NFL: Will You Watch Games With No Fans in the Stands?

The 101st season of the NFL will make an attempt to start training camp on Tuesday, July 28. The situation is still fluid on whether or not/how it will proceed with the threat of the coronavirus in mind. Taking into consideration that the sport is primarily played after the summer months are in the rearview mirror, it is a contact sport.

Football players are blocking, tackling, touching one another, so the hand sanitizer pump will be of use quite frequently for players on the sideline during or following series. Likewise, the footballs will need to be thoroughly cleansed. On Monday, I noticed on the ticker on the bottom line that the New York Giants, New York Jets, and Rutgers University’s football team will proceed without fans. That led to a question worth pondering up – will I still watch games with no fans in the stands?

Observations

Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference was on with sports radio personality Dan Patrick a couple of days ago. Sankey made note of how NASCAR was in Bristol, Tennessee for their All-Star event and at Texas Motor Speedway with many fans in attendance. Looking at other North American sports, Major League Soccer has made the bubble work in Orlando for two weeks on practice facilities. This past weekend, there were Major League Baseball exhibition games played, including in Pittsburgh last Saturday night in a game between the Pirates and Cleveland Indians. There were tents in the front rows of an empty ballpark to provide shade during these summer months and, of course, to create separation between the players and managers.

I do wonder how the NFL will pull it off. My guess is they will use empty stadiums like MLB. I do not envision payers calling signals should alter them much with empty and even limited crowds. Television might try to pipe in the crowd noise, but much like the first down yellow line, it is a non-factor for those in person at the stadium.

It will certainly be different with fans not being loud and encouraging a team to go for a fourth and one. Their presence perhaps influences head coaches to go and when they instinctively use their timeouts to talk things over before key plays. With just the sounds of quarterbacks and defensive captains shouting instructions on where to line up, the silent count may be obsolete for this season. Unless the league allows the stadiums to allow fans in a Zoom conference to make noise which blares through to try to simulate a home-field advantage. 

Opinion and Conclusion

If the NFL chooses to go with games with no fans in attendance, it will not change my viewing patterns for sports, let alone my appetite for the NFL. I intend on watching it this fall even if there are no fans allowed to be in attendance. Hopefully, it will help serve as an opportunity to escape the realities of life for a few hours. Sports are supposed to be fun and there is something exciting about cheering for your favorite team. This is especially true watching at a restaurant with fans who share the same loyalties.

Sure, the experience will have some necessary inconveniences, but live football will be a welcome sight. If it helps remind people of what sports were like prior to the middle of March, it will be greatly appreciated. Whether this 2020-21 season means that the stadiums are covered with tarps, or if football teams must play in a centralized location, people are going to be glued to the television. I believe sports will truly be back once it is safe to fill up all the seats. The hope is for a cure for the coronavirus and perhaps the 2021-22 campaign will resemble what it used to look like. But, for now, people will and have learned to appreciate the small and simple things in life, which is a great lesson to learn in difficult circumstances. 

Are you okay with no fans in the stands at football and NFL contests, specifically? Leave a comment below.

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Follow Bolesta on Twitter @MJBolesta2

Works cited: Twitter news update on NFL Training Camp date, ESPN2 bottom line, YouTube “The Dan Patrick Show – LIVE – 07/20/2020” which includes Peter King and Greg Sankey interviews, NASCAR FS1 and NBCSN, EPL on NBC and NBCSN, MLS on Fox/FS1, ESPN, TUDN, MLB Network using the AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh feed
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Michael Bolesta II
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