Fake Crowds Takeover Stadiums But No Match For Real Fans

When history is written about 2020 it will be known as the year of many things. One of those things – admittedly a few chapters into the books as something of a footnote – will be that 2020 was the year of the fake crowd.

It is hard to explain just how weird the concept of a fake crowd for a sporting event would have sounded at the back end of 2019. We love our premier players, be they on the diamond, the court, the rink, or the field. While fans aren’t the reason sports exist, they are the main reason that they matter to anyone other than the players involved. Sports without fans makes about as much sense as fans without sports, but that is the world we are living in today.

Sports in America are a little behind the curve when it comes to opening up. This is understandable given the size of the country, the distribution of people, and the number of ongoing cases. This means that the leagues in the US will have had time to watch the various methods of atmosphere creation around the world to see what has worked best to date.

In order to help out the NFL/NBA/Et Al, here are some random thoughts about which league has done the best job of giving its premier players and fans at home a decent experience amongst the madness of 2020.

Actually having a crowd

This first concept might be cheating a little bit but it is pretty obvious that the best thing a league can do to have an authentic experience is to actually have an authentic experience. New Zealand has to be seen as the pioneers of this strategy as 41,000 packed inside Eden Park to watch the Blues vs. the Chiefs as their Super Rugby Aotearoa competition got underway at the beginning of June. This strategy only works because the disease was eradicated – at one point at least – in the county, but it is worth watching to remember just what we have to look forward to in terms of an experience somewhere down the line.

Sponsor Banners

I mean these are ok. I get why they are there as it allows teams down on revenue to pull a little more out of their sponsors for more exposure while also covering up empty seating that just looks bad. It is effective, efficient, but a little boring. It is hard to believe that the premier players out there would even notice the existence of tarps all over the stadium, but I get it.

Fake Crowd Noise

This is where opinions start to differ. The basic options for fans at home – because premier players competing get nothing but eerie silence – is to have fake sounds piped on top of the broadcast or to have nothing and listen purely to the communication and chatter out on the field. The PGA has mic-upped their golfers and watching Australian rugby with no noise did allow fans to hear just how hard the players are getting hit in that sport. Getting the balance right here has proven to be difficult, with the noise often underwhelming compared to the action. It’s still early so watch this space.

CGI Crowds

They look terrible right now but these have promise. La Liga in Spain tried it first and it looked awful, like blotchy colors on a weak background. Maybe by the time the NFL returns the league can get some of the big CGI companies onto this and have crowds that actually look like they are real people for those watching at home.

Cardboard Cut Outs

The NRL in Australia allowed fans to pay to have their cardboard cutout placed in a random spot in the stadium for at least the first 10 weeks of the season. While their quality control wasn’t ideal early on with some notorious figures slipping through the cracks, this might be my favorite fake crowd yet. The cutouts are vivid and large, plus it is always fun to spot the random pet dog or bird in the stands with their very own cutouts.

Stuffed Animals

Never mind. This wins. Korean League Baseball nailed it with hoards of stuffed animals behind home plate. This is officially the best take from a terrible situation as it is impossible to not be happy seeing the tapestry of madness that the pitcher is looking at when winding up.

Article by Premier Players

Marcus Rashford Puts In The Hard Work For His Team & Humanity

The sports scene in England is not particularly politically minded. That is in stark contrast to the American sports landscape in 2020 where players are using their platforms more than they have in decades. That is not to say, however, that every premier player in England have used this lockdown period for nothing more than workouts and video games, and one such player is Manchester United star striker Marcus Rashford.

Rashford, at the tender age of just 22-years-old, has emerged as a star of the Covid-19 lockdown period in the United Kingdom. He is a player used to making a big impression, having scored on his debut for one of the biggest clubs in world football in 2016 at the age of 18. Since then, Rashford has gone from strength to strength as a premier player on the pitch, quickly becoming the most important attacking player for the Red Devils and also shining for England when given a chance as part of a dynamic and youthful forward lineup.

As impressive as he has been on the pitch over the course of four years, the last few months Rashford has been even more impressive off of it. The son of a single mother, Rashford was a soccer prodigy who was never afraid of hard work and never allowed to cruise along on talent alone. If soccer didn’t work out, Rashford was always going to be in a position to succeed in life thanks to his work ethic and drive.

It is that drive that has seen Rashford’s profile rise in the last few months from a generic, multi-millionaire soccer player who is only in it for himself into a social activist fighting for the every man. Not only has Rashford helped raise millions in donations for the food charity FoodShare, but he has also learned sign language to add another string to his bow and he has launched a poetry competition for deaf children that he seems extremely passionate about.  When you add in his powerful stance and message on racial equality in England in the wake of the George Floyd death and his charitable efforts to counter homelessness in December, then you start to get a sense of just how much Rashford understands that his position and celebrity status can be used for good.

Rashford’s most powerful action yet came in the middle of June where he was able to singlehandedly reverse a decision taken by the UK government on what to do about free school meals during the six-week summer vacation. Initially taking no action, the government quickly created a $150 million fund to provide food shopping vouchers to the families of Britain’s poorest children this summer.

The youngest of five children and raised below the poverty line himself, Rashford wrote an open letter to the government that was so powerful this premier player had members of parliament threatening to revolt against Prime Minister Boris Johnson if no scheme was announced. “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked,” he wrote, before adding: “This is not about politics; this is about humanity.”

It is not his pace, his vision, or his goal-scoring ability that is Rashdford’s best asset. Instead, and perhaps unexpectedly to some given how athletes are sometimes viewed because of their lofty salaries and expensive cars, it is his humanity that has set him apart as a leader during this crisis. Rashford is a product of his generation and his 8.4 million Instagram followers give him a platform to be heard. With at least 10 more years of playing at the top level, Rashford is a player that fans of any team can root for thanks to his upbringing, his spirit and his heart.

Article by Premier Players

Howard’s Andres Gomez Makes The Exclusive MLS SuperDraft List

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2020) – Howard University rising senior Carolyn Williams had an opportunity to speak with midfielder Andres Gomez (Silver Spring, Md.) from the men’s soccer team, asking 10 questions for the 2019-20 Senior Profile series.

Q: What’s your favorite part about soccer?
A: Soccer is a sport that’s not forgiving, which is my favorite part. The amount of effort put in behind-the-scenes is the same amount you’ll see on game day. You’ll reach your full potential if you put in the time and work.

Q: How did you get started playing soccer?
A: Well, a key part of Colombian culture is soccer. So, I grew up watching the World Cup and the Champions League where I fell in love with sport. At that time, I knew soccer was what I wanted to play.

Q: What keeps you motivated to continue with soccer?
A: Scoring a goal is an incredible feeling that’s unmatched. Celebrating with your teammates after driving the ball past a goalie is indescribable. The preparation of practicing 6,000 times for that moment is fulfilling. The sport rewards hard work and dedication, that’s what keeps me motivated to continue playing.

Q: If you were not competing in soccer, what other sport would you play?
A: If I didn’t compete in soccer, I would have chosen cross country. Both sports require running and endurance and I think I’ve gotten pretty good with those characteristics. So, I think cross country would be a good fit.

Q: Who is your favorite athlete and why?
A: My favorite athlete is Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo because he’s the standard. On the field, he has speed, strength, endurance, and tremendous footwork with the ability to lead his team to victory. I admire someone who can do this on a consistent basis.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Once the dust settles after the pandemic and with God’s will, I’m looking to play professionally overseas in Europe.

Q: What or who will you miss at Howard?
A: I’ll miss the great times playing with my teammates. For me, serving as team captain was a big responsibility and I was honored to be the captain for an amazing team. Also, playing and representing a prestigious institution was one of the best experiences in my life.

Q: What advice would you give future Bison?
A: My advice for future Bison is to never settle for mediocracy, always strive and fight for what you believe in.

Q: Who would you like to thank?
A: I would like to thank Coach Phillip Gyau (Howard men’s soccer head coach) for always believing in me from the beginning while giving me the opportunity to grow as a person on and off the field.

About Gomez
Andres Gomez was a four-year member of the men’s soccer team where he played in 49 contests, racking up 31 total points, 14 goals and three assists.

In his final season, he led the nation in shot accuracy (70-percent) while earning Sun Belt All- Conference First Team. Gomez made the exclusive 2020 Major League Soccer SuperDraft list, ranking him among the top eligible players coming out of college.

The DMV native plans to graduate in the summer with a bachelor’s degree in business. After graduation, he plans to pursue a professional career overseas in Europe.

For more information, visit the Bison Athletics website at www.HUBison.com Photo by Rodney Pierce.

NBA Explores Ways To Get Their Premier Players Back In The Game

It is one of those sports topics that is sure to come up as a trivia question in 20 or 30 years’ time if it goes ahead.

Where were the NBA Finals held at the end of the 2019-2020 season?

According to a plan that the NBA is very seriously considering because of Coronavirus, the answer could well be Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

While on the surface this idea seems extremely far-fetched, if you get down to the details there is actually a lot that makes sense. The problem with the US – as opposed to some other countries that have returned to sports sin home stadiums – is the sheer size of the country, the number of different population centers with very different infection rates, and how lock-down measures are simply different in different places.

That is why the bubble idea that was first mooted by the league at the very start of the pandemic has plenty of merit. Initially, it was Las Vegas that was suggested as a potential site, but that just felt like a recipe for disaster even if the casinos and bars were closed. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Disney World Resort, however, is a totally different proposition that could see the premier players of the NBA back on the court as soon as the end of July.

The format of the league is still up in the air. Options range from playing out the league in full to jumping straight into the playoffs with either a regular or expanded field. Fans will not be allowed to sit in the stands and watch the games and the players will be quarantined – and tested frequently – to prevent any outbreaks of the disease from premier players who have been spending the last few months in different regions of the country get together.

This is a part of the country and a facility that is well set up for the unique challenges presented in this climate. The Orlando Invitational Tournament that features NCAA teams has been a fixture of the college basketball tournament scene for a while and Jay Young – the head coach of Fairfield who played in the tournament last season – thinks that this is a proposal that could work.

“It’s a good idea. There is plenty of space and courts. The hotel space down there is as good as you’re going to get in the country. I thought it made a lot of sense, especially if you want to try to keep the players and staff as safe as possible,” Young said.

Basketball feels like it is uniquely set up for a single host site event like this at the professional level. One problem with playing football or soccer in a bubble this way is field space. Basketball courts are able to take plenty of wear and tear that grass specifically just couldn’t sustain. The heavy use of teams training and playing on the same courts each day until the season is concluded is something that works far better on a wooden court than on any other surface in professional sports.

If this plan goes ahead it will be very interesting to see how premier players like LeBron James and Steph Curry react to playing in an environment that is basically a field house/multi-use sports complex. The HP Field House – which would likely serve as the main venue – has around 5,000 (empty) seats. This is obviously very different to an NBA arena which would average around 18,000 seats and which is filled with the history and prestige that comes with being such a venue. These spaces will be smaller and much more intimate, which could make it easier for players but could certainly also affect the way that certain players play the game.

One of the most interesting aspects of this crisis has been to see how sports leagues have adapted and adjusted to getting their premier players back in action. The NBA plan is the most unique out there (so far) and it will be fascinating to see if it is put into action.

Article by Premier Players