By Ken Reed
I was glad when SportsWorld came back from its Covid-forced layoff. Although I didn’t miss watching sports as much as I thought I would, it was good having live sporting events on my screens again.
However, I must say that watching sports in empty stadiums and arenas hasn’t been nearly as much fun as sports were pre-Covid. Cut-outs of fans and piped in sound didn’t help the situation. In fact, it might have made things worse — especially the fake crowd noise. I would rather listen to the chatter from players and coaches on the field/court than the annoying piped-in sound that sometimes makes you want to scream. I feel for the players who had to put up with that noise game after game.
But things are starting to get closer to normal these days. Fans are gradually coming back to the stands at some NBA and NHL games, baseball spring training games, and tennis tournaments. In addition, PGA events are now allowing fans on the golf course grounds. The upcoming NCAA basketball tournament will allow fans to fill arenas up to 25% of capacity during this year’s March Madness games. The Madness quotient would be much, much lower without fans.
One thing we’ve learned from No-Fan Covid sports is that fans in the stands aren’t just innocuous observers, they are part of the game, and can definitely influence outcomes. Crowds can fuel comebacks for the home team and help halt comebacks for visiting teams.
I didn’t realize I even missed fans at golf tournaments. It was funny for awhile watching golfers, out of habit, wave thanks to fans that didn’t exist. But these last couple weeks, it’s been more fun to hear crowds get excited about great shots again.
After going months with nobody in the stands, even small crowds — typically around 25% of capacity — seem like raucous sellouts these days.
Sport is the ultimate reality TV. Unlike sitcoms, sporting events simply don’t work in studios. Fans have never been thought of as a major component of games but I think everyone — from players to coaches, to officials, to broadcasters — have gained a greater appreciation for the role fans play in sporting contests. In past years, some players have said they don’t hear the fans because they get hyper-focused on the job at hand during games. But if they don’t hear them, they surely sense them, because athletes across all sports have said in recent weeks that they welcome the energy that fans have brought back to their performances.
What we now know is that fans are a key dynamic in sports — in both a competitive and entertainment sense.
Maybe franchise owners and team executives will appreciate fans a little more post-Covid, and view them not just as wallets to be targeted but as essential components of their product.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.” We discuss overzealous adults in youth sports, the dangers of sport specialization, youth sports entrepreneurs and the profit-at-all-costs mindset, and the growing socio-economic gap in youth sports.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan.
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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