All That and a Bag of Mail

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It’s Friday and I’ve got to tell you right off the top here, if you aren’t subscribed to the Outkick podcast, go do it today. This morning’s radio show was phenomenal — with Jason Whitlock for an hour and Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Seriously, it’s outstanding and you need to go listen to it. (We also had my buddy Lance Taylor on from WJOX down in Birmingham.)

Go listen and subscribe. (If you give me a five star smart and/or funny review, I’ll pick out the ten best and we’ll send you an autographed copy of my book.)

Several big stories broke this morning that I think are significant in the world of the coronavirus and sports. First, the CDC has released its latest data on the coronavirus and based on CDC estimates if you are under fifty years old you are more likely to die from the seasonal flu than you are the coronavirus.

Let me repeat that, if you are under 50 years old, which nearly two-thirds of the country is, you are more likely to die of the seasonal flu than you are the coronavirus.

As if that wasn’t enough, we are finally starting to understand why the death rate in New York City has been so high compared to everywhere else in the world. Because Governor Andrew Cuomo made the disastrous decision to send over 4300 nursing home patients back to nursing homes while they were infected with the coronavirus, creating an infection wildfire in the most vulnerable population. Go read this article from the AP:

Here’s what I think happened in New York. There were were fear porn forecasts that 140,000 hospital beds were going to be necessary in the city. As a result Governor Cuomo panicked and made the disastrous decision to send infected hospital patients who had been living in nursing homes back to the nursing homes to clear hospital beds for other patients he thought were coming. That was like pouring gasoline on a fire because we know 40% of all coronavirus victims in the country — 40%! — are from nursing homes.

Cuomo sent these infected hospital patients back to the nursing homes because he believed based on the horribly flawed forecasts from the “experts” that he was going to need 140,000 hospital beds. Only New York only ended up needing 19,000 hospital beds. As a result the hospital ship that Donald Trump brought up to New York and almost the entire Javits Convention Center, which was converted to a hospital, wasn’t necessary to use. (Pop up hospitals have been taken down all over the country without treating a single patient because of these same forecasts).

I think Cuomo panicked and fell victim to the media fear porn, leading to (probably) tens of thousands of additional deaths in his state than would have occurred if he’d just left the nursing home patients in the hospitals. (Right now New York acknowledges there were thousands of nursing home deaths, but they later moved many of these patients back to hospitals and aren’t counting them as nursing home patient deaths now. If Pennsylvania’s nursing home deaths are around 70%, why wouldn’t the same be true for New York?

This is an unmitigated disaster by Andrew Cuomo that was caused by the errant models.

Yet, amazingly, Cuomo has an 80% approval rating in the country and in his state!

He literally made the most deadly — and worst — decision by any governor in the 21st century, by far, and the media is so powerful in this country he’s being rewarded for it. Worse than that governors like Brian Kemp in Georgia and Ron DeSantis in Florida have been raked over the coals for the decisions they’ve made despite the fact that the death rate in their states is infinitely lower.

Why is the rate infinitely lower?

Because they didn’t follow the lead of Cuomo in New York and send sick patients back into nursing homes. If you look at the highest death rates in this country: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey — all of them have Democratic governors who followed the lead of Cuomo and sent sick patients back into nursing homes.

Granted this decision was made in a fear-laden environment — and I certainly don’t think Cuomo had ill intentions, I think he was trying to do his best under the circumstances — but by the time New York did this we already had the precedent from Washington State, where we had our initial outbreak in this country in a nursing home, to know that nursing homes were uniquely susceptible to this virus.

So how in the world did he ever make this decision?

It’s just incredible incompetence.

Imagine the media coverage if a Republican governor in a red state had done this? They’d be calling for him to be charged with murder. But Cuomo does it and hardly anyone notices. It’s mind-boggling.

I feel like I’m living in an upside down world when the media is praising these governors for their leadership and the data clearly reflects that their decisions have been awful and caused tens of thousands of nursing home deaths that otherwise might not have happened.

Finally, Senator Toomey told us on Outkick that kids should be playing little league baseball and softball this summer because kids are 20x as likely to die of the seasonal flu as they are to die of the coronavirus. And as if that weren’t enough, he also told us kids rarely, if at all, spread the virus to adults.

Now let’s dive into the Friday mailbag.

Tons of you wanted to ask about NFL and college football attendance this fall.

Blazer writes:

“What impact do you think the virus will have on attendance at college football games as a whole? Do you expect some dropoff in attendance?”

Marty writes:

“Do you think fans should be allowed and will there be fans?”

G. Lee writes:

“Curious your thoughts of the upcoming college football season in regards to people in stands. UCF AD said this week they have a $30 million problem if no fans in stands. Figure the big programs will find a way financially but what about the smaller programs if no or limited fans?”

First, let’s note how quickly the conversation has shifted from will there be NFL and college football games this fall to how many fans will be able to watch these games? We’ve just blown right past the debate on whether games would happen in the past couple of weeks after months of some people arguing football wouldn’t be played at all.

So it’s important to realize how quickly discussion points can change, particularly as it pertains to games that are still 14 weeks away.

Heck, you’ll remember that Mike Gundy was lambasted by most in the national media for suggesting players would be back working out on campus in June. Now, guess what, players will be back working out in June on campus. Gundy was 100% right. But the media crushed him for his comments about returning to normalcy when he said them a month ago. (I endorsed his comments, by the way, because I saw nothing wrong with them).

It’s wild.

Second, the idea I’d float to get as many fans in the stadium as possible is this — what if the NFL and college football cited the CDC data and requested that only fans fifty and under attend games this fall and that everyone who attends wear a mask in school or team colors? (I don’t see wearing a mask at a football game as being that different than wearing other team attire like jerseys and hats to support teams. Although I am afraid that if we require masks in stadiums that many places, in the South especially, might see a huge rise in heat stroke in September day games. Think about it, if you’re sitting in the hot sun with a mask covering your face, what are the chances fans start passing out from heat stroke in greater numbers than normal? I think they’re pretty high, honestly.)

The recently released CDC data clearly reflects that if you are under fifty you are under greater danger of dying from the flu than the coronavirus. We have never in my lifetime limited attendance to sporting events based on the flu. So why should fans under fifty not be able to attend games this fall, especially if we continue to restrict access to nursing homes?

Now I don’t know whether people who are over fifty would acquiesce to this request — and I know there are many people over fifty in far better health than people in their twenties — but that seems like a policy that could allow full stadiums if fans and teams would embrace it for a season.

Lacking that option I think the most likely outcome is fans in luxury suites can come to the game — there’s natural social distancing that happens when twenty or so people are isolated in one suite with their own bathrooms, food and walls — as opposed to circulating around the stadium. Plus, and this is key from a business perspective, those are the most lucrative seats in the stadium so you want those filled.

Then I think you could set up a policy where you fill a quarter of the seats in the stadium. You could assign season ticket holders the right to attend one fourth of their usual games to evenly distribute access. That would allow you to probably make roughly half of your usual seating revenue. (I don’t know the exact dollar figures, but I’m thinking luxury suites have to represent at least 25% of the overall stadium seat revenue.)

If you really wanted to get aggressive you could refund all season ticket holders for the year and quadruple the prices you charge for those seats based on the idea that those seats are now more valuable. Would 25% of your fans pay four times as much to attend all the games?

I have season tickets right now to Titans games.

Would I pay four times as much money for my seats if I knew no one else would be sitting around me? Honestly, yes, I would.

If there are enough people like me who would be willing to do the same NFL and college teams might be able to produce close to a similar amounts of attendance revenue with only a quarter of the seats in a stadium filled.

Regardless, I think the discussion about fan attendance is far more complex than about whether the games will be played or not. Whether games will be played is a yes or no question, it’s binary. Whether fans will be in attendance — and how they’ll be there — is a multi-variable equation with many complicated parts.

Good luck being in charge of donor relations in a college stadium and telling someone they don’t get seats for the year because they didn’t donate enough to the college. Especially if they barely miss the cut off point. Can you imagine how many, “SO YOU WANT ME TO DONATE MONEY TO THE SCHOOL AND NOT GIVE ME TICKETS!” calls you will get.

I actually feel sorry for these people already.

The reason I like the idea of charging more for tickets is because it eliminates the difficulty of deciding who gets to go to the games. The answer is pretty straightforward — if you are willing to pay a much higher price than someone else, you can go.

I was curious about what the response to this would be so I polled my audience.

I’m not really surprised at the responses here because people always complain and are indignant when you ask them if they would pay more than they expect to pay for something.

But the online ticket broker marketplace shows us that many people will pay far more than face value when it comes to desirable tickets. If you tell someone tickets are going to be $50 and then you suddenly raise the price to $200, they’re upset and claim they won’t pay. But if you sell out at $50 and tell someone who doesn’t have a $50 ticket that it’s going to cost $200 to attend an event, a huge number of people will pay $200 to attend the event.

My bet is that many fans would end up paying far more than four times the normal price to get in stadiums with reduced capacity.

Why do I bet that? Because have you seen what tickets cost online — they do it already!

I understand there would be criticism over charging more for tickets, but if stadiums aren’t at full capacity then there’s going to be criticism no matter what teams do. They can charge the existing prices, but they’ll lose billions of dollars in revenue. Or they can charge more and try to make that money back.

As a business person, I’d charge more and try to make my money back.

It’s not like I get to pay players less in the NFL, at least not yet.

Here’s one more complexity, why should families have to social distance in stadiums? I attend games with my kids. Why should there need to be seats between me and my kids in a stadium? Yet how in the world can we expect teams to police this? It’s virtually impossible.

So that could lead to the absurd scenario where I wake up my kids in our house, eat breakfast with them, drive to the Titans stadium in our car, and then have to sit with multiple seats between us at an outdoor game.

I mean that’s just nonsensical.

Which is why I’m on record as saying I think fans should be able to choose whether they attend the games or not.  I’ve said I would go and take my family to games and I think the stadiums are likely to be full.

So I get the fan perspective on being angry if they have to pay more, but if I owned a team and I was told I could only have 25% capacity, I’d refund all the season tickets for the year and raise prices by four times to try and match the usual gate revenue. (I’d also make sure luxury suites were permitted because that’s where a ton of my revenue comes from).

I think it’s easier to explain to someone, “Hey, that’s the price, you don’t have to go,” than it is to try and pick winners and losers when it comes to who gets seats in a reduced capacity stadium.

Pete writes:

“When are we going to get the “official” number of deaths related to covid as opposed to this incorrect number given all over the news?”

The number I care about is how many people died who would still be alive if the coronavirus had never existed. Because that’s the real death number.

There’s zero doubt that for elderly people out there the coronavirus may well have led them to die sooner, or expedited their death in association with other co-morbidities, but how many people actually died this year of the coronavirus who otherwise wouldn’t have died this year? And how much of that death was accelerated into a quicker time span? In other words, New York City clearly had an excess amount of deaths in March and April relative to historical averages.

But does that mean that deaths for the rest of the year will decline in New York City because many people who were close to death died a few months more quickly than they otherwise would have because of the coronavirus? I think that seems likely when you look at the data on who died.

So timing is in play here, but co-morbidies are big here too. The average person dying of the coronavirus in New York City had four listed co-morbidities. If someone has heart disease, cancer, and liver failure and then also contracts the coronavirus, did the coronavirus really kill them? Or did it just work together with those other causes to maybe cause a death a couple of months sooner than it otherwise might have happened?

Right now there’s a predisposition to count many deaths as coronavirus in our data. Consider this story from Seattle. Five people have been shot and killed and counted as coronavirus deaths in Washington state.

Now are stories like these extreme outliers or are they representative of coronavirus deaths being attributed to anything that can be remotely connected to the coronavirus?

We just don’t know yet.

Until we actually see the total number of deaths in 2020 and can compare that with past years I don’t think we’ll really have any clue how many people the coronavirus alone killed.

But I continue to believe it’s unlikely the year-end death totals in 2020 are going to look that much different than the past several years of death totals.

Remember, 2.8 million people die every year, 7500 every day, 50,000 every week. Right now the coronavirus death numbers, even if we accept all of them as valid, are just 3.5% of the overall deaths in the average year in the country.

Will writes:

“Do you think FL and AZ sending invites to sports teams in shut down states saying they could relocate temporarily to play spurred those states to reopen sports quicker? States like CA quickly changed their tunes after that when it came to allowing sports to reopen.”

Yes, 100% that had an impact.

The great thing thing about market based economies is they adjust pretty rapidly when the market changes.

If someone is competing with you and they offer a better deal than you do then you have to adjust your own business behavior. It’s survival of the economic fittest.

That’s why Las Vegas opening is likely to have a big impact on Los Angeles. You’re going to have a ton of people in Los Angeles driving to Las Vegas, staying in hotels, gambling, and then they’re going to go back home and ask why their state is still on lockdown if they can do all that in Las Vegas.

I already saw this happen here in my hometown of Nashville.

The city of Nashville (Davidson County to be exact) stayed closed down while many suburban communities in other counties opened up. You could drive 15 minutes outside of downtown Nashville and eat in a restaurant, go to a gym, shop in a store, and all of Nashville was still shut down with none of these available options. That was nonsensical.

Many people rightly asked why the rules were this different, why some businesses were open and thriving while others were shut down, based on a few miles of difference.

Eventually Nashville had to move to adopt the same rules as the rest of the state.

One of the most absurd examples of this disparate treatment right now, I’m told, is in Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia where a street divides the two states, one side of the street is in Tennessee and the other side of the street is in Virginia. The Tennessee businesses were open for weeks before the Virginia businesses were able to open.

And they are on the same street!

What sense does this make at all?

Either it’s safe for us to end the shutdown — and the data clearly suggests it is and has been for months — or it’s not safe for us to end the shutdown. There’s no barrier to restrict travel between states — ironically enough maybe some Democrats now want walls — and so the rules should be pretty much the same nationwide.

Ultimately what I believe you will see is once states open up, other states have to follow, it’s like dominoes. Whatever your neighbor state does ends up being what you do, sooner rather than later.

That’s why I expect for the shutdown to mostly be over across the entire country by mid-June.

Thanks for reading Outkick. I hope you guys have fantastic Memorial Day weekends.

I’ll be down on the beaches in Florida.

Go live your lives!

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