Empty Stadium Sports Will Be Really Weird

If Jose Altuve jacks a home run with no one in the stands, will it make a sound?
If Jose Altuve jacks a home run with no one in the stands, will it make a sound? Photo by Jack Gorman
One of the most relaxing things to listen to is spring training baseball on the radio. There is no pressure and no crowd screaming. The announcers are relaxed and feel free to yammer on about random things they would likely never discuss during a regular season game. It's just quiet chatter, the occasional beer vendor yelling and the crack of the bat.

But, sports is about competition and the lack of immediacy and pressure that comes in the preseason is also what makes it, ultimately, boring. Great for a nap, but no exhilaration, no real fun.

So, with the very likely possibility that baseball and basketball — at minimum — will be played to empty stadiums, it begs the question: Will it be as fun?

And before you answer, think about it for a second. No crowd noise. No intensity that builds for the home team or against the away team. Yes, the scoreboard will tell the tale, but the pressure is cranked up when you have a building full of crazy fans screaming their lungs out.

But, picture the same building empty, the only sound the occasional banter from the team, which won't really be audible, the announcers and the sound of a ball bouncing or the crack of the bat. Think of running to your kitchen to grab a cold drink and hearing a crack but no cheering. Will you actually miss a poster-worthy dunk if no one is there to yell about it? There has been talk about piping crowd noise into games like a sitcom laugh track. Hard pass.

The fact is, it will be weird no matter what happens. Sports are sports regardless, but a great game without the prodding of fans in the stands will have a very strange feel to it.

When Jeff Van Gundy was coach of the Rockets, the joke went that he would be happiest if the games were played in a closed gym with no distractions. Given his position as a well-respected NBA announcer, he's going to get his opportunity to find out exactly what it's like. Our guess is even JVG will find it awkward.

All of us will be thrilled to have sports back on TV, but don't be surprised if even playoff games have the vibe of a preseason game. Maybe it will force us to pay closer attention. Maybe they'll pipe in crowd noise like a sitcom. Or maybe we'll all just take a nap.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke