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Playing Without Fans

17 June 2020 Views From The Booth Sports

Winchester Printers

Greetings From The Booth!

As of this writing (June 17th), we are no closer to having a Major League baseball season. Both sides have dug in their heels and holding firm on their positions: the players aren’t willing to take any further pay cuts beyond what they agreed to in March, while the owners say they will lose billions by playing games without fans.

There is an arrogance here that defies reason. There’s an assumption that should there be no 2020 season, fans will come back in droves in 2021. Baseball obviously hasn’t learned from it’s 1994 debacle. I’ve said before, the optics aren’t good on these back-and-forth proposals in the midst of a pandemic and economic turmoil. Someone said on TV yesterday that the two sides should be able to divide their billions and have a season. The long term damage isn’t worth the short term haggling. Baseball better get something done, and soon.

Today I wanted to weigh in on sports without fans. I will admit that I’ve changed my tune in these past weeks. I’ve tried to watch NASCAR without fans. I’ve tried to watch Korean baseball with empty stands. And I took a glance or two at the PGA Tour last weekend without a gallery (I did laugh at the players who waved at an imaginary crowd after sinking putts last week). I’ve genuinely tried.

But I can’t. it’s like watching practice (Practice?!).

There’s something about a roaring crowd standing as one when the bases are loaded and the count is 3-and-2. There’s no replacement for
a jam-packed Daytona Speedway, even though the roar of the engines drown out the crowd noise. Watching golfers walk down the fairway without a gallery is like watching a couple of guys hit it around on a Sunday at Rock Harbor. It’s not just the sound, it’s the look.

Let me put it like this. Imagine Juan Soto crushing a mammoth walk-off home run at Nats Park to win Game 7 of the World Series for the Washington Nationals…in front of no one. Try to picture a game-winning Larry Bird 3-pointer in an empty Boston Garden. Or a Ohio State-Michigan football game in front of no one. A crowd supplies atmosphere and energy that the athletes feed off of. Fans become a vital part of the event itself.

Maybe I’ve become spoiled these last 3 months watching replays of classic games. It’s possible that in the absence of real live sports I’ve lost some interest and found other things that have won my attention. Whatever the reason, for me, a sporting event without fans is like a hot dog without mustard.

By the way, the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest is happening this year, you guessed it…without fans. Say it ain’t so.

Until the next visit from the Booth, be safe, and GO HORNETS!

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