BOSTON (CBS) — The biggest story in sports right now involves the consideration of major leagues to either play games in empty arenas or cancel/postpone games altogether in the face of fears of spreading the coronavirus.
While it’s a lesser concern, the broadcasts may end up being affected, too. And considering those may be the only way that fans can actually see the games, it figures to be a fairly significant consideration.
Celtics television play-by-play announcer Mike Gorman was a guest on Toucher & Rich on Tuesday morning, and he said that at NBC Sports Boston, discussions have taken place regarding a limitation on travel for the announcing team and the entire television crew operation.
“Lots of that talk has been [happening]. I don’t think the TV crews will go to away games, would be my guess,” Gorman said. “Boston would take the Indiana feed of the guys doing the game for Indiana, and that would be televised in Boston. And then when the Celtics have home games played in front of empty arenas, an empty TD Garden, our feed would be the one that goes out to everybody that wants to take it. I don’t think they’ll travel, TV crews.”
As for the likelihood of having games take place in arenas without fans, Gorman said he spoke to “someone in the league office” who anticipated they will become a reality.
“I think we’re gonna be playing games in empty arenas pretty soon — sooner than people think,” Gorman said. “I think each one of the leagues — the NHL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball, who will all be in operation during the next couple of weeks — they don’t want to be the first ones to have some disaster turn out on their hands. If they’re canceling St. Patrick’s Day parades and canceling the whole country of Italy, then they can cancel a Celtics basketball game.
“I think nobody wants to be the team that is associated with some sort of an outbreak of this,” Gorman added. “The Celtics will follow the league policy, I think. I talked with someone in the league office recently, and I said, ‘What’s the over-under for number of games that are going to be played before the end of the year in front of empty buildings?’ And I said a number, let’s say five. And without missing a beat, he looked at me and said, ‘Over.'”
Gorman said that the area where Celtics players typically sign autographs before games is no longer used for that purpose, and he said that he’s become less inclined to interact with fans the way he always has.
“My concern level is high, and I think a lot of it has to do with … at the Celtics game the other night, a lot of people come walking by the table. They want to say nice things, which are very flattering, about how long they’ve listened. And they stick out their hand to shake hands, and I just don’t want to shake hands with anybody anymore. It’s nothing personal, but I’m just trying to cut down the odds of being the one who gets this thing,” Gorman said. “It’s such a changing thing. Every day you turn on the news and there are new stories. One day they’re saying, well we’ve got this thing contained. Then some other story breaks out that it’s not even close to contained. I don’t think it’s contained and I don’t think we have any idea how many people are carrying the [virus] in our country right now.”
As for a timeline, Gorman is convinced some major changes could be coming quickly.
“I think it’s day to day. I think the NBA, Adam Silver and his corresponding people in Major League Baseball and the NHL are talking on the phone every day. And they’re going to make a united move, I think they’re going to make a united move,” Gorman said. “And I think that will happen in a week to 10 days. At the most. If things keep going the way they’re going.”
Host Rich Shertenlieb posed the possibility of Gorman and either Brian Scalabrine or Tommy Heinsohn broadcasting road games from a remote location, a setup with Gorman said he would prefer over traveling.
“Yeah I would prefer that. I think, yeah, I would prefer that. I think we’re going to get to that before too long. I just think we’re going to get there,” Gorman said. “People want to wish this virus away — like, our president seems to want to wish this virus away. That’s just not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. So we’re going to have to deal with it accordingly.”