Even as baseball season resumes for the Phillies and the Pirates, attending a sporting event in person remains a potential virus petri dish many fans are not ready for yet, according to a recent poll by the Washington Post and the University of Maryland.
Fewer than half of Americans feel comfortable seeing a live sporting event, according to the story, due to COVID-19.
Jeff Lyons, a true Philadelphia Phillies fanatic, is cautiously attending his 42nd home opener on Thursday, bundled against a temperature in the low 40s and a brisk wind, plus a virus mask and glasses.
“I’m so excited!” said Lyons, who works in corporate communications.
Lyons summed up the pull of watching live in person:
“This is my personal religious holiday. Fans are the power, the electricity. The swell of the crowd can’t be manufactured.”
He remains cautious and vigilant, though, not anxious to see sports indoors yet.
“There are so many knuckleheads.”
Virus worries by the numbers
The detailed findings are:
- Just 42% of Americans are comfortable attending a live sporting event.
- But 40% are not.
- And 18% are unsure.
- People say their own comfort levels vary widely based on conditions.
- 54% say they’re comfortable attending sporting events if coronavirus case levels are low in the region.
- About two-thirds feel comfortable attending an outdoor event such as baseball, which opened its season Thursday.
- But less than a third feel comfortable attending an indoor event such as basketball.
- Nearly 2 in 3 people, or 64%, would feel comfortable if all spectators were required to wear masks.
- Only 22% would feel comfortable if there was no mask requirement.
- Nearly two-thirds or 63% say it is a large or moderate risk to attend a sporting event now.
- That includes 26% who say it’s a large risk.
- Nearly two-thirds say they feel comfortable going to a sporting event after they have received a vaccine.
- There is a sharp partisan divide on the issue of mask mandates with 96% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents supporting them.
- By comparison, among Republicans and Republican leaners, 52% support wearing masks.
Baseball is the test for returning fans despite the virus
As America continues the rollout of vaccines, the first test of returning fans to stands is baseball.
After staging its entire 2020 regular season in empty ballparks, capacity limits now range from 12% for the Boston Red Sox to 100% for the – you guessed it – Texas Rangers.
Virus caps for Pittsburgh and Philadelphia
For Philly’s Citizen Bank Park, where the Phils hosted the Atlanta Braves for their opener, the capacity is capped at a quarter, or 8,800. Virus cases in Philly rose sharply over the past two weeks, twice the numbers of cases in February.
The Pirates played away on Opening Day at the Cubs‘ Wrigley Field, which is capped at 20% capacity, or about 8,270 fans.
The Pirates meet the Chicago Cubs again for their home opener in Pittsburgh on April 8. The park’s capacity is also capped at a quarter, a maximum of about 7,600 fans. Allegheny County is seeing a spike in virus infections over the past two weeks.
One ball game, the New York Mets vs. the Nationals in Washington, D.C. was postponed on Thursday after a Nationals player tested positive for COVID-19.
Philly fans are “insane”
Having fans at games makes a huge difference according to former sports journalist Tim Kelly.
His take on PA sports fans:
“Philly fans are insane. Pittsburgh fans are nicer, they don’t go for the jugular.”
Spectators make a huge difference in a game, especially indoors, he added. “They incentivize a team.”
Though fully vaccinated, he’s not ready to return to the bleachers because as the primary caregiver for his elderly mother, the risk is not worth it.
For now, he is contenting himself with quickly slipping into a casino with retail sports betting and placing a bet to soak up the atmosphere, and quickly leaving.
“The best way I can control the virus is by staying home.”
Attitudes vary by region
Fan sentiments are regional. Americans in the Midwest are most comfortable attending a live sporting event at 47%. That compares with 42% in the South and also West, and just 34% in the Northeast.
Sixers and Flyers capacity
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum