FANS EAGERLY AWAIT RETURN TO IN-PERSON SPORTING EVENTS

FANS+EAGERLY+AWAIT+RETURN+TO+IN-PERSON+SPORTING+EVENTS

Aidan Murray, Executive Online Sports Editor

The smell of freshly cut grass and hot dogs at Guaranteed Rate Field on June 11th, 2019 was something magical. What made this particular night so special was me being able to witness the first home run of young White Sox slugger Eloy Jiminez. Something about the crack of the bat, the loudness of the crowd and the boom of the fireworks above left field made this moment much more special for fans in the stadium. 

“Something I personally miss about being able to attend sporting events is the loudness of the crowd and how it hypes up the players on the court,” sophomore Rocco Falls said. 

This was the last White Sox game I attended before the pandemic struck and put everything to a halt in March 2020. 

No matter how much school work I had, or whatever problems came my way, I always knew I would be able to designate a day to get out to Guaranteed Rate Field to catch a White Sox game or go see a football or basketball game on a Friday night at Prospect. 

The White Sox, along with the rest of the MLB, did not allow fans in the stadium at any time throughout the 2020 season. Along with this, high school sports this season will be seeing a limited capacity. For example, each Prospect basketball player can only have two immediate family members at each home game.

Going to games was always therapeutic to me;seeing my favorite players up close and in person always gave me motivation to continue to work hard. Likewise with high school sports, I always found it really cool to see my classmates and kids I know compete at a high level of their respective sport. 

Now, if I were to compare the moment in which I witnessed Jiminez’s home run in person to seeing it on television, I would not give the same answer as to how electric it is. Being at home on my couch after a long day of school or work just isn’t as decompressing as actually being at the field. 

Going along with that, the whole idea of being home watching sports is much more anticlimactic. For instance, when I am at home watching my sophomore brother, who plays on the sophomore level for basketball, play through the live stream on my phone, it makes it much harder for me to get excited for him when he plays well compared to seeing it in person. 

Putting into perspective how hard it is for me to get excited watching through electronics, I would imagine the players have just as hard a time if not harder getting pumped up during games. 

I noticed players in the shortened 2020 MLB season that majorly underperformed as a partial result of the difference it makes playing in front of no fans.

Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs went from batting .281 with 29 home runs and 85 RBIs in his 2019 season to batting .203 with 8 homers (equivalent to about 22 home runs in a 162 game season) and 24 RBIs (equivalent to about 65 RBIs in a 162 game season). These numbers are evidently not anywhere near where someone as talented as Baez would produce under normal circumstances. 

Just like the professional players, it can be assumed that players at all levels of any sports are having a harder time adjusting to the new norm of few fans as fans for high school athletes are a key factor in their performances. 

“For sure it’s been harder at home games without the fans and the student section,” sophomore varsity basketball player Alex Georgakas said. “But the intensity of the game still has to stay the same if we are trying to win.” 

Along with keeping a strong mental mindset, the players on the bench help a great deal for the players on the court. 

“During the game the bench is a big factor to keep the energy up and motivate their teammates,” Georgakas said.

Although teammates are able to hype each other up, it is likely that they all wish they could go back to the days of playing in front of large crowds.

With a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, and cases steadily going down in Illinois, we will hopefully eventually be able to go back to the games we like seeing our favorite teams. There have even been reports that teams such as the Cubs and the Sox will be able to host fans at limited capacity this summer. 

“When we are all able to go back to sporting events it will be amazing,” Falls said. “Everyone is going to have lots of fun cheering on our school and watching the game. It’s going to be awesome when everything is back to normal.”