Roy Fuoco | When we talk of when or how sports will resume, there's often a dismissive tone -- oh, it's just sports.
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If you're on Facebook, you've seen the memes praising doctors, nurses, other heath-care workers and those in the food industry as being essential. And no doubt, they deserve a lot of praise and respect.
The unfortunate side effect is often these memes have a disparaging coda on how celebrities, actors and athletes are non-essential.
When we talk of when or how sports will resume, there's often a dismissive tone -- oh, it's just sports.
Obviously as society tries to get back to normal, the safety of everyone needs to be considered, regardless of what industry we are talking about. That goes without saying. But you have to say it anyway because too many people like to twist words and meaning to suit their own political agenda.
As we try to return things to normal, sports should be as high as anything on the list. Sports has its tentacles into perhaps more parts of the economy than any other industry. To say sports is not essential -- try telling that to the millions of people whose livelihood is dependent sports and recreational activities.
When I'm talking sports, I'm not simply talking about professional leagues. I'm holding a big umbrella covering a lot of ground.
There are youth and recreation sports, travel ball, club sports, AAU, high school, college, professional sports and adult leagues in all sports and recreational activities. There’s baseball, softball, football, hockey, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, golf, auto racing, horse racing, fishing, hunting, bowling, skating, gymnastics, skiing (water and snow) and many more. They range from Major League Baseball to beer league softball, from the professional bowling tour to family fun night at the local bowling alley, from Olympic skiing to ski resorts, from the Tour de France to the tour de neighborhood.
The economic impact from sports and recreational activities is vast.
There are thousands of youth complexes and high school facilities across the nation along with college and pro facilities. At all these sites, there are concession stands selling a simple menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn and soda, to more elaborate menus at college and pro arenas. Even a couple thousand dollars a season at thousands of youth complexes in just one sports season turns into millions of dollars.
All this food has to be produced by farmers, and sent to meat packers and food processors.
Every sport and recreational activity has uniforms and equipment -- balls, bats, sticks, clubs, pads, helmets, and on and one -- and don't get me started on footwear. Again, raw materials need to be produced and all these products need to be made.
All this food and equipment needs to be shipped to wholesalers and retailers, so now we're talking about the trucking industry, which buys trucks from automakers, which buy steel, rubber, etc. to build the trucks, which stops at truck stops and gas stations for fuel and food.
Are you starting to get the picture?
All these companies in this chain employ accountants, bookkeepers, sales people along with other white-collar workers in management and blue-collar employees who work in warehouses and production lines or are drivers. Of course, there are other industries and workers that support the businesses like janitorial and cleaning services, which buy supplies, and office supply companies.
At pro and college level mostly, sporting events are televised so now we're talking about on-air talent, cameramen, producers directors and all the behind-the scenes talent. Televised events are supported by advertising, so now we get to ad agencies and the creative staff involved in producing commercials.
There are gyms, trainers, therapists, sports nutritionists and doctors who specialize in sports medicine. Of course, there are lawyers and agents too.
How many students go to college because of the athletics -- many who otherwise wouldn't go? And there's a whole industry that benefits in helping the student-athlete.
All this sports and recreational activity, especially the travel-club-AAU circuit, have an impact on the hotel industry, which employs thousands of workers.
Restaurants, too, benefit from the travel involved in sports. The development of cable and satellite TV in the '80s (along with the Buffalo wing) created the sports bar, family-oriented restaurants that derive much of their business from fans watching sports.
There also are writers, editors and book publishers who derive economic benefits from sports.
I haven’t even mentioned the coaches and the athletes.
Is there a better way to generate this economic activity in so many diverse fields? Sports and recreation helps to create jobs for millions of people who in turn support other industries. Kill sports and watch the dominoes fall.
And I haven't even begun to talk about the non-economic benefit of sports and recreation like the health benefits, the sense of community and the positive impact on kids.
I can already hear the cynics out there readying their laundry lists of negatives about sports -- fans who take sports too seriously, cheating scandals, drug scandals, gambling, etc.
Well, guess what? Welcome to the real world. Name a profession or industry without similar lists. It's called the human experience.
Are there jobs that are more important? Sure, first responders, or anyone on the front line of the pandemic should be revered.
However, if the goal is for society to return to normal, sports will play a huge role.
So it’s not just sports.
Roy Fuoco can be reached at email@example.com or at 863-802-7526. Follow him on Twitter: @Roy Fuoco.