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Changes Coming in Sports World

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April 3, 2020

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The Minnesota Twins’ 2020 home opener was to have been played yesterday at Target Field against the Oakland A’s. Of course, it wasn’t and schedules for athletics on every level have come to a halt because of the coronavirus and all its implications. What can we anticipate in the months ahead?

There is speculation the Twins and their Major League brethren will start the 2020 season in July. However, there is no certainty on a timeline, nor is there as to whether teams will play in empty stadiums without fans. There is so much frustration among the public from the absence of live televised sports, the return of MLB or other sports will prompt a ratings bonanza.

An explosion in TV viewership will be fueled even more if sports like baseball become (for awhile at least) “studio television.” Geez, will they even use a soundtrack with crowd noise including a few “Bronx cheers”?

When crowds are invited back into stadiums and arenas, what will that look like? Imagine fans crowding the gates again at Target Field or U.S. Bank Stadium to watch the Vikings? Could the new norm be to herd fans into smaller groups and then allow them through security?

Even if the choice is there, who is going to attend games later this year or next year? A good guess is older fans will be reluctant to fill seats until the all-safe message rolls out regarding the coronavirus including a vaccine. The most gung-ho demographic figures to be teens and young adults. After all, part of their DNA screams, “We are invincible!”

Patrick Klinger

Patrick Klinger is the former vice president of marketing for the Twins and still lives in the Twin Cities where he is president of Agile Marketing Partners. During his many years with the Twins, Klinger was known for his innovative promotions, events and marketing that enhanced the fan experience at the Metrodome and Target Field.

Klinger is an optimist, but also a realist who understands the sports and entertainment public. He believes when American sports resume there will be a great appreciation for the impact they have on our lives. He shared several other thoughts about what could lie ahead in the American sports environment in an email yesterday. The email was edited for publication below:

“I believe there will be a contingent of fans reluctant to go back into arenas, ballparks and stadiums (where strangers sit shoulder to shoulder) until there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, or an assurance that the crisis has completely passed. We’ve learned that ‘social distancing’ is the key to containing the spread of viruses. Sports attendance is unlikely to snap right back. However, I do believe it WILL come back in full force in time.

“I’m sure teams, leagues and venues are considering how to ensure fans are safe and comfortable when they return. Will a fan still be able (or want) to get a hot dog passed from a vendor through the hands of six strangers before it lands with the customer? Will concession stands still be manned by volunteers or part-timers with no professional experience with food service? If so, will they be required to wear masks?

“Will venues be completely wiped down with anti-bacterial solution following every game, a special challenge for MLB with its long homestands? Will additional hand washing stations and/or hand sanitizer be placed throughout the venues? There is also the need to keep high-priced players safe in the close confines of locker rooms and dugouts where sweat and spit is ubiquitous.

“We’ll likely think twice before high-fiving the person next to us after a home run, touchdown or game winning basket or goal. Just another way sports may look and feel different when the games begin again.”

Worth Noting

The opening pitch for yesterday’s Twins’ home opener was supposed to be 3:10 p.m. The temperature at that time was 60 degrees, with overcast skies, per AccuWeather. The coldest temp ever for a Twins opener was 33 degrees at Metropolitan Stadium April 14, 1962.

Viking wide receiver Adam Thielen’s foundation is partnering with KFAN and iHeart Radio Minneapolis to host the Thielen Foundation MN COVID-19 Relief Radiothon April 9. Programming throughout the day will feature Thielen on-air from his home with call-ins by Minnesota athletes, coaches, team executives and community leaders. Campaign donations will be equally divided between four charities and applied to their most urgent COVID-19 needs. The foundation has already committed $100,000 to organizations in need during the state’s crisis.

Former Golden Gophers head football coach Tim Brewster, long known as a top recruiter, will have an impact on the University of Florida’s success where he joined the Gators’ staff of assistants in February. Brewster left North Carolina for Florida, and the Tar Heels are No. 4 in the 247Sports recruiting rankings for the class of 2021. The Gators are No. 3.

The Gophers are No. 20 in the rankings.

State of Minnesota college hockey fans have reason to follow the April 10 announcements of the Hobey Baker and Mike Richter awards. Hibbing’s Scott Perunovich, a junior defenseman from UMD, is one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award recognizing the nation’s top college player. Minnesota State’s Dryden McKay, an Illinois native, is one of the five finalists for the Mike Richter Award given to college hockey’s top goalie.

I tweeted this “gem” on Wednesday: “Anyone remember in 1998 when on April Fools’ Day Burger King introduced ‘left-handed whoppers?’ ” (Sure hope nobody tried to order a “lefty” at BK drive-thru this week).

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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