As COVID-19 impacts everything we know, major sports leagues are planning on their comeback without fans. Major League Baseball is contemplating restarting Spring Training June 10th and starting the season on July 1, 2020.
Certainly, sports are an escape from our everyday lives; they provide a sense of euphoria for many people. However, for Major League Baseball, which plays 162 games per team and a total of 2430 games plus postseason, playing without fans may not be a bad thing. In Major League Baseball, there are a half dozen teams that compete every year for the World Series Trophy. Fans in New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, Atlanta, and Philadelphia support their teams knowing they always have a chance to get to the show. For the other teams that typically have a losing record or very low attendance, playing without fans for a period of time may actually drive better attendance when fans are able to come back to the ballpark.
Let’s face it, the MLB season has its highs and lows. Typically, when Spring Training starts there is a buzz of excitement, and for most teams, Opening Day is sold out. Then through the dog days of summer, the season drags on for almost 6 months until we get to the playoffs. Attendance continues to decline throughout the season for the majority of teams. I mean really, how many hot dogs and beers can you afford there anyway?
If you have ever been to a non-playoff Major League Baseball game, you look forward to the seventh-inning stretch. I have been to over 50 games in my lifetime and I can only remember a couple of them that I stayed the full nine innings. Watching baseball and waiting for a home run is like watching hockey and waiting for a fight, only home runs occur less frequently! And a pitchers’ duel? Snoozefest! You find yourself wanting it to be over, so you drink, talk, and most likely miss the action anyway.
Playing without fans may be a good thing for Major League Baseball. Assuming playing without baseball fans is the new normal when fans are actually allowed back to stadiums, will they even care? No one really knows, but the majority of Major League Baseball teams playing without fans is a good thing. Go through the motions and get the games on the books. Or maybe shorten the season to 25 or 30 games and put the perennial losers out of their misery. It would save some teams money and it certainly would make viewership higher. It might even generate more excitement around the sport. Sitting home and watching sports on television can get old, but it certainly beats the $250 ticket, $10 beer x 4 and the $7 hotdog.