With No Fans in the Seats, Do Sports Remain Must-Watch TV? – The New York Times

With No Fans in the Seats, Do Sports Remain Must-Watch TV? – The New York Times

Share with us, in the form at the end of this article, your personal experiences of watching sports live.

As mainstream sports begin to return during the coronavirus pandemic, social distancing will be vital. Filling a stadium to capacity would be reckless and probably lethal. At the same time, that barren game five years ago raises doubts about whether sports can fully sustain our devotion, or maintain their television audiences, if played for many weeks or months in front of empty seats.

Sure, social media, gambling and fantasy leagues stir fan interest. U.F.C., NASCAR, golf, German soccer and some other sports are holding competitions without fans on hand. And baseball leagues in South Korea and Taiwan have found early-season television audiences despite empty stadiums. But without live spectators for an extended period, traditional games risk being reduced to mathematics with trading cards, especially once the novelty of sports’ return wears off.

For those watching on television, spectators are necessary surrogates. They provide jersey-wearing pageantry, face-painted tribalism and adrenaline for the players. Their responses of jubilation and anguish verify our passionate responses. Their voices become our soundtrack, collectively rising in anticipation, thunderously exhaling in joy or disapproval. And they reinforce the belief that we can directly influence the outcome of a game with our loyalty and howling presence.

The optics would be “a little gladiator-like,” said Rick Gentile, a former longtime executive at CBS Sports who directs a sports poll at Seton Hall University’s business school.

“This isn’t the way you want to make history,” Chris Davis, the Orioles first baseman, said that day.

But bullpen phones could be heard ringing more than 400 feet from the dugouts. And players could hear the voices of broadcasters while on the field. This only heightened the feeling of vacancy.

Scores will be kept. Winners and losers will be declared. But without fans, the games might soon feel sterile.

Joseph, the former Orioles catcher who is now with Toronto, told The Athletic during spring training that he could not imagine playing again without being caffeinated by a crowd. He compared the 2015 game to a coffee withdrawal “and kind of being dependent on that energy — and then out of nowhere it’s gone.”

We’d like to hear from you. When was your last significant moment at a live sporting event, either professional, scholastic or recreational? Does being there really matter?

Please share a photo or a video that you captured at a recent sporting event that resonated with you personally. How does it feel to look back at your memories?

This content was originally published here.

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