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Are Spectator Sports Over In San Diego?

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There was no March Madness for the SDSU Aztecs, no NBA finals for the Golden State Warriors. Major League Baseball says it will play fewer than half the games of a normal season starting in late July. Football season is increasingly doubtful, as is the season for that other contact sport, hockey. The reason is, of course, COVID-19, and the fallout from the lack of sports — professional, collegiate and prep — extends far and wide.

Speaker 1: 00:00 At a time when major league baseball would have been mid season, the league now says it plans to proceed with a 60 game season instead of 162, starting in late July in a normal year, the NHL would have crowned a Stanley cup champion. The NBA champs would be savoring. Their triumph and NFL camps would be preparing to welcome back football players. But 2020 is anything but normal when, and if spectator sports on the professional college and amateur levels resume, all depends on another question. How veteran San Diego sports writer, Jay Paris, who's now with the coast news and and NBC seven San Diego sports cost. Derek Togerson joined KPBS host, Mark Sauer this week to explore some answers. Here's that interview?

Speaker 2: 00:45 Well, Derek, how's it going to work after all, some players are testing positive already for Corona virus, training sites have been shut down. What happens? Do we shut down certain teams or maybe the whole season, whenever a few players test positive. Well, this happening in Japan right now, where they've got baseball and they're not doing the high fives, and it's been happening in Taiwan for a little while written about a month or so now. And they haven't had a major outbreak or a major problem. We honestly had absolutely no idea what's going to happen. But what you're going to have to do is, is find a way to sterilize the best you can, and then keep everyone in a confined space. And that goes completely opposite. The culture of baseball. I mean, go back to the days of babe Ruth, where, you know, you have it, you go to a game and you go out with your buddies afterwards, you can have a couple of beers and you go to a restaurant and that that's just been the culture of baseball, 162 games every single year.

Speaker 2: 01:37 You're telling them to not only put the game on where you can have it in a controlled environment at the facility, that's not going to be so much of a problem. The problem is going to be getting rid of the culture of baseball outside of the stadium, where guys go and get to know each other. And you got Manny Machado buying dinner of steakhouses for everybody in Denver. You're taking that part of the game away as well. That's the part I don't, you can't legislate it. You can't just put everyone in lock down in hotels everywhere. That's going to be the biggest problem. So then, you know, the County usually say or says, if you have one area with at least three people in a testing positive that constitutes an outbreak. Well, if you have one team in one area that has at least three people, does that constitute an outbreak?

Speaker 2: 02:20 Do you lock down just that team? Do you have, does that team now have to forfeit a certain number of games? They have no idea how they can possibly legislate this thing. So eventually you have to hit that tipping point of do we roll the dice and go after this thing and just see if we can make it work? NASCAR seems to be able to handle it pretty well right now with just, I think three people testing positive so far since they went back to racing or do you just keep living in fear of, we can't let this thing any worse,

Speaker 3: 02:46 Jay, I think Derek makes some great points there. And I think he got a illustrator or a underscore here. These guys are strong athletes in the prime of their life. 25, 30 years old, great shape. That's that's super, there are six managers over 60 years old, Joe Madden, right up the road here in orange County, the angel manager he's 66, dusty Baker is 71 years old. Uh, Dave Roberts here in Cardiff who managed the Dodgers. You know, he, he fought cancer and beat cancer. So there's, uh, you know, his body may not be able to sustain this. So I, I think you've got to remember while we're talking about players, the coaches, the managers, a lot of those guys fall right into these categories where, uh, it really raises a red flag.

Speaker 4: 03:27 Well, they've all got folks at home to it. Who knows if they have parents on hold. They'll older people. I mean, they can't live completely in a bubble. Jay wanted to shift the football. Dr. Anthony Fowchee says football with a number of players, coaches, trainers, et cetera, on every team might be impossible in a pandemic net, of course, fury to Donald Trump, a football's a contact sport. How do you do it?

Speaker 3: 03:49 Yeah, I don't think other than ballroom dancing. I'm not really not quite sure. There's a sport worse for social distancing with it, with huddles and the Petri dishes that are locker rooms with a hundred guys taken off their tape and dirty and sweaty and bloody and huddle. And along the offensive line. I mean, what do you do if the center test positive? Do you, do you quarantine, you know, the whole offensive line or what do you do about quarterbacks? Do you, maybe it depends on how spread out the spread formation is Jay. Well, I also thought Derek, you're going to say social distancing. Wouldn't be a problem at charger games for the fans because you know, there's not many there low hanging fruit. So we're going to see how this works, but, but, you know, I believe dr. Falchi when he says he can't see it happening.

Speaker 4: 04:37 I don't either Derek. I wanted to shift to college and high school sports already had a major disappointment here in San Diego with the cancellation of the, of the March madness, the big NCAA tournament, the Aztecs had a terrific season. What does this mean to for college players and down to high school players,

Speaker 2: 04:53 College players and high school players. Football will be the next major one that comes up and it's going to be very different for those two college. I believe the college game is going to follow a lot of the rules of, with the, uh, with the NFL game does is how do they play? Do you put people in the stands? Do you, how do you, how do you socially distance, that's not going to be a problem. The bigger issue is going to be at the high school level, because at the high school level, you don't get new gear every year. What you do is you send that college NFL, or you just, you bring in new gear, you bring a new shoulder pads and bring in new helmets at the high school level. You recycle a lot of that gear. Well, that gear has to go through a safety refurbishment.

Speaker 2: 05:32 And one of those, uh, one of those plants is actually down there in Tijuana where a lot of local schools send their stuff to get refurbished that plant's not doing that right now. So we don't even know right now if the high school season and not just for San Diego, but across the country, aside for some of the more, um, uh, financially well off schools, you might be able to do it through some sort of a private contractor. They don't have the ability right now to get their gear refurbish. So they're to either have to a send kids out there with helmets and pads that had been used and not refurbished back up to the level of safety that they need to have. No, one's going to sign off on that or B you got to find another way to get this stuff done or see, find a way to buy more gear for all these kids during a pandemic where you simply don't have the money to do something like that. The high school season. I don't think this has been talked about very much. It's going to be incredibly difficult to pull off simply from a safety on the field standpoint, because if you don't have gear as you well know, you can't play football,

Speaker 4: 06:28 Right? Yeah. And so it's a, it's a mind boggling thing. And then there's a whole liability issue. I wanted you to both weigh in on a kind of a step back question. If we don't have normal sports seasons till say 20, 22, what impact does that have on the spirits of millions of Americans who make their teams a big part of their lives? Jay, start off,

Speaker 3: 06:46 You know, I think it's such a big fabric of our life. And, uh, it's a, it's kind of opened people's eyes to do other things, I guess. I think, uh, I think San Diego, something that hasn't been talked about is really dodged a bullet with that charger stadium. Remember that charger stadium was going to be paid with all hotel tax money. I mean, there could be a big old hole sitting down there right now, half finished and the general fund at risk. But you know, they dodged a bullet on that one, but I think, uh, you know, virtual sports could be it, uh, more individual sports it's, uh, it's, it's really a crystal ball. That's cloudy. I know Derek has some good ideas on this, but I just think people are going to have to step back. And, uh, it's, it's crazy because even San Diego state, I mean, look, they don't play football. That's, you know, 30% of their athletic revenue, that's $16 million not coming through the door. And how can you ask a student athlete if you will, to, to perform when you're not even to let students on campus, that doesn't sound right to me. So it's a new world. It's a new sporting world. And, uh, East force might be the way to go on Derrick.

Speaker 2: 07:50 I love e-sports VAT. E-sports if you and the first three months of this year, e-sports job listings actually Rose 43%. Tell us what e-sports are for our audience. Oh, these sports are basically the online, uh, online sporting entities. You basically, you watch folks play in video games, league of legends, rocket league fortnights. They have professional teams, professional gamers who are performing and participating in literally international competitions. In fact, I looked up some numbers. There were more people that watched the 2018 league of legends championship, either in person or streaming around the world, then watch the Patriots, beat the Rams and the Superbowl that year, that, that shows you how many people hate the Patriots and are sick and tired of them. It also shows you how many people are into the e-sports world. So these sports world is obviously going to take off, but it doesn't replace what a lot of us love, which is getting out and actually playing a game, seeing something, seeing the greatest athletes in the world, performing in person, watching Fernando talk to each junior, do the things that nobody else can do on a baseball field right in front of you.

Speaker 2: 08:55 Now I'll put the Rose colored glasses on and give you the Pollyanna answer here. See, this is an opportunity because I talked to MIT professors last week and they said that this is going to be a chance for sports leagues and for sports teams to reengage their fans through technology, virtual platforms. And the best example they gave was remember the NFL draft thing we all remember from that is bill Belichick's dog. And that's the kind of access that we got that we've never gotten before. And Nike became a huge fan. Well, if sports leagues and teams are able to give that kind of access, let's say you're talking about a dirty secret during NASCAR races is going to be one, uh, during it at Talladega on a Monday, we're getting more conversations between the crew chief and the driver, and more looks with drone video and more looks with the cameras inside of cars.

Speaker 2: 09:43 And we started getting more access. You can put a camera on the helmet of the empire and have that, that umpire miked up, be able to go to them live. If you could start engaging people in that regard, it'll take us more into the experience that we're used to an experience we're used to is being there in person, getting the sights and sounds of course not the smells as much as Emerald likes to have smell of vision. It hasn't been invented yet. I could work on that, but it's going to get you more into the atmosphere of the game and help us feel closer to the teams and the players that we love. I'd been speaking with San Diego sports writer, Jay Paris and Derek Togerson sports broadcaster at NBC seven San Diego. Thanks guys. Thank you. Alrighty. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.