NASCAR ReopeningBy Tom Dougherty
What the NASCAR reopening means
Sports are creeping back into our lives with some charity events, UFC fights and some soccer. But many more than expected tuned into the NASCAR reopening with record ratings on Sunday.
More than six million viewers watched the race at Darlington Speedway in South Carolina, the most for any non-Daytona 500 race. What does the NASCAR reopening mean as California and Texas say pro sports can reopen without fans?
It means everything and nothing.
The ratings demonstrate that Americans are starved for live sports. It’s one of the reasons why ESPN’s Last Dance drew double digit ratings for its finale Sunday night – even if it wasn’t a live event. (And I still wanna know the identity of that pizza place in Salt Lake City.)
The NASCAR reopening drew viewers who otherwise wouldn’t care about motor sports. I dipped in and out, curious for how the operation would work. NASCAR made sure everyone there, including pit reporters, wore masks and practiced social distancing.
“The NASCAR reopening proves that Americans love televised sports and you can be sure other professional leagues want back into the TV money pot. But don’t mistake it for what an empty arena for basketball or football will feel and sound like.”
What can other sports learn from the NASCAR reopening?
But what can the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball learn from it? It can copy those safety measures, something the UFC does as well. (Although not as well. There are corner men who do not wear masks and social distancing seems an afterthought.)
But the NASCAR reopening remains unique. Because of the noise from the cars, you don’t miss the fans. For a NASCAR TV viewer, fans plays an extremely minor role. In fact, viewers don’t even notice them.
On a basketball court? Oh, you’ll notice. The bouncing ball, the grunts and squeaky shoes will ring like explosions from a Michael Bay movie. It will be weird.
But we’ll adapt once we get used to it. For a better correlation, Sunday’s charity golf event with four PGA golfers offers a better perspective. You heard the golfers talk with each other, often offering encouragement and sometimes breaking each other’s balls. (Rory McIlroy’s brag about winning two FedEx Cups was a classic.) That part was entertaining.
The NASCAR reopening proves that Americans love televised sports and you can be sure other professional leagues want back into the TV money pot. But don’t mistake it for what an empty arena for basketball or football will feel and sound like. We’ll watch, for sure, but we’ll adjust our expectations.
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