APTOPIX Braves Mets Baseball

New York Mets employees place photographic cutouts of fans in the seats on Friday before their opening-night baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. Major league games are taking place without people in the stands due to the pandemic.

The Astros were my team growing up.

I read the box scores, knew the stars and was unashamed of rainbow jerseys.

When Jose Cruz homered, you could hear the crowd noise on the broadcast from the AM station in Baton Rouge.

I had no doubt the fans were there in the Astrodome because I’d been there. I’d seen it.

These days you can be tricked by those broadcasts. When you watch the highlights – from any number of platforms unavailable in 1980 – you can see there are no fans.

At least no real ones. If Major League Baseball is going to commit to cardboard cutout fans, they need to go all-in. That means dropping a pocket of Yankees fans in every stadium with the random Red Sox fan who leaps from his seat to curse at them.

While baseball tries to manufacture the game-day experience as COVID-19 keeps crowds away, I prefer the artificial noise to the cutout fans.

I probably watched as much televised baseball over the weekend as I have in years.

A month ago, when daily COVID-19 case counts were fewer, a college football season seemed like a foregone conclusion albeit with some adjustments – like what to do with the fans.

A place called ‘hope’

An Ole Miss email to season ticket holders said, “The hope is to have a full Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.” When that got out in a social media post it grew legs. The word “hope” was overlooked.

In recent days there’s been so much effort expended in trying to have football in a safe environment for players there seems to be less talk about fan attendance, masks at games, etc.

In mid-July after the Big 10 and Pac-12 had already announced plans for “conference-only” football in 2020 the SEC continued its “wait and see” approach.

If an announcement doesn’t come this week, it will soon.

The SEC isn’t going to sit and watch the Big 10 and Pac-12 play football.

Understand that any conference’s plan is subject to change in small part or large from any state’s governor.

Understand too that “playing” football at this point only means “starting” football. When the positive COVID cases arrive, and they will, schools will isolate and protect the best they can. Starting football may happen, but finishing football should not be assumed.

As I did over the weekend, SEC officials no doubt watched a lot of MLB.

The SEC would love to have fans in the stands, but figuring out who gets in and managing the hurt feelings from that has its own set of problems.

If baseball can pull off a safe COVID season with no fans – and it’s too early to make that call as the Marlins have become the first COVID outbreak – that could impact the SEC’s decision.

Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for The Daily Journal. Find more in the Facebook Group “Ole Miss Discussion w/Parrish Alford.”

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