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


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.