Right this second, the height of boredom and profound need for something to distract from the unknown, most would jump at the chance to watch baseball again, with or without fans.
That eventuality is certainly on the table, players and owners both agree the possibility of playing games in empty parks or even neutral site competition could be part of the return to play. So, how would that sit with you? Not just the first game, I can already see the glut of people, even those who wouldn’t have called themselves a baseball fan, posting all over social media making hot dogs and nachos in isolation waiting for the competition to start.
As this virus moves on or around through the country, seeing a day where all restrictions are lifted to the country at large seems optimistic, but there is much money to be made and too many incentives to return to some form of play to pretend there won’t be a push to make it happen.
That said, I’m not here to argue about whether it will or won’t be back in 2020. I’m more interested in how we, the fans, feel about everything starting up without us. As I stated up there, the first games would be roundly applauded and I’d guess record ratings could also be expected.
As the game played out, the lack of cheers would become more apparent than at the beginning. See we have some frame of reference here for what it would look like and worse, sound like. Baltimore a few years back blocked fans from attending home games during riots that enveloped the city. It was surreal but you also knew it wasn’t the new normal. You knew this would end, not the issue that set the city off, but the lack of fans at games.
We’ve also seen it play out in Miami, and PNC to name a couple. There were some games just last season that could easily convince you on tape that social distancing was a thing in August 2019 here in Pittsburgh. It shouldn’t really alter a damn thing on the field, let’s face it, we didn’t make Cueto drop that ball, but somehow it does feel that way. Energy is real, feeding off it is real. It’s the same reason Playstation and XBox make the controllers vibrate in pressure situations or times of intensity in gameplay, it ratchets up your attention to detail, your sense of the moment.
Another fallacy might get exposed too. The one that pretends attendance is directly related to payroll. Maybe we’ll find out we agree with the umps a lot more when we can’t read the crowd reaction to every call. Maybe we’ll find that long term it doesn’t even feel like sports anymore.
2020, you have been one weird ride thus far.