Connor Smith is a junior news journalism major. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watching the NFL season opener Sept. 10, I couldn’t help but notice the dedication of the 15,895 socially-distant fans at Arrowhead Stadium — many of whom were masked up — cheering on Patrick Mahomes’s Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs en route to a 34-20 victory over the Houston Texans.
I love live sports. There aren’t many things in life better than a warm night at the ballpark or watching your favorite football team — college or NFL — battle it out on a fall afternoon.
However, as the majority of North American major professional leagues have returned to action, primarily without spectators, I’ve learned that you don’t need to attend a game in-person to experience the same adrenaline rush and excitement you’d get while watching at the stadium, arena or ballpark.
Along with many other sports fans, I was devastated when virtually all North American professional leagues temporarily suspended play due to COVID-19 in March. As the days progressed, it became more and more likely that I would have my first summer in years without a trip to the ballpark. I’ve visited 12 of the 30 major league ballparks with the intent of hitting all 30 someday, but that mission was put on hold this past summer.
Now, here we are in September. The NHL and NBA are close to concluding their 2020 postseasons, while the MLB is in the final week of its 60-game regular season, beginning its postseason Sept. 29. Meanwhile, the NFL is two weeks into its 2020 regular season.
With the exception of six NFL games, the majority of action has taken place behind closed doors. While this has been tough for many fans who enjoy the unique experience sporting events have to offer, it hasn’t been bad for me.
There are plenty of pros that come with watching a sporting event from the comfort of your own room as opposed to from the stands.
First, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of game day traffic — all you need to do is turn on your device. Of the dozens of ball games I’ve attended living near Chicago, I’ve missed at least the first inning of a handful due to traffic congestion and long lines while entering the park.
Second, while several stadiums have their own unique food offerings (e.g.: deep-dish pizza at Chicago Cubs and White Sox games), you don’t need to shell out $15 to wait 10 minutes on a hot dog and drink while watching from your home. The food is there with you, be it from your refrigerator or pantry.
Although one of the great perks of attending sporting events is sharing the experience with your closest friends or family while meeting other fans, you can still bond over the action with your roommates, friends, partner or children.
The last sporting event I attended as a fan was a Detroit Red Wings hockey game back in February. As COVID-19 remains widespread throughout the United States, I’m personally in no rush to attend another event anytime soon.
The Indianapolis Colts plan to allow 7,500 fans for this Sunday’s game vs. the New York Jets — a 5,000-person increase from their home opener Sept. 20, but is it really worth attending?
Yes, there are the die-hards. Yes, there are those who are hungry to attend their first event in months despite these unprecedented circumstances. However, 7,500 people under one roof is still a ton of people, even if mask wearing and social distancing is enforced. Given the pandemic’s uncertainty, ordering a pizza and watching with your roommates doesn’t sound like a bad alternative.
When the pandemic eventually subsides, and it is safer for fans to attend games at a greater degree, there’s no doubt I’ll plan to head out and watch my AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox. However, that time isn’t now.
We don’t know when fans are going to pack the stands again, but that’s OK.
COVID-19 has taught me there are plenty of benefits of watching a game virtually. If you embrace it, watching a game from home can be just as exciting as that in-person.