The moon’s gravity would make some sports infeasible, others would be more entertaining, and it would open the doors for new kinds of games we could create. One thing for certain, broadcasting the first lunar sports on ESPN would attract a lot of eyeballs.
On moon to stay, we often discuss the economics of the moon being a foundation. Economics enables everything else we do there to be long term sustainable. While it would be nice to think in simple terms like single industry towns where everyone is either directly or in-directly working for the same single mining company or industry. Such communities are historically unstable, they experience hard boom and bust cycles that go along with external fluctuations of the global markets. The solution to this is to diversify – to get as many diverse sets of interests involved, to export a diverse set of products, and to integrate with a diverse set of industries and companies.
Sports is a huge market to the tune of 1.3 Trillion annually. Each year advertisers in the USA spend approximately $40B on sporting related ads. Fans will go to extreme lengths to support their favorite teams and there are a lot of them. Over half the population in USA is an NFL Fan, not to mention, hockey, soccer or olympic sport fans.
There is an opportunity once we get people on the moon to start having sporting competitions. Sports would add another level of potential revenue for the space program, one that not too many people have explored the possibilities of yet.
One can imagine that once we get about a dozen people on the moon at a time, we could have some gimmicky sporting events like a high jump competition or short sprinting races. Broadcast rights to this could be sold to the traditional sport broadcasting companies worldwide rather that what has become the norm for space events these days to be streamed for free on YouTube. Taking the route of commercializing this aspect of space would allow thousands of new people to inject their own visions for marketing, promoting and broadcasting these events. The promotion would reach more than the science nuts that follow the space industry and start to tap into the massive global market of sports fans.
This would be fertile ground for experimentation. Hundreds of media companies around the world find their own way to frame a sports event to make it exciting – with panels of commentators, blooper reels, stats, post game analysis and player interviews. Selling the rights would open ways for hundreds of millions of people globally to catch the events in a way that caters to local markets, languages and interests.
Hundreds of millions of new viewers would be a source of interest and money for investing into the growth of a lunar sports aspect of the space economy.
Eventually, one can imagine that legit professional athletes would fly to the moon to partake.
What sports would or wouldn’t be practical on the moon?
Allen Sheppard famously snuck a golf club to the moon on an Apollo mission. He was the first person to play golf off the earth, and technically he set the record for the longest distance drive (not officially measured) but it is estimated that sheppard hit the ball over a mile. For someone who gets a bit more practice swinging a golf club on the moon, the ball could travel 2.5 miles or more with an “airtime” of more than a minute. The time to drive the golf cart to find the ball however, would make a round of 18 holes impractical.
Likewise, baseball might be difficult to keep inside of a reasonably sized baseball diamond. Though if playing indoors, it might be adaptable with using a lightweight wiffle ball. If there were enough people and space to play a proper game of baseball it would be quite a spectacle featuring amazing jumps to catch flyballs, and jumping over other players to steal bases!
The thought of a game of basketball in space boggles the mind. If players are able to adapt to being able to run and dribble a ball, it would set the stage for some jaw dropping dunks. 10ft nets may be a little to low for lunar gravity.
American Football would be a fantastic game to play in space if we built an indoor field large enough. The low gravity would add an entire new dimension to the game and result in some creative new strategies and plays. Imaging the quarterback jumping over an opponent!
European football/soccer would benefit from some of the same low gravity benefits. Giant leaps, and spectacular bicycle kicks.
Other sports might have equally amazing opportunity to capture our fascination. Entirely new tricks would need to be named in figure skating, gymnastics, skateboarding and freestyle biking. Olympic sports would need new categories for lunar records.
What about your favorite sport? Would it translate to the moon? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
For a moment let’s return to consider how this would affect the business of space. Nothing is easier to export than information and transmitting video of people playing sports would be one of the easiest ways to bring the moon back to earth. By tapping into potentially hundreds of millions of people who are not interested in following the comings and goings of what we do in space, more people will find something that we do there worth supporting.
By opening up the broadcast for commercial re-broadcasting the eyeballs can be more effectively monetized. Advertising dollars can work up from regional and national TV and radio channels. This would allow thousands of people all around the world to have a financial interest in making lunar sports a popular success.
NASA is not going to be working on making this happen. They’re interested in doing science, not hiring sales people to negotiate licensing deals. This needs to be done independantly by a new organization – lets call it the LSL – Lunar Sports Legue. It would play a role similar to the NFL or the Olympic Comittee to set the rules of what to play, how to film it, script the ad breaks and make deals with sports media companies to carry it.
The timing is still too early for starting the LSL. But it seems inevitable that at some point in our future this will happen and it will be a billion dollar business.