Mark Cuban, famous owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team, Shark Tank judge, you know, VIG—Very Important Guy—told Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd, on The Herd, “I’m no expert, but we need something to get excited about, we need sports….maybe, if the experts say, ‘you can have the playoffs, 20,000 people crammed into an arena, if we spray them down (with industrial strength disinfectant)’.” Did he really say that? I am paraphrasing, but it’s pretty close. He didn’t say “ industrial strength disinfectant” rather he alluded to the movie The Andromeda Strain (1971) and another unnamed movie where radioactivity was the problem, in which a crowd was sprayed down en masse before entering an arena. This speculation was to a sports talk host who earlier had talked about why the NFL is going ahead with the draft, while the NBA playoffs will either remain suspended or played in empty arenas. Before you tune me out because I am writing about sports rather than important issues, read on. Colin, though a sports talk host, is an acute observer of cultural and media trends.
But sports being perhaps the ultimate meritocracy in the world, if we consider compensation for value creation, it’s worth considering his insights. Cuban echoed Colin’s comments about which demographics get their news from which sources. Both of them believe that older people get cable and major networks news, while younger people get news from social media, like Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, etc. Cuban implied that the traditional media have been amplifying the crisis, while social media have been playing up the things young people do, minimizing the crisis. From my own observations, that distinction is more accurate than not. If it really matters where you get your information in ordinary times, how much more in life or death extraordinary times? The connectedness and efficiency of information delivery in our modern world is very much the double edged sword. While I am social distancing in Spokane, I can communicate face to face with my daughters in Seattle via an Echo Show device, or using Zoom teleconferencing on our computers, or FaceTime on our phones. Amazing! The other side of the sword is that it’s equally easy for anyone with an agenda to disseminate a false narrative to masses of people, through retweet’s or Facebook or YouTube. How does that sword divide the NFL fan base from the NBA fan base?
The NFL fan demographic is older, more conservative and more performance-driven than the NBA fan demographic, which is younger and more influenced by Twitter, bling, personalities, social statements. The former tend to watch sports on major networks—CBS, NBC, Fox—while the latter are highlight driven, watching those on Twitter. Daryl Morey’s single tweet about the Hong Kong freedom protests cost the NBA millions, upsetting the Chinese government and driving thousands of tweetstorms. The NFL doesn’t care about Twitter, nor the appearance of social wokeness, but about what their revenue sources—those major networks—want. They want The Draft, because that’s what their demographic wants, and that’s what they will have. NBA fans can keep watching dunks and Shaktin A Fool, even on YouTube or Twitter or TikTok. I don’t think even they will go for being sprayed down en masse to watch a game live.