Saturday’s fight card at UFC 249 was a stacked one to say the least.
The card had plenty of big names fans are familiar with and, of course, the fights were fantastic. The impressive part of the whole event was the production along with the precautions UFC president Dana White took protecting the fighters as well as everyone in attendance, which consisted of the camera crew, judges and announcers.
If any professional sports company was the best to start the trend of hosting events without fans, it was the UFC. Fans of the UFC from the early 2000s remember the Ultimate Fighter TVshow in which 20 guys would fight in a gym in a last-man-standing format with nobody there but a referee, a couple judges and the other competitors. There were never fans allowed. This gave White the experience he needed for hosting such an event.
The fans were given a new perspective on fighting and couldn’t help but be more intimate with the fights whenever a hard punch or kick landed. You could almost feel it yourself without the crowd noise normally drowning it out. While it worked for the UFC and the same could possibly work for basketball, the NFL should contemplate using artificial crowds at games.
Your eyes probably got big there, but hear me out.
While pumping in fake crowd noise is considered a very serious crime in the football world, the benefits during games could largely outweigh the argument about how silly it will look. Without noise, it will be easy for teams to steal each other’s plays from week to week and create a never-ending change in the verbage teams use to call plays.
Let’s not kid ourselves either: Football is played fast and hard and emotions can come out in a hurry. Why should the NFL or NCAA risk losing viewers or create controversy by letting foul language and hard hits dictate the fan’s mood or distract them from the result of the play?
NFL officials and commissioner Roger Goodell did a fantastic job with the draft a couple weeks back and I have no doubt they are thinking of ideas like this to ensure the season goes on as close to normal as possible.
My confidence in the NCAA’s ability to handle the coronavirus is a lot shakier. The NCAA has exponentially more teams to worry about than the NFL and also 28 more governors who need to give the nod for football to continue. Some states are rumored to already be putting football under until the 2021 season and as little as 80 teams could be participating. The other issue is some states allowing fans and some not which would create an unfair advantage to teams.
The NFL has already made plans for teams to share stadiums. If a roadblock occurs and certain teams cannot host fans at their stadium, they would move to the closest state allowing games and rotate weekends with the real home team. This plan puts pressure on governors of states to allow fans because not only do they want the revenue to stay in state but they also don’t want fans traveling to other states and potentially contracting the virus and bringing it across state lines.
While the UFC did a great job of breaking the seal on sports, I have no reservations the NFL will execute at an even better rate with even more success.