The National Basketball Association is in a similar position to Major League Baseball, with play suspended and no time set for play to continue. Of course, their situation is a bit different — their season was about 80 percent complete when the novel coronavirus pandemic shut them down and they’re now trying to figure out if they can resume, when, where, and if they might go right to their playoffs.
This ESPN.com article laid out some of the possibilities for the NBA, including playing at single sites such as Orlando or Las Vegas, much as MLB is considering Arizona or Arizona/Florida. What interested me most, and what was most relevant to baseball, was this:
Amid the pandemic, sources say, fan-less games could rely on robotic cameras with closer, innovative angles of the action. Television play-by-play and game analysts could call the games from remote locations. Discussions have included teams keeping essential personnel in the range of 30 to 35 — including players — on site.
First, NBA teams are smaller than MLB squads, about half the size. But even that would be about 25 people, more if you include coaches. So the NBA is apparently considering a far smaller number of people than would generally be considered necessary to put on a baseball game.
Still, perhaps MLB could limit the size of the necessary personnel to 100 or so if they eliminated the entire TV crew on-site. Robotic cameras — such as the one pictured at the top of this post — could have feeds sent to control rooms at remote facilities. This is undoubtedly the way the NFL Draft was televised, with feeds from the various participants’ homes sent to a control room where they were integrated.
The games would look different, no doubt. Robotic cameras don’t have the speed or ability to react as quickly as a human camera operator would for a baseball game, or indeed any sporting event. But for a way to cover the games live without having to have a full production crew on-site would help limit possible exposure to the virus and reduce the number of people who would have to be tested.
I would also assume that no media would be allowed in the empty ballparks. Credentialed media could do pre- and post-game interviews through some sort of secure video channel, and perhaps the players could be mic’d up during games in the empty stadiums.
Let’s hope this is something MLB is considering as they try to figure out how a 2020 season can be put together. It’ll be different. But it will be baseball.