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Effects of Coronavirus Push MLB Opening Day Ratings Through The Roof

The Yankees-Nationals was the highest-rated MLB regular-season game on ESPN in the New York market since 2015.

They say if you starve a person who loathes apple sauce, after two weeks of being famished that person will devour applesauce as if it’s a USDA prime steak. 

COVID-19 has starved the world of its sports fix and at this point, most fans…most people… have exhausted sports classic reruns, Netflix and other movie apps. Some have even watched Game of Thrones, The Wire and The Sopranos all over again — twice. 

With MLB being the first of the major sports to pop off since the sports world was shutdown back in March — despite real fans being replaced by cardboard cutouts and fake fan noise blowing in the wind — millions of people tuned in to watch the Yankees and Nationals set off the 60-game, 2020 season.

MLB Opening Day benefitted from the effects of COVID-19 and a lack of sports programming averaging 4 million viewers according to the Nielsen ratings. In fact, it was the most-watched regular-season game on any network in 9 years. 

The fact that the No. 1 winning brand in sports was playing against the World Champions helped corral viewers as well. Flagship brands and the stars that lead them were out on full display. 

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, the recipient of a 9-year, $324 million bag as a free agent in December, started the game against perennial All-Star Max Scherzer. Giancarlo Stanton bashed a homer. It was a perfect storm. 

The social justice messages that MLB players are sending by respectfully kneeling before the anthem and exhibiting racial unity are also drawing eyes to the game, and creating some controversy. 

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Every player on the @nationals and @yankees took a knee last night. @mlb is all in. Let’s end racial and social injustice

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The Last Dance documentary broke ESPN viewing records by taking advantage of the fact that everyone was home quarantining, businesses were shut down, schools were closed and there was not an organized sport being played on any level in 99 percent of the country (The Ozarks in Missouri, had youth baseball going on in April)

The fact that the season is also a 60-game sprint, rather than a 162-game marathon totally changes the value of a single game and makes every game a must watch rather than a maybe. 

The numbers might change in a week when the NBA blasts off inside the bubble and sports eyes wander to LeBron and AD. But for those who once looked at MLB as the apple sauce of their lives, these first games of the 2020 season will taste, smell, and fill your sports belly like steak. 

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