Palpable tension and unbridled joy: The sports moments fans are missing
By The New York Times
Live sports are back. Live fans are (mostly) not.
You can catch some spectators projected digitally at NBA games or cardboard cutouts “seated” in Major League Baseball stadiums. But it’s not the same.
The echoing “DEE-FENSE” chant can’t be heard in arenas or on TV broadcasts. Players don’t hear the roar for a home run, and there is no chest-pounding for thousands of adoring fans.
As live sports began returning in the United States, The New York Times asked sports fans to share what they missed about going to games. Responses were both wistful and hopeful.
Readers said they longed for the simple pleasure of a minor league baseball game with family and the euphoria of witnessing a hometown team advance to the playoffs. Many expressed hope that it would someday feel normal again to hug strangers after a sweet victory or a devastating defeat.
Here is a selection of responses, edited for clarity and length.
The Whole City Believed in the Team -- Peter Mastrippolito, Washington, D.C.
After over seven innings of palpable tension and despair in the crowd, Juan Soto’s base-clearing hit to give the Nationals the lead against the Milwaukee Brewers in their National League wild-card game last year was like throwing a Molotov cocktail into a fireworks factory.
I’ve never been so elated at a game, and I’ve never seen a crowd go as crazy as the Nationals fans did that night. I still re-watch Soto’s hit and still can’t believe that the Nationals won that night, let alone the World Series a few weeks later. I can’t imagine a moment like that having the same impact without the 40,000 people there experiencing the same emotions.
Everyone was chanting “Beat LA.” as we left the ballpark. It felt like the whole city believed in the team.
Missing Hoarse Voices and 60,000 Fans -- Alyze Bellucci, El Dorado Hills, Calif.
In late January, my 9-year-old son and I attended the San Francisco 49ers’ NFC championship game, which led them to the Super Bowl. We had the most amazing time and we did not sit down for a single defensive play as the 49ers dominated the Green Bay Packers.
We woke up the next morning with hoarse, raspy voices from screaming and cheering. It’s hard to believe now that earlier this year we were closely packed in with more than 60,000 people and not remotely concerned.
Before I had children, I worked in the front office of two Major League Baseball teams. Fans in attendance, both from my personal and past professional experiences, are a huge part of the game. I miss sports with all my heart … from my son’s Little League team to the San Francisco Giants’ season.
Crisp High-Fives Between Strangers -- Taryn Shanes, Plano, Texas
In 2010, at 12 years old, I was standing alongside my dad and thousands of Texas Rangers fans as we witnessed the first American League Championship Series win in franchise history.
I wish I had recorded more of the crowd reaction: Kids cheering at the fireworks, crisp high-fives between strangers, grown men gruffly embracing each other and pretending not to notice the tears.
Watching the truncated 60-game season in 2020 is both comforting and alienating. Elvis Andrus is still at shortstop and Eric Nadel still calls the games on the radio, but who will cheer and high-five and hug and cry if the Rangers make it all the way?
Missing Getting Off Work to Check for Tickets -- Anwar Abdul-Rahman, Brooklyn
I took a photo on Nov. 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn when the Nets were playing the Sacramento Kings. One of my good friends is a Kings fan, and as a Los Angeles Lakers fan I went to boo the Kings! (Editor’s note: The Nets won, 116-97.)
I love going to sports events at Barclays. You can get great seats for some games on resale apps, and the energy, food and entertainment are amazing.
Even though the bubble is happening, as a fan you don’t feel the same energy of a close game at the arena. At Barclays, I even got to see one of my students perform with the Brooklyn Nets Beats Drumline.
I also think of the workers and other entertainers at live sporting events and how this option for them has disappeared. I’m rooting for the Lakers in the bubble, but I definitely wish it was live, so fans, and even spectators on TV, could feel the energy.
A Poignant Win in Person -- Matt Tripp, Atlanta
The last athletic event I attended was the 2019 Iron Bowl. Auburn won, 48-45, against Alabama in front of a home crowd.
As an Auburn graduate, it was a thrilling victory, but it was also especially poignant in that it was the last game I went to with my mother, who found out in September that she had peritoneal mesothelioma. She would later pass away in February.
This particular game will always hold a special place in my heart, not because of the awesome win, but because it was one of the last times I felt normal with my family.
Unbridled Joy -- Peter Retzlaff, Jersey City, N.J.
As a lifelong fan this — the day the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl — was the greatest day of my life. The relief, the disbelief, the unbridled joy, the absolute ecstasy is completely unmatched. Being able to be there in person was beyond words.
And yet a perfectly turned double play, the excitement of someone stealing home or Ray Allen’s perfect jump shot all elicit the exact same feeling, just in a much smaller dose.
That feeling, the community of fans, and enjoying it all with family are what make sports so magical.
An Atmosphere That Can’t Be Emulated -- Rachid Yousfi, Portland, Ore.
Starting in 2019, my two friends and I began an annual reunion where we meet at a city of our choosing to watch a Major League Soccer game. The first was in Seattle in April 2019, when the Seattle Sounders faced Real Salt Lake. Seeing the north end supporters’ group drumming, clapping and singing gave me goose bumps.
Seeing soccer games pick back up in Germany is great, but the atmosphere that supporters’ groups bring to the stadium can’t be emulated.
I’m hopeful I’ll be able to see this in full swing before long.