People change slowly. Think about your habits, your systems, and your patterns. Without a cause, most of us change very little even though we understand we aren’t fully optimized.
What probably has happened is that we’ve settled on a certain outcome in a range of outcomes that feels okay. Because people are relative thinkers, they find something slightly worse or better and compare themselves to that. In his Cowen Convo, Hal Varian thought people envied their prosperous neighbor more than a distant billionaire. And, because people tend to become more affluent over time, we can always compare how much better things are now. As a high school kid there were many times I only bought five dollars worth of gas.
We don’t change because change takes work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Good changes come from creativity and a cause. One silver-lining of March 2020 is ample cause:
“A friend of mine who works for ESPN was telling me that the whole concept of televising sporting events with hundreds of people, with broadcast teams flying in for the games, maybe can’t happen anymore. They might have to use people on the ground for the games. I think there’s a creativity level that has to go way up.” – Bill Simmons podcast, 3/11/2020.
Before leagues cancelled games and suspended seasons there was shock—shock I tell you!—at playing in empty gyms. Before we get worked up we can ask, does this already happen? Kinda, and the answer is staring us in the face: mascots.
Sports has acknowledged and embraced the fact that in-person games are not pure entertainment. The last baseball stadium I was in had a playground for kids. During my internship in minor-league baseball I passed up the chance (another story) to be the on-field entertainment. Half-court-shots-to-win-book-for-the-semester-money are part of every college season.
Live sports acknowledged the fluff and did good work to solve for it. Streaming just the games makes sense.
There’s also potential for redoing the broadcasts. What if there was an API where fans could comment on their own? What if the NBA offered a game to Twitch with comments? What if players were mic’d up? “The whole concept for how this stuff is covered will have to change,” said Simmons.
It’ll be different, and maybe even better.
Asking does this exists in some form is a great way to remind ourselves that nothing is permanent. The NBA was founded, is thriving, but will also cease to exist again. For sports or any business, March 2020 will force operators to ask ‘why do we do things this way?’ One helpful trail will be to ask how working from home, social distancing, or productive Twitter are already successfully accomplished. Someone has already addressed your problem, go find that solution.