Seven weeks. Although it has felt like seven months, it’s been over seven weeks since we’ve had organized sporting events. And much like all of you reading this, I want sports. I’ve resorted to watching sporting events from the past 10 years when life was simpler. 17,000+ fans could congregate in an arena, try to get an autograph or a high five from a player, or even fight for a foul ball at Fenway Park in a god-awful seat behind a beam. This pandemic has been life altering in many ways, and there are serious implications with it, but with that from a strict sports fan standpoint the question is what will sporting events look like from a fan’s perspective.
A survey was recently published by Seton Hall that asked how fans would approach a potential return to arenas, stadiums and parks without a COVID-19 vaccine. 72% of those surveyed said they would not attend games, while 12% would go if social distancing was used and 13% would go as if nothing happened. In fairness, some people surveyed were not sports fans, however 61% of sports fans still would not go without a vaccine.
It’s obvious when states lift stay-at-home orders and advisories it will have to be done slowly. What does this mean to sports fans? It will be a while before we get back into the seats we use to complain about, but we will get there. Many athletes from the major sports leagues want to play and would play in front of no fans, even if it meant an awkward feeling after a game altering moment with no cheers or boos.
We may be getting to the point of small crowds in some states. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis said that some fans would be allowed at WWE and AEW (All Elite Wrestling) live shows. The caveat is that there is a building capacity limit of 25%, which leaves many people asking what’s the point. The point is, this is how we most likely will get fans returning to their seats. 25% occupancy will change to 50% then 75% and eventually we’ll sell out the Garden, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium.
Paper tickets are going to be a thing of the past, which many sporting venues and third-party ticket sellers have already done by transitioning to E-Tickets on your phone. As restrictions slowly get lifted, we may need to wear masks, like some of the players probably will as well, but teams are starting to sell masks with their logos on it with proceeds going to charity. At Fenway Park, part of the ambiance is having Cracker Jacks flying over your head or passing someone’s hot dog or $20 bill down the aisle. That will be a thing of the past as will other fan experiences, like waiting in a long line for the bathroom or the 7th inning beer rush with some form of distancing most likely needing to be used.
When fans can actually sit in seats expect a spread-out crowd. Much like airlines are starting to do, fans won’t be sitting arm to arm. There may be a seat in between and a row separating you and the person in front of you. In the Garden or Fenway that might not be the worst thing in the world, as much fun as getting a seat to your kneecap is.
It may be a little while more, but eventually we’ll get to come back together, and we’ll be able to celebrate all that comes with being a Boston sports fan.