Skip to main content
ABC News
How To Get Butts In Seats When Sports Return

This week, we break down a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll on how the American public feels about going to live sporting events and what precautions would make people feel safer about attending games once leagues start play again. It’s no surprise that most Americans would be unlikely to attend sporting events now, even if restrictions were lifted, or that the thing that would really set a majority of people’s minds at ease is a vaccine. But some preventative measures could go a long way, especially for outdoor sports like baseball and golf. And it’s always important to remember that this is how people are feeling right now, when there is a high degree of uncertainty and no one has actually gone back into a stadium yet. Once people start doing something again, comfort with that behavior is likely to increase.

Next we talk about a decidedly indoor sport, basketball, as it continues to work out how to resume play in real time, in full view of the general public. We start with Shaquille O’Neal’s opinion that the league should scrap this year’s season to focus on 2021, and why that approach isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s no guarantee we won’t be in the midst of a second wave of infections by the time next season is ready. Besides, part of the beauty of the NBA playoffs is that the better team usually wins, so the idea that the 2020 champion will have a coronavirus-shaped asterisk next to its record is a little silly. Teams that have won in shortened seasons across major leagues, from the San Antonio Spurs to New Jersey Devils to the Atlanta Braves, have not historically been viewed as inferior or unworthy winners.

Finally, in the Rabbit Hole, Neil uses the news about a lawsuit alleging that Zion Williamson took money from Duke, Nike and Adidas in violation of NCAA rules as an excuse to explore other athletes who were caught up in wild NCAA compensation scandals. The team agrees that if players at the elite tier were able to go straight to the NBA from high school, and if other players received some measure of compensation for playing in college, things like FedEx boxes stuffed with $20 bills wouldn’t happen. In the meantime, “Blue Chips” is a fantastic “documentary” on the subject.

What we’re looking at this week:

Sarah Shachat is Hot Takedown’s producer.

Sara Ziegler is the former sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.

Geoff Foster is the former sports editor of FiveThirtyEight.