When Major League Baseball announced a 60-game schedule for this year, they listed rules for minimizing the spread of Covid-19. Banned behaviors include hugs, fist bumps, high fives, and finger licking. While gum is allowed, players cannot spit or chew tobacco or sunflower seeds. The list also explicitly says, “Fights are strictly prohibited.”
As for fans, they were not excluded. At games they could be social distanced or eliminated. Without fans, the $234.38 that a typical family spends on tickets, parking, food, and merchandise will become lost revenue.
It will mean many fewer peanuts and hot dog purchases.
Peanuts and Hot Dogs
We’ve been downing peanuts at ball games since the 1890s.
You might enjoy seeing this video of Roger Owens, the peanut man who did a spot on Johnny Carson. Selling peanuts on the second level, third base side of Dodger Stadium, his pitching techniques were legendary. Do take a look at his behind-the-back toss. The Owens part of the ESPN report starts at 1:24:
If MLB stadiums are empty, then sales of an estimated four to seven million bags of peanuts vanish. Called jumbo Virginias, those nuts are 14 percent of the peanut crop. The news, though, is not all bad. Having already been roasted, some will remain in cold storage but more will be sold by grocers and gas stations. And, at home, kids are eating far more peanuts than they would have at school. So, while a peanut roaster executive predicted stadium demand would disappear (25 percent of March to October sales) peanut butter demand is skyrocketing. As a shelf-stable product, a perfect PB&J lunch for kids, and a food bank staple, year over year peanut butter sales for the same month a year ago are up by as much as 75 percent.
Somewhat similarly, millions of hot dogs will not be eaten during ball games. For Dodger Stadium, the total is about 2.7 million hot dogs–more than one hot dog for every two tickets. But with grocery sales having almost doubled, at home we’ve offset the decline.
Our Bottom Line: Externalities
As economists, we can say that the coronavirus has created a slew of externalities. Defined as the impact of an event or activity on unrelated third parties, externalities from the coronavirus ripple far beyond people who have and have not become ill. They extend to MLB games, to stadium attendance, and to the peanut roasters and stadium concessionaires.
My sources and more: Sports Illustrated and the NY Times are a good starting point for ballpark facts about peanuts and hot dogs. From there, for more on the fans, The Washington Post is a possibility. Meanwhile, MLB had the FAQ on the 2020 season.