At the moment, we don’t know what football in 2020 will look like, either from the field level, or from the stands—assuming that there will be a view from the stands. On the field level, the NFL is partnering with sports equipment companies to come up with some way to incorporate a protective facemask to help reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19.
From the stands…well, as implied, we don’t know yet if fans will be allowed to attend games. Currently, the only major sports leagues going on around the world are not allowing fans to attend the events, including NASCAR racing in the United States, baseball in South Korea, and soccer in Germany.
But the NFL doesn’t kick off, even in the preseason, for another couple of months. Teams are already selling tickets for fans to attend, though they are not doing so without warning, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have even taken the step of only making half of their tickets available to the buying public.
If there are no fans, veteran wide receiver DeSean Jackson has an idea to try to make the game, or more specifically the broadcast, perhaps, more interesting. He and Philadelphia Eagles teammate Lane Johnson kicked around the idea of putting microphones on all the players, obviously a much more extensive usage than they do for standard broadcasts.
“Yeah, it’s gonna get crazy. I think they should, though. They should give the fans the inside to really see what goes on between the white lines”, Jackson said. “It gets crazy, bro. I know in the trenches it gets crazy, and I know out there on the outside it gets crazy too with the conversations we go back and forth on”.
This is one of I’m sure many suggestions that have come out and will continue to come out about how to provide a broadcast experience for a sporting event in which there is nobody to watch it in attendance. ‘Crowd noise’ has become a ubiquitous element of sporting events, and it will feel somehow naked, even artificial, without it.
There have bene proposals to embrace that artificiality, or to counter it, by pumping in programmed crowd noise, either as part of the broadcast, or in the stadium itself. I’m sure there are a number of other ideas that are being explored.
I do think that enough players have commented on the legitimate effects a no-crowd stadium can have on the game that the league will be taking this very seriously. Even the Bungesliga players in Germany are talking about how unusual it is, and how it has killed homefield advantage.
There is a bottom line to all of this, though: sports with no audience is a lot better than no sports at all. The NFL still has every intention of hosting full stadiums, or failing that, partial-capacity stadiums, but if worse comes to worst, the show must go on—even if the only ones able to see it will be viewing through a television screen.