It’s a Whole New Ball Game: How Do Sports Fans Feel About the Uncertainty of the 2020 Season?

May 21st, 2020

Between the NHL’s recent announcement that the 2020 season won’t resume and with the 2020 season for MLB & a conclusion to the NBA season still TBD, it remains to be seen whether professional sports will be down for the count this year.

We surveyed sports fans May 11-13 to understand how these delays are impacting them and determine their readiness to attend professional sporting events in person in the coming months. 

In the absence of live sports, over half of the males in our sample (53%) are getting their sports fix by watching previously aired sports matchups. 

When considering the one sport that could see their 2020 season potentially occur over two different windows of time, nearly six-in-ten of NBA watchers feel that if the season is played in two different intervals in 2020, it won’t feel fair to compare 2020 to previous seasons, but they will view the winning team as the rightful champion (58%). Of the remainder, 26% think the season will still be comparable to previous seasons, while 16% not only view the season differently than previous seasons but won’t consider the victor the rightful champion.

But even if the NBA gets the slam dunk to resume, will there be fans cheering in the arena? Of those who attend at least one NBA game per season, 19% are “extremely comfortable” and 33% are “somewhat comfortable” attending a game in person if the 2020 season resumes in the coming months. Perhaps not surprisingly, avid attendees (at least several games a season) are more apt to be very/somewhat comfortable (60%) than those who attend just 1-2 games per season (47%).

As for another sport being thrown a curveball but not yet dealt a strikeout, attendees of MLB games are more apt to consider themselves “somewhat comfortable” (39%) than “extremely comfortable” (17%) attending a game in person if the season resumes within the next few months. 

NFL fans appear the most optimistic about the prospect of watching a touchdown in the stadium this fall, with 25% “extremely comfortable” doing so and 34% “somewhat comfortable” (lifting to 70% “extremely/somewhat” comfortable among fans who attend several games a season).

When those who are hesitant to attend an NBA, MLB and/or NFL game were asked to elaborate, health and safety concerns remain top-of-mind.

“Right now the number one priority to me is my health, the health of my family and friends, and the health of all Americans. I do not think that getting thousands of people and cramming them together, mostly selfish people who will refuse to wear masks to protect themselves and others for various stupid reasons, is warranted when I can thoroughly enjoy watching the game at home with the same piped in applause/boos they have been using for years.” (Male 40-49 NBA Attendee)

“Just seems like it would spread the virus and the benefit of an in-person viewing doesn’t outweigh the risk of contracting the virus.” (Male 35-39 NFL Attendee)

“It would be impossible to follow social distancing in the ballpark. Even if seating was very limited just entering the park, using restrooms and buying food you come in contact with such a huge number of people. I hope to watch the games from home this year!” (Female 24-29 MLB Attendee)

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