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What Would It Be Like to Watch a Game Without a Crowd?

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, there are increasing signs that sporting events taking place in empty arenas and stadiums — something we’ve already seen in Japan and Italy — could soon be coming to North America. Consider:

• ESPN reported on Saturday that the NBA has sent a memo to its teams, advising them to begin preparing for the possibility of closing their gates to fans and having games take place in empty arenas with nothing but “essential staff.”

• Some games in the NCAA’s Division III basketball tourney have already taken place in empty gyms, and the men’s and women’s MAC tournament, which begins today, will be closed to the general public, all of which could be a preview of a fan-free March Madness.

• The NBA, NHL, MLB, and MLS have banned non-essential personnel from their locker rooms, which could be a first step toward playing in empty buildings.

• Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today will announce a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle metro area. Depending on how long the ban lasts, that could force scheduled XFL, MLS, and MLB games to take place without fans in attendance.

In short: A key visual component of a sporting event that we typically take as a given — the live audience — soon may not be a given after all.

(There are also events that have been cancelled or postponed, but that’s a different issue. Today I’m focusing specifically on the possibility of games taking place in empty buildings.)

The NBA memo reportedly said “members of the media” could also be barred from these crowd-free games. It’s not clear whether that would include TV and radio broadcast crews, but I’d have to think that those people would still be on hand. It’s one thing to have a game without an audience, but it’s another to have a game that nobody can see or hear about, right? That would be like the proverbial tree falling in the forest.

So unless we’re advised otherwise, let’s assume for now that there’s a decent chance we could soon see televised games in the NBA, and potentially in other leagues, with no crowds. Television, of course, is how most of us experience most sporting events, so how might the sights and sounds of a televised game without a live audience differ from a traditional game broadcast?

The most obvious issue is that a game taking place in an empty stadium or arena just looks weird. So that would take a bit of getting used to.

The next thing is how the lack of an audience might affect the performance of the players, who are used to an aural backdrop of cheers, boos, and crowd-related white noise. In a perfect world, an athlete would perform at the same level regardless of the setting, but that’s not always the case. When asked last Friday night about the possibility of playing in an empty arena, Lakers star LeBron James said, “Nah, that’s impossible. I ain’t playing. If I ain’t got the fans in the crowd, that’s what I play for. I play for my teammates, I play for the fans. That’s what it’s all about. If I show up to an arena, and there ain’t no fans there? I ain’t playing. So, they could do what they want to do.”

It’s clear that James was speaking more emotionally than rationally, and yesterday he walked back that statement. But his initial response indicates how playing in front of a crowd can become part of a player’s mindset, and how the lack of a crowd could conceivably affect the quality of play.

And players aren’t the only ones who feed off of the crowd. Broadcasters typically sync their rhythms, cadences, and tone to correspond with the audience’s response. So a fan-free game would likely be a challenge for them as well.

Player and broadcaster performance notwithstanding, how else might TV game broadcast in a crowd-free facility with only “essential staff” differ from a traditional broadcast? Here are some implications that I thought of:

• First and foremost: We would not hear any applause or boos. That might sound familiar to anyone who’s made a specialty of watching the first games of twi-night doubleheaders, but for everyone else it would be very strange.

• Home-crowd ritual chants that are usually audible during a game broadcast, like “Let’s Go Mets!” or the Braves’ warpath chant, would no longer take place. Neither, presumably, would the canned audio bursts designed to prompt the crowd’s response (“Everybody clap your hands!”).

• Players often do certain things to acknowledge the fans. A baseball pitcher walking to the dugout after being removed from a game, for example, will sometimes tip his cap; a batter who hits a clutch home run may briefly step out of the dugout for a curtain call; and the three stars of an NHL game will briefly loop onto the ice and often raise their sticks toward the crowd. But those gestures won’t make sense if there’s no crowd, so players will presumably stop making them.

• Similarly, players sometimes wave their arms to encourage the crowd to yell louder (or, in the case of football quarterbacks, sometimes gesture for quiet so their signals can be heard by their teammates). Nobody will be doing that in an empty facility.

• National anthems would presumably have to be presented via recordings, since live performers would not be considered “essential staff.” Also, certain crowd-specific aspects of the anthem, like when the home crowd all yells “Oh!” or when the applause starts during the last few lines of the song, would no longer take place during the broadcast.

• There would be no cheerleaders or dancers.

• There would be no costumed mascots. (Actually, the Japanese baseball team Chunichi Dragons for some reason had their mascot on hand at a recent empty-stadium preseason game, but that seems like an anomaly.)

• The broadcast would not be able to focus on celebrities in the crowd, or on fans wearing crazy outfits or engaging in “wacky” behavior.

• Pregame rituals like baseball’s first pitch or hockey’s celebrity puck drop would presumably no longer take place, since the participants would be deemed non-essential.

• NBA game broadcasts routinely show the home crowd behind the basket trying to distract a visiting player at the free-throw line. In an empty arena, there would presumably be no reason to show that camera angle. (Or maybe they’d make a point of showing it, to demonstrate the contrast between a regular game and a fan-free game. But either way, the experience would be very different from what we’re used to seeing.)

• You can usually hear the P.A. announcer during a TV game broadcast. But if there’s no live audience, there’s no need for a P.A. announcer.

• TV broadcasts tend to periodically show the stadium or arena scoreboard. But if there’s no crowd, would the scoreboard even be operating? Or would they keep it running just so the TV crew could show it from time to time?

• For many years, Yankee Stadium has featured a whistle sound after a visiting player strikes out. That’s an “audio logo” ad for the appliance/electronics retailer P.C. Richard. You can sometimes hear it in the background of a TV game broadcast, but it seems more geared for the live crowd. Would they still bother with it in an empty stadium?

(Of course, there are also lots of crowd-related things that take place between innings, at halftime, or during commercial breaks that would also be eliminated from a crowd-free game: the kiss cam, the T-shirt cannon, “Make a basket from half-court and win some cash,” “Shoot the puck through the slot and win a car,” “Guess which cap the ball is under,” and so on. But that stuff doesn’t usually appear on TV to begin with, so its absence would have no effect on the game broadcast.)

I’m sure there’s a lot more that hasn’t occurred to me. If you can think of other ways that a TV game broadcast would be affected by the lack of a live crowd, feel free to post them in today’s comments.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that there’s some recent-ish precedent for crowdless games. In 2015, security concerns due to civil unrest in Baltimore in the wake of the Freddie Gray’s death led the Orioles to bar fans from their April 29 game against the White Sox, so the teams played in an empty ballpark. (The photo at the top of this blog post is from that game.) The situation was a bit different from the current scenario, because I don’t think there was any limitation on “non-essential staff,” but it was still really weird. Here are some video clips:

If you want to see the entire game broadcast, it’s available here.

It’s interesting to see how events in the “real world” can affect athletics aesthetics. But the pandemic is a serious public health crisis, and its effect on the optics of sports is probably the least of our concerns in the big picture. As the world seems more topsy-turvy by the day, here’s hoping that all Uni Watch readers and their families stay safe and healthy.

Update: The Golden State Warriors will reportedly play its home games in an empty arena until further notice. And so it begins.

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Too good for the Ticker: I love all the Uni Watch pins we’ve been releasing lately. But I’m happy to concede that they have nothing on this awesome vintage curling pin that DIY genius Wafflebored recently spotted at an antiques shop. What a beauty!!

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Pin Club reminder: In case you missed it last week, the March design for the Uni Watch Pin Club is now available. It features a basketball jersey (for March Madness) with a shamrock and orange/white trim (for St. Patrick’s Day), and a winged stirrup jock tag (for Uni Watch!). This one is a numbered edition of 250, and more than half of them are already gone. You know what to do.

If you need to get caught up, the January and February pins are still available until they sell out, and we also have our basic winged stirrup logo pin. And remember, card-carrying Uni Watch members get a 15% discount on these pins (and on everything else in the Uni Watch Shop).

My thanks, as always, for considering our products.

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rafflet ticket by ben thoma.jpg

ITEM! Another membership raffle: Reader Kary Klismet recently won one of our raffles and has generously chosen to pay it forward by purchasing a Uni Watch membership for me to raffle off, so that’s what we’re going to do today.

This will be a one-day raffle. To enter, send an email to the raffle address by 8pm Eastern tonight. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner tomorrow. Big thanks to Kary for sponsoring this one!

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: The Yankees wore their regular home pinstripes, instead of BP jerseys, for their spring training game on Sunday, something they usually do only for their spring training home opener (from multiple readers). … Clemson always wears their cream-colored unis for midweek home games. … Speaking of Clemson, here’s an uni tracker for them. … New retro Phillies-themed Yuengling packaging (from Michael Barkann). … New alternate logo, cap, and jersey for Binghamton Rumble Ponies (from Timmy Donahue). … Rob Matuga’s parking pass for the Tigers spring training game he attended yesterday was emblazoned with the club’s 2012 AL Champions logo. … New 10th-anniversary logo for the Joliet Slammers of the Frontier League (from Chuck Geri).

Football News: Rams COO Kevin Demoff took the criticisms of the team’s newly leaked logo in stride (from our own Phil Hecken). … Two Nebraska football players were added to the school’s basketball team for the B1G Tourney: QB Noah Vedral, who wears No. 16 for football will wear No. 2 on the hoops team, and OL Brant Banks, who wears No. 69 for football, will wear No. 32 (from Timmy Donahue).

Hockey News: The Capitals will wear these green warmups next week to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (from our own Phil Hecken). … The Coyotes have struck a new advertising deal for their practice sweaters with Dutch Bros Coffee (from @TeebzHBIC). … Reader Chris Mizzoni found this post of a Stanley Cup replica made entirely of early 1970s hockey cards.

NBA News: Fans attending last night’s Rockets game received this throwback cap celebrating the team’s 1994 and 1995 championships (from multiple readers). … NBA legend Charles Barkley is selling some of his memorabilia to help build affordable housing in his native Alabama. … Bobbleheads have become NBA’s mini status symbol (from Mike Chamernik).

College Hoops News: Louisville revealed their March Madness jerseys. … Robert Morris men’s had nameplates, instead of direct-sewn NOB lettering, on their jerseys last night (from Timmy Donahue). … Cross-listed from the college football section: Two Nebraska football players were added to the school’s basketball team for the B1G Tourney: Noah Vedral, who wears No. 16 for football will wear No. 2, and Brant Banks, who wears No. 69 for football, will wear No. 32 (also from Timmy). … Here’s how Illinois men’s have fared in their different uni sets (from multiple readers).  … The NCAA will not allow gambling data to be displayed on upcoming March Madness broadcasts.

Soccer News: New shirts for the Richmond Kickers of USL League One (from Ed Zelaski). … For more soccer updates from yesterday, check out Ed Żelaski’s Twitter feed.

Grab Bag: The Ottawa Aces will become the second Canadian-based team to compete in the English rugby league system. They will begin play in 2021 in the third tier. Their colors are black and red, common with Ottawa teams (from Wade Heidt). … Miami University (Ohio) wants a Montana school district to stop poaching the univesity’s logo (from our own Alex Hider). … The Blue Angels — that’s the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron — teased the livery for their new transport plane (from Wolfie Browender). … New Era logo creep has made it to MAGA caps. That is probably a custom embroidery job on a blank red New Era cap, not a mass-production cap (from our own Scott M.X. Turner). … Here’s a history of the Bitcoin logo. … Donald Dell is the sports agent who’s gotten so many of his clients to sign lucrative brand deals (from James Gilbert). … Bedford, Mass., is the latest town whose police department will be selling puzzle-themed patches for autism awareness (from Timmy Donahue). … Here’s a good analysis of how Under Armour screwed up their business plan by emphasizing performance over lifestyle. … Agent Provocateur, a British lingerie company, has released a new ad campaign featuring female athletes competing in push-up bras and garter belts (NYT link).

78 comments to What Would It Be Like to Watch a Game Without a Crowd?

  • RS Rogers | March 11, 2020 at 8:12 am |

    That is a beaut of a culing pin! With curling season winding down, maybe the start of the 2020-21 season in September or October would be opportune for a curling edition of the Pin Club?

    The Caps St. Paddy’s jersey is just a disaster. What does plaid have to do with anything? Gradient numbers that fade to match the underlying fabric color – why bother with numbers? And the one easy obvious Irish-y thing to do, turn the stars in the logo into shamrocks, and they don’t even bother to do that? All in all, I get the feeling that the jersey was designed by an Englishman.

    • Padday | March 11, 2020 at 11:45 am |
      • RS Rogers | March 11, 2020 at 6:06 pm |

        Exactly. Look at all those saffron kilts worn by Republic-of-Ireland soldiers and pipers. The wearing of Scottish kilts in Ireland only dates to the late 19th century Gaelic Revival movement, and Irish institutions that adopted the kilt largely adopted the saffron kilt, not plaid. Plaid kilts show up everywhere of course, but much more so in Northern Ireland than the Republic. Plaid is just a pattern of weaving, and every culture on earth uses it to some degree, but in the European and Celtic contexts, tartan plaid is distinctly Scottish, not Irish.

        • Padday | March 11, 2020 at 10:11 pm |

          1) Who declared St Patrick’s Day a Republic only festival? The only suspiciously English attitude on display right now is the one insisting on the partition of Ireland in relation to St Patrick’s day.

          2) A lot of what passes for Irish culture was a confection of the Gaelic revival. It was a significant movement in defining Irish identity. Your point?

          3) Whether you like it or not, plaid is embraced as an element of Irish aesthetic identity and that’s displayed in countless ways within the country. I know, because I am Irish, I have lived in Ireland my entire life and can speak first hand to the ubiquity of its use specifically in identitarian contexts.

          All that said, one thing that is very definitely sacred as a St Patrick’s Day tradition is the one where we laugh at Americans pompously proclaiming their authority on Irishness, so thanks for letting this Irishman indulge in some early festivities.

  • Jamie Rathjen | March 11, 2020 at 8:13 am |

    May I suggest watching video from yesterday’s Valencia/Atalanta Champions League game together with this entry?

    In soccer, closing all or parts of stadiums to fans is also a relatively common way of dealing with crowd trouble.

  • Marcus Hall from Baltimore | March 11, 2020 at 8:39 am |

    First, I need to point out that Adam Jones is wearing some delightful hosiery in that fan-less game :-)

    Second, I wonder if the lack of crowd noise has an effect on player concentration. It’s interesting that some sports, like golf (swinging and putting), tennis (on serve), and bowling (until the ball is released), require silence when the athlete is in the act of competing. And any break in that silence is a major distraction. But in the major 4 sports, fan noise is welcome. Home field advantage is sometimes acknowledged as difference maker in a close game. What would be the effect on a golfer if there were fan noise as he or she is in the act of putting? Could a tennis player still focus if there were chants of “Serena!” or “Rafael!” during serve?

    • BurghFan | March 11, 2020 at 8:48 am |

      When World Team Tennis came along in the ’70s, they encouraged fans to make noise throughout. Players adapted quickly; some mentioned that a cough from the stands during a tournament became much less distracting.

      • RICKAZ | March 11, 2020 at 4:10 pm |

        I played tennis in college and I’m guessing this might come across as a prima donna, but the sound of the ball striking the racket does come into play. It’s hard to tell how hard a ball is struck, and with how much spin, without the sound. For instance with a drop shot. Also you know if a ball is miss-hit and the ball is hit shorter than expected by the appearance of the swing.

        • Marcus Hall from Baltimore | March 12, 2020 at 11:03 am |

          It makes total sense!

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 8:48 am |

      THat’s a really great point!

  • Steve D | March 11, 2020 at 8:40 am |

    Great list of potential implications…my thoughts on a few:

    The PA announcer does serve some functions in certain sports. In baseball, a manager waits until a player is announced before changing pitchers. Sure they could revise that, but probably not. In basketball, the announcer mentions the 2 minute mark, as team penalty rules change at that point. If that doesn’t occur, the scoreboard would have to be consulted.

    That leads me to your question of would scoreboards be in use. To me that is simple…of course they need to be used. They alert teams of the score, time left and other info. Of course a baseball player should never only rely on the scoreboard, but players are always referring to the scoreboard.

    As for the PC Richard whistle and the like, since I’m sure it is a paid advertisement, they will still do it, although PC may ask for a discount.

    • Hank-SJ | March 11, 2020 at 9:01 am |

      The 2-min warning in basketball and hockey’s last minute of play in the period can be recorded and synced with the game clock. Baseball’s plate appearance announcement can be handled by the home plate umpire.

      • Rick M. | March 11, 2020 at 12:00 pm |

        Exactly right, Hank. Technically, in a baseball game, a player is in the game when the plate umpire indicates he is by pointing at him as the change is made. The PA announcer and official scorer then take note of it.
        Someone mentioned home-field advantage, but as the book “Scorecasting” has noted, studies show that home-field advantage is attributable to the crowd not influencing the players’ performance, but the performance of the officiating crew. it would be interesting to see (especially in the NBA) if officiating improves for a short time if there are fan-less games.

  • Dave Mac | March 11, 2020 at 8:41 am |

    I don’t want to get in an argument as to whether these measures would be necessary or not. But it would be incredibly disappointing. While there is some precedent for this in Europe, there is not any in the United States. For the sports fans it also comes at one of the worst possible times: opening of baseball season, March Madness, NBA and NHL playoffs. As someone with tickets for opening weekend at the ballpark, I’m deeply disappointed about the possibility of losing my experience. For those of us in northern climates, this sports season helps us transition to a happier time of year, and I would be saddened to lose that.

    Once again, I do not want to debate the merits or pitfalls of this idea from a health perspective. Just sharing the fan perspective.

    • Dave Mac | March 11, 2020 at 8:43 am |

      And yes, I know there is SOME history to this with, for examples, the Orioles game in 2015. But essentially, US sports don’t shut down or play to empty stadiums.

  • Steve D | March 11, 2020 at 8:46 am |

    Typo: “But I’m happy to concede that they have othing on this awesome vintage curling pin”

  • Memal | March 11, 2020 at 8:48 am |

    Great find Wafflebored! Can’t wait to get my March Pin club pin to get in!

    Speaking of empty stadiums, some European soccer leagues will punish bad fan behavior by banning fans from matches. Sometimes I wonder if that will ever happen in American sports, but I guess fans on this side of the pond never reach the level of bad behavior some fan groups have to even get that discussion going.

  • Chris | March 11, 2020 at 8:54 am |

    As far as I’m concerned, the mascot is essential. Those pictures of the Dragons mascot cracked me up. I’d love to see what Gritty can do with an empty stadium. There won’t be any crowd shots, so they mascots could help lead in to commercial breaks or something.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 9:01 am |

      But would a mascot be considered “essential personnel”? Probably not.

      • Johnny | March 11, 2020 at 2:34 pm |

        Gritty is essential.

        • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 2:37 pm |

          Touché!

  • RICKAZ | March 11, 2020 at 9:01 am |

    I’ve got to think that home court advantage is lost with this in basketball. Maybe baseball still has home field advantage due to the stadium/field differences, along with the order of teams batting. But with the NBA, teams play all season to get home court advantage.

    • Martina | March 11, 2020 at 9:11 am |

      I read a fascinating book ones called “Scorecasting” that attempted to answer with quantifiable data the reasons that home field advantage exists in any sport. I don’t remember the details of their research but their conclusion was that the explanation was primarily due referees or umpires tending to give the home team more favorable calls, presumably due to crowd pressure and/or intimidation. It seems fair to assume that without a crowd this effect would be reduced or eliminated. Of course there would be no way to separate such a finding from the possibility that the effect is simply due to the players performing better with crowd encouragement (again, I don’t remember exactly why, but I think the authors of Scorecasting somehow concluded that this was NOT the explanation despite it seeming to possibly make sense).

      • jacket18 | March 11, 2020 at 10:34 am |

        I read that book as well (and was going to make a similar comment, but you beat me to it!). Fantastic book. Hopefully the state of affairs doesn’t persist much longer, but if we do unfortunately end up with a significant sample size of empty stadium games, it will be interesting to see what the data from those games reveals.

    • Greg | March 11, 2020 at 9:40 am |

      I’ve always wondered what home court advantage there is for basketball. Aside from the theory about calls going your way at home, I just don’t see it, other than simply not having to deal with travel, which in today’s world with chartered flights and whatnot, is minimal. With baseball there is obviously the advantage of batting last and to a degree familiarity with the confines of the park. In football crowd noise directly impacts the ability for the visiting team to communicate on the field. For basketball, hockey, and soccer there just does not seem to be a substantial advantage at home.

      • Martina | March 11, 2020 at 9:57 am |

        Your assertion isn’t supported by statistics that research on this topic have produced. Especially when it comes to soccer which has the most dramatic home field advantage rate. https://freakonomics.com/2011/12/18/football-freakonomics-how-advantageous-is-home-field-advantage-and-why/

        • Greg | March 11, 2020 at 10:30 am |

          So it essentially comes down to the home teams get the calls enough to create a measurable advantage. Such that being at home doesn’t do anything to the performance of the athletes but rather to the officials.
          That is interesting because to the casual eye I don’t know that it ever comes across that the home team gets the call so often and significantly that it becomes a statistical trend. Whereas causally viewing you see with incredibly frequency NFL away teams struggling to deal with crowd noise in key situations. And with baseball the benefit of batting last is obvious. I find it really interesting that soccer can be most influenced by officials, not being a soccer fan this is pretty surprising.

      • Rick M. | March 11, 2020 at 12:05 pm |

        There is one built-in advantage to being at home in hockey as well, and that is last line change. You get to see who you opponent is putting on the ice before a face-off and then adjust your lines accordingly. Late in a close or tie game, this can definitely make a difference on scoring chances.

  • STL Joe | March 11, 2020 at 9:13 am |

    Fvck Kevin Demoff. He is a lying sack of shit.

  • Stevie McQuistan | March 11, 2020 at 9:26 am |

    I can’t believe you mentioned the “Braves’ warpath chant”!

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 9:29 am |

      Why? It’s not a good thing, but it’s a real thing, and you can definitely hear it while watching a televised game from Atlanta.

  • Ty | March 11, 2020 at 9:33 am |

    One interesting aspect of not having a crowd at these games would be being able to better hear the players talking on the field/court. Will the broadcasters have to be more ready than usual to hit the dump button for foul language? I have always enjoyed hearing a basketball coach talk to his team during a timeout, maybe we get to hear more of that in the other sports

  • Ken Pilpel | March 11, 2020 at 9:38 am |

    The Caps green Jersey, while being worn on 3/16, is for “Going Green” (presented by WGL Energy). During Go Green Night, fans will learn how they can support a cleaner environment through green-themed activations throughout the game.
    The Jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit Leveling the Playing Field.

    • Eltee of DC | March 11, 2020 at 9:59 am |

      Good Old Public Relations at work here.

      Not that it’s a bad thing.

      The sporting community needs to know who their overlords are – you know the ones giving away free shirts so you can promote the consolidation of WGL Energy, Washington Gas, all recently purchased by ALTAGAS! A name that begs for an exclamation point.

      Altagas is a Canadian gas giant that paid close to ten BILLION dollars for the companies – that used to be utilities once upon a time – but to hell with that – there is money to be made and shirts to be worn by people who can only wear the green on 3/16 for Canadagazz.

      • Eltee of DC | March 11, 2020 at 10:07 am |

        On a side note…

        the Name Altagas is a made up word using ALTA – Latin for HIGH and Gas – which is a by-product of ballpark food .

        Altagas – Highgas! Yes please.

  • Ryder | March 11, 2020 at 9:40 am |

    Maybe I’m unusual in that I mostly watch sports muted to avoid crapy announcers, but I would enjoy just hearing the sounds of the game.

  • Gerry Dincher | March 11, 2020 at 9:45 am |

    If they aren’t going to allow fans into the arena they should play the games in the practice facilities. That would save money and resources. There is no need to light up Madison Square Garden when they can play in the gym.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 9:50 am |

      Except they’re not equipped to televise it from the gym.

    • Ron | March 11, 2020 at 11:48 am |

      This was my initial thought too, but the players are used to those cushy locker rooms and other parts of the facility that wouldn’t be available.

      • Daniel Tarrant | March 11, 2020 at 1:42 pm |

        They could certainly set up a quick way to televise sporting events if they were held at practice facilities.

        Seems to me like it would be a much better viewing experience…a lot less awkward than playing in an empty arena, kind of like if you had a YMCA pick-up game except with real NBA players and rules.

        Hell, it would probably be more interesting to watch than your average NBA regular season game…

    • Yosef Coleman | March 12, 2020 at 7:15 am |

      the knicks will never play a home game outside of MSG because then MSG will have to start paying certain taxes costing them millions of dollars a year..

    • Andrew | March 12, 2020 at 10:36 pm |

      Moot point as I type this on Thursday night after the various leagues have suspended their seasons…. are practice facilities able to accommodate two teams for a game? coaches, trainers, stat folks, etc…

  • ML | March 11, 2020 at 9:45 am |

    I’m working as “essential personnel” for NCAA DIII basketball games this weekend. It was announced yesterday there will be no one allowed in the gym who is non-essential. I’m interested (and somewhat apprehensive) to see what the tournament will be like without a crowd.

  • Eric | March 11, 2020 at 10:08 am |

    I would not be surprised to still hear audio advertising such as the Yanks’ PC Richard ad. It’s clearly audible on TV and radio, as it’s intended to be, so that it can reach people at home as well as at the game. I’m almost ashamed to admit that i sometimes whistle it myself after a strikeout while watching at home!

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 10:27 am |

      Years ago, after P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard died and the Yanks honored him by playing a “silent game” without any announcements, they still played that fucking audio ad! Grrrrrr.

  • Bryan Farris | March 11, 2020 at 10:14 am |

    LSU Baseball to wear their throwbacks tonight…

    https://twitter.com/LSUbaseball/status/1237528203343740930

  • Joe Werner | March 11, 2020 at 10:21 am |

    Earlier this week there was a ticker item stating that the RPI men’s hockey games this weekend would be played behind closed doors. This morning it was announced that Cornell’s mens and womens home hockey games will be limited to 3 guests per player on each team. A little further west in the Empire State, I am keeping a close eye on the mens hockey playoff series between RIT and Air Force that will be played in Rochester this weekend, as I am tentatively planning to attend one or more of the games.

  • ChrisH | March 11, 2020 at 10:39 am |

    The Formula One race being run in Bahrain will be spectator-free:

    https://motorsports.nbcsports.com/2020/03/08/bahrain-f1-race-coronavirus-will-run-without-fans/

    Race fans don’t usually impact the track/pit performances, and I don’t know if these F1 events ‘play to the crowd’ as much as, say, NASCAR. If this were a street course and not a dedicated facility, a temporary grandstand would be unnecessary; would some safety measures taken for on-course viewing areas (barriers/catch fences) be scaled back?
    Speaking of NASCAR, if there were no fans in attendance there’d probably be no aircraft fly-overs, no victory burn-outs or ‘over-the-top’ behavior by the winning driver (i.e.: bows, fence climbing, back-flips)…3 things I would not miss if they went away completely.

    • Ben Cox | March 11, 2020 at 4:04 pm |

      I think the barriers/crash fences are as much for the safety of track marshals, who are certainly still going to be there, as they are for the fans. I think they’re also very much helpful for the safety of the drivers, who would much rather hit a wall/fence than anything else that might be near the track (heavy machinery and safety vehicles come to mind, the absolute last thing we want to see is another Jules Bianchi incident). So I don’t think F1 will change without spectators, except Hamilton will need to remember to not thank “all the great fans in attendance” like he usually does after his inevitable win.

      I do think you’re spot on about NASCAR, and I’d be curious to see how that would go. I think we might still see the burnouts for the sake of the TV cameras, but they’d probably skip the on track interview and just go straight to victory lane, and probably (hopefully) would not have all the stupid out of the car celebration stuff you mention. Certainly, I think the pre-race crap would likely be trimmed and better optimized for TV, and that would be very much welcome to those of us who don’t get to attend races very often.

  • Will S | March 11, 2020 at 10:41 am |

    If they took it another step further and eliminated the national anthems from professional sports games that would be a plus in my book.

    Many of the changes I would welcome with fans in the building. Would welcome “less sizzle” to better enjoy “more steak”

  • JamesG | March 11, 2020 at 10:41 am |

    If sports arenas are empty, what an opportunity for CGI companies to step in. Can generate a crowd through CGI, use a broadcast delay to add canned appropriate noise and crowd reactions. Similar to using laugh tracks on TV except with added CGI of people in the seats.

    • Daniel Tarrant | March 11, 2020 at 1:45 pm |

      Good point. I imagine people in the CGI field would appreciate that kind of challenge as well…

      Maybe they should do it for most of the college bowl games also, now that you mention it.

  • Ralph Albano | March 11, 2020 at 10:42 am |

    Not sure if this has ever been discussed, but how rare is it that there are only two colors represented in the uniforms in a major sports game? Last night’s Lightening/Maple Leafs game had only two, blue and white. I know it can’t be often, since not too many pro teams have only one other color besides white. Other than those two teams, the Red Wings, Celtics, Nets, Colts, Jets, come to mind, and maybe LA Kings and Spurs depending on the use of grey. But none of those would result in just two for both teams. Maybe an old Celtics/Bucks game? Baseball would probably never happen because there are usually at least white and grey on the field. Probably best bets would be college football and basketball?

    • Chris Weber | March 11, 2020 at 11:22 am |

      Ralph,

      And, according to teamcolorcodes.com, both are Pantone 281 C!

      You can’t get much more exact than that.

      -C.

    • Eric | March 11, 2020 at 12:24 pm |

      Carolina Hurricanes wore their alternates last night against the Detroit Red Wings. Looked almost like a practice game between 1-teams home and road unis.

      • Daniel Tarrant | March 11, 2020 at 1:46 pm |

        I’ve noticed this when Duke and Kentucky play in basketball as well…

  • Ornery Ori-troll (O'stensibly) | March 11, 2020 at 11:21 am |

    The most surprising thing i saw in today’s blog is that the Chunichi Dragons mascot isn’t even a dragon… a google search revealed it’s a blue-eared koala named Doala, and he became a cult figure in Japan a dozen years ago.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2008-05-16/blue-eared-dancing-koala-a-pop-hit-in-japan/2438170#:~:text=Doala%20the%20Koala%20is%20a,and%20crowds%20at%20public%20appearances.

  • Will Shoken | March 11, 2020 at 12:24 pm |

    The civil unrest in Baltimore that occurred in 2015 followed the death of Freddie Grey not after a trial verdict. The related trials occurred in 2016.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 12:30 pm |

      Thanks for setting me straight on that, Will. Text now corrected.

  • mike 2 | March 11, 2020 at 1:08 pm |

    That Under Armour article was a little sad. As an athlete, a runner and cyclist, I guess I’ve noticed that shoes/clothing built for performance have lost out to stuff built for show. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed.

  • Patrick in MI | March 11, 2020 at 1:31 pm |

    Not quite the same but back in the 1980s the Detroit Tigers had to shut down the bleachers on occasion because the bleacher creatures got too rowdy.

    Seems like Charles Barkley is being made out as a hero in that article. He’s taking way too much credit by saying “I’m spending my own money selling memorabilia.” It’d be nice if he were to match the money raised.

  • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 2:27 pm |

    And so it begins: Golden State will play home games in an empty arena until further notice. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/28884486/warriors-play-home-games-fans-following-san-francisco-order

    • Christopher Falvey | March 11, 2020 at 2:54 pm |

      Ok, I have to admit I now want to watch this game on TV. And I don’t watch regular season NBA.

  • nk | March 11, 2020 at 3:02 pm |

    Why is having a TV broadcast “essential” ? That still puts dozens of people into contact with players and team officials.

    • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 3:25 pm |

      If nobody can attend the game, and nobody can see the game on TV, and no reporters are there to tell us what happened, why even play the game?

      • Neeko | March 11, 2020 at 3:40 pm |

        I’ve played in many games that never met that criteria

        • Paul Lukas | March 11, 2020 at 3:43 pm |

          So have I. But I wasn’t playing in a top-level pro league that entailed lots of travel (and I’m guessing you weren’t either), nobody cared about the games I was in except the people participating in them (ditto), and I wasn’t playing in the midst of a pandemic (ditto).

          Given the current situation, it would make no sense to play top-level pro games unless they can be broadcast.

    • Greg | March 11, 2020 at 4:50 pm |

      Well, the reason for the no spectators thing is that they view it as problematic when you have crowds in the thousands. Presumably the essential workforce to cover a sporting event, especially basketball with small rosters, numbers less than 200, and in fact many of those people involved with broadcast production would not be in direct contact with other essential staff anyway. It would not be much different than going to work in an office building that housed about a hundred people, and less of a risk factor than working in / shopping at retail locations.

    • mike 2 | March 11, 2020 at 6:43 pm |

      The usual reason – money. The real money these days is in the broadcast contracts. No way they’re cutting that off.

  • Peter | March 11, 2020 at 3:34 pm |

    Ohio Governor just said NCAA tourney games in Dayton and Cleveland will be without spectators. Media will be allowed.

    https://thespun.com/more/top-stories/ncaa-tournament-first-four-games-no-fans

    He also said it on twitter, but I can’t open that at work to get the link.

  • Name redacted | March 11, 2020 at 3:36 pm |

    I think it was an Italian match this week where they used piped in crowd noise, which was legal/approved, unlike cases in the US in the past.

    A famous match for (older) wrestling fans is an empty arena match in 1981 between Jerry Lawler and Terry Funk. (Available on youtube for the curious)

    • M.S. Warner | March 11, 2020 at 4:21 pm |

      See also: Mick Foley vs. The Rock Empty Arena match.

      (Which, incidentally, was a goof on Tony Schiavone’s “that’ll put butts in the seats” crack.)

  • Ron | March 11, 2020 at 4:14 pm |

    If playing without a crowd is distracting and weird for some athletes, does that give an unfair advantage to the Miami Marlins?

  • Tim | March 11, 2020 at 5:22 pm |

    WA Governor issued a ban on gatherings of 250 or more through the end of March, at least. Mariners have issued a statement:

    https://www.mlb.com/mariners/news/mariners-on-governor-s-crowd-ban

    Other news sources are suggesting the Mariners will conduct their March Home Games at their Spring Training Field in Peoria.

  • Pat | March 12, 2020 at 1:07 am |

    You very rarely hear all the dialog that happens during a game because of the crowd noise drowning it out. I imagine they would have to run live broadcasts on a 5-7 second delay so they could cut out any noticeable cursing from the players. Also, we could get a better idea of the amount of talking taking place during a game, pick up on strategies, etc.

  • Andrew | March 12, 2020 at 10:44 pm |

    Not an aspect of viewing a crowd-less game on television, but related to the topic. Without crowds, there won’t be give-aways. Insulated lunch bag to first 20,000 fans in attendance!