😷 Good morning. I'm at a loss for words right now (not good! kind of my job!), but we'll get through this together and I'll see you back here on Monday.
Today's word count: 1,519 words (6 minutes).
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The period of coronavirus complacency came to a dramatic end in the last 48 hours, as the stock market plunged, states issued grim warnings and schools closed their doors.
The big picture: In the time of a pandemic, sports are both insignificant and powerful.
The bottom line: It's in this moment that leagues, commissioners, athletes and other sports figures have the power to lead by example and change the minds of people who lack perspective on this worldwide crisis.
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
There will be no March Madness this year. No shining moments. No Cinderellas. No cutting down the nets. No winning the office bracket pool. No Bill Raftery yelling "Onions!" at the top of his lungs.
Why it matters: While this was the only responsible decision, the ripple effects will be felt throughout the country — from bummed out fans, who will miss one of the biggest sporting events of the year, to the NCAA, which just lost 75% of its annual revenue.
By the numbers: 132 men's and women's teams were set to participate in March Madness, and hundreds more were part of the D-II and D-III tournaments, which had already started.
What they're saying:
"We should all feel for the players first, foremost and perhaps only. They're the reason the tournament exists, they're the reason we coach and compete. They're the reason — period."— Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski
🏀 College hoops: The Power 5 leagues canceled their basketball conference tournaments yesterday, with several indefinitely postponing all athletic events.
🏒 NHL: With roughly a dozen games left in the regular season, the NHL suspended its season indefinitely.
⚾️ MLB: In an announcement that came while spring training games in Florida were still in progress, MLB suspended all remaining spring training games and delayed the start of its regular season by at least two weeks.
⛳️ PGA: After playing the first round of the Players Championship (Hideki Matsuyama tied a course record with a 63) and announcing that the tournament would continue through the weekend with no spectators, the PGA Tour changed course last night and canceled it.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Without live sports for the foreseeable future, it's unclear what networks like ESPN and FS1 will broadcast in those time slots or what they'll talk about on their studio shows and radio programs during the day.
Why it matters: With so many Americans nesting at home, linear TV viewership was expected to spike. But without sports, streaming platforms, video games and other mediums will likely be the big winners instead.
The big picture: A prolonged sports outage could lead to an acceleration in cord-cutting, while also wreaking havoc on the advertising industry.
"One of the only reasons to advertise on TV in 2020 is sports. If sports aren't being played, that's going to be a huge issue for the ad market that could literally lead to a tailspin."— Rich Greenfield, media analyst at LightShed Partners, tells Axios
Between the lines: Given the fluidity of the situation, there are many advertising-related questions that have yet to be answered.
For reference: Last season, regular season broadcasts accounted for 38% of the NBA's total TV ad revenue, while postseason games accounted for 62%. The NHL had similar numbers.
The state of play: ESPN was unable to comment on what their programming will look like without live sports, but here's what was shown on their airwaves yesterday:
The bottom line, per Greenfield:
"Think about the TV ecosystem as a huge Jenga game, which is already under extreme stress. The last piece holding up the whole thing is sports, and in the last 24 hours, you've pulled that piece out for an unknown amount of time."
According to a poll we conducted yesterday in partnership with CivicScience, 54% of American adults said they wouldn't pay for a cable package if it didn't include sports.
The bottom line: If the only reason you had cable was for sports, you may not need cable for a while.
P.S. ... In basically the only non-coronavirus sports story of the day, U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro resigned. See ya!
Kendall "Sad" Baker