Within the last few weeks, life as we knew it has changed drastically. Practicing social distancing has meant sacrificing our favorite hobbies to ensure our safety, as well as the safety of others. People are coming together on social media to mourn the loss of their beloved pastimes. In general, the things people miss most seem to be going out to restaurants, catching a film in the theater, getting haircuts … but there is one activity that seems to unite society above all. People miss watching their favorite sports teams.
Just as much as the fans miss their teams, their teams miss the fans. The revenue a franchise would normally be gaining from broadcasting and ticket sales is now completely halted. There are still athletes and employees that need to be paid — but with what money?
There is a growing pressure for athletes to take wage cuts during the pandemic, so leagues and networks can afford to keep their non-player employees salaried. The world’s top paid soccer star, Lionel Messi, is taking a 70% pay cut along with his teammates to lessen the burden of his club’s cost. NCAA President Mark Emmert is also taking a 20% pay cut due to the financial pressure the NCAA is now under. But what happens when wage cuts are not enough?
There’s only one way for these teams to generate revenue: by coming up with a way to keep their fans engaged and in spirit, despite the lack of live sports. So, how are they doing it?
One sport that didn’t even get a chance to begin this season is baseball. The New York Yankees have come up with a few strategies to make sure fans are still thinking about their clubhouse. On March 26, the day that should have been the season opener, the Yankees announced the Bronx Bracket. The Bronx Bracket is “64 moments in Yankees history, and you decide who reigns,” the Yankees wrote on Twitter. “You can vote 3x: on Twitter, Facebook & IG story.”
The same day, Twitter user @patricksiazon tweeted, “Today was supposed to be @Yankees opening day and it hurts so bad.” The Yankees replied with, “It does hurt. We’re hurting, too. But we launched #TheBronxBracket today to bring a little fun and unpredictable drama to our lives.”
Additionally, the Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network (YES) is promoting Yankees Classics. They are televising old and memorable Yankee games, and hosting discussions afterwards. A good post season game or a day where somebody pitched really well is an example of what the network considers to be a “classic.”
For something a little more comical, the Yankees tweeted out “Zoom backgrounds,” following the trend of students and employees utilizing humorous backgrounds while in virtual classes and meetings.
The Chicago Cubs encouraged fans on Instagram to take pictures in their Cub uniforms and post it under the hashtag “#myfriendlyconfines.” They also promoted a DIY polka-dot painted Cubs wine glasses “for your next virtual happy hour.”
Another sport that got their season cut short is hockey, and teams are doing the best they can to keep their fans happy.
The New York Rangers are using social media to their advantage, too. To spread positivity and promote memorable moments, the Rangers are encouraging fans to share memories of when the team made them smile or laugh, using the hashtag “#FeelGoodFriday.” The Rangers are featuring fans who participate across their channels.
Additionally, on April 1, the Rangers had defenceman Tony DeAngelo respond to fans in a Q&A on the team’s Twitter. Fans asked questions about specific seasons or more off-topic questions, like his thoughts on the ending of “The Sopranos.”
In this sad time without sports the way we’re used to them, these teams have proven there are ways to still feel the team spirit. If you’re reading this and feel the way I do about sports — as though a part of you is missing — I encourage you to engage in your team’s social media accounts. See if you can find a way to participate and fill the hole a bit, until sports meet again.