being in crowds because of this, then avoid crowds. But there is no reason why any person who is otherwise healthy shouldn’t be able to make a decision the other way.

        1. I’ve only been to one NFL game, but I realized from that experience that I actually prefer watching the game from home. I don’t really do esprit de corps, so the roar of the crowd didn’t get me more involved in the action. Mostly I was disappointed at how tiny everyone looked. Kickoffs and field goals didn’t look nearly as impressive from the stands as they do from strategic camera angles on a flatscreen TV — or projected onto the 20-foot screen at my school. I still feel surprised that people are willing to pay such ungodly sums to sit in the stands.

          In any case, I have to think that men who are willing to risk exposure to blood (think boxers), injuries ranging from the inconvenient to the horrific, permanent disability, and even death on the field will be willing to stare down a virus that will represent a minor inconvenience for most of them. Hell, plenty of players try to gut it out when they can barely stand on their feet from the flu. Next to that, a coronavirus is nothing.

          1. Ronnie Lott had half a finger amputated instead of getting surgery so he wouldn’t miss the playoffs

          2. Terrell Davis was blind from a migraine spell but went into the game because “you don’t need to be able to see, but the defense won’t buy the play fake if you’re not out there”

          3. Philip Rivers tore his acl in the first quarter of a playoff game. He never left the field, they won, and he played the whole game next week

          4. >>field goals didn’t look nearly as impressive

            they’re not. a 30-yard field goal is the same distance as a stolen base.

          5. Well writ,Drivel,my point exactly.
            We do what we gotta for whatever
            amount can lure us in.

        2. Now that is Libertarian thinking and mine.
          I just sent the Party some money,but kinda regret it.

        3. A lot of athletes *are* making their own decisions, and many of them are saying, “You know, I don’t want to choose between isolating myself from my family or risking their health, at the rates that the ownership wants to pay.” And if the ownership wants to make a decision for the spectators based on ownership’s perception of the risks, and that decision is that they aren’t going to let fans in to watch, the spectators don’t get to decide that they want to.

  9. Mrs. Brown, due respect, you are no Libertarian. You try, but do poorly.

  10. “Social distancing needs”

    Liar
    Fuck off and die

  11. “No football unless everyone is guaranteed to be safe.”

    Have you seen pictures of Alex Smith’s leg?

    1. Are you kidding? It’s my Desktop wallpaper!

  12. There had better be football on by September. That is all I really care about with sports.

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