By: Chelsea Igtanloc
The crack of a bat after a nice swing, the swoosh of a net, and the blow of a whistle are a sports fan’s favorite noises. Sports are back, meaning that we will get to hear them all once again, but there is one small difference. Instead of cozy bleachers and arena seats, fans are going to have to trade it in for the comfort of their own home. COVID-19 has not been nice to athletes and their games, even to the point where seasons have been put on hold. Recently, some athletics were able to start up again with many restrictions, leading to a very different experience for the players and the spectators.
For MLB fans, July 23rd was a day everyone had waited for: the start of a new season. With spring training cancelled, the players came back to their home fields on July 1st for “Summer Camp”, or spring training 2.0, to prepare for opening day since all spring training facilities shut down in Arizona and Florida due to COVID-19. Instead of being fully open for opening day, arenas were empty of fans, cheers, and garlic fries.
The only sign of human life were cardboard cutouts of fans who paid a good amount of money for them. These ranged in price from $99 for the San Francisco Giants up to $299 for the LA Dodgers Pavilion Home Run seats. In a game with the Giants, Dodgers’ catcher Will Smith hit a home run that also hit the head of a fan’s cardboard cut-out. Austin Donley, the owner of the headless cut-out, then tweeted Will Smith asking if he could keep the ball. “Sorry I took your head off … shoot me a D.M. and I’ll hook it up for you,” replied Smith to Donley.
Other sports have also adopted some form of a bleacher fan experience. After being paused on March 11th, the NBA proceeded with their conference finals on July 30th with a planned end of the season on October 13th. Large virtual screens take the place of cardboard cut-outs. Fans were propped up to their own cameras while being seated on a cartoon seat. It has also been a hit for everyone, including celebrities such as rapper Lil’ Wayne.
With obvious measures to keep players and staff healthy, professional sports are doing the best they can to give the fans the full experience. Although this is not the season sports lovers had hoped for, it is nice to have a taste of the experience, even in a virtual setting. Watching games in pajamas will definitely be missed post-COVID, but it is incomparable to the real experience of a sports game.