The coronavirus pandemic has caused stadiums across the country to sit empty. Built to showcase the best athletes in their respective sports and house tens of thousands of fans, they are now without the spectators who fill the seats with their bodies, the air with their voices and big moments with their soul.
The major sports leagues have tried to artificially recreate things by piping in crowd noise from video games. In the NBA bubble, fans virtually in attendance are displayed on 17-foot-tall LED screens. The NHL is using individual team’s goal songs, goal horns and in-arena music.
Major League Baseball is filling some seats with cardboard cutouts of fans.
Fans turn to TV
Coronavirus expelled fans from stadiums to the comfort and safety of their couches. The Hollywood Reporter predicts that live sports will set record ratings during the second half of 2020. The opening night MLB game averaged 4.075 million viewers, the highest for a regular-season game since 2011. NBA’s season-restart doubleheader peaked with 4.1 million viewers.
It looks like stadiums will remain empty until at least 2021. According to a recent poll, most people say they won’t attend games without a vaccine.
When you go to a game, it’s like buying a lottery ticket. You don’t know if the home team is going to lay an egg or put on a show worth the price of admission. Who you sit near is also a crapshoot.
Here are four fans who make going to a game better, and four of the worst types to be seated next to.
Sports fans we miss
The First Timer
Even a heart that has been shattered to shreds by years of disappointment and bad bets softens just a little at the familiar flicker of awe they see in someone’s eye during their first game. It doesn’t only have to be children processing their initial in-person experience. It could be a twenty-year-old finally singing their team’s fight song with 60,000 others on a Sunday.
How to spot them: Like tourists in big cities, they look up and around instead of straight ahead; a sign that says “This is my first game, give me a ball,” which makes them slightly less likable.
They might not have ever coached a game, but this person knows the ins and outs of the game better than whoever is leading the home team. The cleanup hitter is in a slump? The Coach spent a few hours last night breaking down their swing and knows what’s wrong. Second-guessing every coaching decision is worth the price of admission for this future Coach of the Year. It’s a wonder this Mensa-like coaching mind hasn’t been scooped up by Saban. Don’t you miss making fun of them with your friends when most of the Coach’s play-calling suggestions turn out to be wrong?
How to spot them: All-weather cargo shorts wearer; wrap-around Ray-Bans; building a beeramid with empties.
The Senior Citizen
Don’t judge diehards based on their jersey selections or season ticket holder status. Sometimes, the silver-haired folks sitting next to you are the best fans. They have seen it all and are either super bitter about it or “just want to live to see one more.”
How to spot them: At least one homemade piece of team-colored swag; filling out the scorecard in pen.
If the seat next to you is empty after the first quarter, it’s a feeling akin to seeing your +3 underdog jumping to a 21-0 lead. You didn’t expect it, you’re pleasantly surprised, but the game ain’t over yet.
How to spot them: You don’t. Enjoy the extra elbow room.
Sports fans we don’t miss
Why fork over at least $100 on a ticket, parking and beer to not watch the game and instead scroll through the same three apps on your phone? You could have done that at home for free. Instead, the scroller ignores his friends except to say, “Are you gonna accept that fantasy trade or not?”
How to spot them: Swiping through Tinder; texting while the game is tied in the final minute.
The Overly Diehard
They toe or cross the line between super fan and obsessed. They spend most of the game talking about how many autographs they got at training camp or how they spotted an athlete in public and got a couple of selfies.
How to spot them: Vintage jerseys; seeping regret about not being born a world-class athlete; leaning over the rails at the tunnels at intermission to get a high-five.
The Comfort Seeker
Whether it’s manspreading or simply stretching out, they must have missed the memo that stadium seating is not built for comfort. Even if you sit normally, there’s a good chance that your knees will be banging against your neighbor’s multiple times a game. And ladies aren’t exempt either. You might not want to put your purse on the sticky floor, but it’s either that or your lap.
How to spot them: Arms splayed; feet propped up on the empty seat in front of them; complaining that watching a game at home is more comfortable.
The Wannabe Stand-Up Comedian
You came to watch the game, not to be an unwilling audience for someone’s stand-up routine. Their heckles aren’t clever. Their over-the-top booing/taunting/threats of dismemberment of any person wearing the visiting team’s jersey turns this jokester into an asshole real fast.
How to spot them: Rely on your ears to identify the Comedian — you’ll hear their voice more than any of the others around you; in the game’s final minutes, they’ll say, “Hey, where we post-gaming?”
Did we miss anyone? Tweet to us @PlayPAnews.