Carroll: How Having no Fans in the Crowd has Affected Sports, From a Fan’s POV

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Empty football stadium. - Photo / pikist.com

Remember that weird time in April when there were no sports on TV? The time when “The Last Dance” documentary was as big as an NFL game on Sundays? Yes, me too. 

Lucky for us, sports are back — but having no live fans has definitely been different. 

When sports like baseball first picked back up, it was strange that there were no fans in the seats, but the crowd noises were even stranger. It was almost like watching a video game: there were unprovoked cheers at random times, and the cheers were a little too loud for a routine fly ball to centerfield. 

As time has gone on though, teams have actually gotten a lot better at making it seem normal. They’ve begun to integrate boos into the stadium at Philadelphia Phillies games, which is perhaps the most Philly thing of all time. 

Watching sports with no fans in attendance is something that I’m not sure we’ll ever be fully used to, and hopefully we won’t have to watch completely empty stadiums after this year.

Has it affected the player performance? It’s impossible to say for sure, but different players are affected in different ways by not having fans in the stands. 

Players for teams like the Miami Marlins or the Los Angeles Chargers may not necessarily be all that affected by empty seats, because they’re used to it. And that’s no shot at those teams as they both ranked dead last in fan attendance in 2019.

There have been stories of players from these teams struggling to make it through the season last year because it felt like there was nothing to play for. Hopefully that’s not how those players feel this year, but it’s still something to take into consideration. 

There are also high adrenaline players whose playing style might be negatively affected by not being able to play off the crowd. These are the types of players that thrive in big moments, like Tom Brady, Bryce Harper and Gerrit Cole. If we see a dip in their performance this year, it could possibly be attributed to the fact that they don’t have fans present to hold them accountable or to play off of. 

It’s not all bad though — a lot of the time players struggle to find their way out of slumps or struggle because they can’t get over the crowd. It may seem silly, but the yips are a real thing and the crowd absolutely plays into that. So, what about the players that got off to a slow start and were able to bounce back? Is it because there aren’t any fans?

To say that having no fans at sporting events wouldn’t affect player performance is foolish. Whether it’s a good or bad thing is up for discussion, but to play your entire life in front of fans and then all of a sudden not have any is no small change for a professional athlete. The big moments just don’t seem as big with no fans.

Certain NFL teams have allowed fans at a limited capacity and there’s a chance that the MLB playoffs may have fans, so we’re turning the corner back to some normalcy here in sports. I’m not entirely sure sports would survive if this is the new normal; fans make the sports world turn. The magic that we have all come to know and love in sports just wouldn’t be there if fans weren’t allowed to attend games. 

It seems like we’re almost there, and hopefully, the worst is over.

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