As I work on getting a grip on life living with COVID-19, I find myself self-absorbed with watching the hybrid approach to team sports. Being a fan of both Major League Baseball and the NBA, I was curious as to how each would be able pull it off during this pandemic. Also, as a sportswriter, I was curious if the broadcasts being offered to the fans would be enough to stimulate their base to tune in. Could they recreate an atmosphere in which the viewer could gain a sense that the games were played with spectators? What technology would they use?
In Major League Baseball, aside from PITCHF/X which tracks the speed and placement of the ball and instant replay, they now have Remote Cheering. Fans are able to access games through a site entitled “Cheer At The Park.” Fans can log on via the Major League Baseball website using their phones, iPad, or computer and cheer on their teams. A list of games is provided daily for the fans to select. Once logged in, the person’s image is displayed and they can cheer, boo, and express themselves as if they were in attendance. There is no cost involved and the access is free, but it appears that it is on a first come first serve basis. The NBA is providing holographic imaging. The cheering fans appear animated to the television viewer. Also, the sounds of the game are piped in through speakers in the arena giving the game an audio feel as if the fans are live and in attendance. Both sports are providing cut out spectators which appear to benefit the players by simulating competing in front of the one crowd.
All in all, what is being provided by both leagues is not negative. Given the circumstances fans can gain a sibilance of normalcy. My personal opinion is that it’s more appealing to the television audience as opposed to those select few who are able to attend the games in person. I am curious as to how the National Football League will adjust to empty stadiums. The bottom line is simple, the players will play the game regardless and fans will continue to cheer on their respective teams. Now if only they can find a way to have a vendor yell, “Get a beer and a dog here,” that would be awesome. Either way, Play Ball!