On Saturday night, it felt like sports were back. The UFC managed to accomplish the ambitious task of holding a great sporting event amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic. It was insanely fun and refreshing for the sports community. One of the best fight cards in UFC’s history took place in Jacksonville… and yet they did it without a crowd. How did they handle to do it? More importantly, how will the NFL manage to make the most out of empty stadiums?
While the future is uncertain, NFL teams should be preparing to face a 2020 season that doesn’t future fans in the stands. It will be tough and it will be different, but not having a football season would be worse. This presents a complicated challenge for the league, as TV broadcasts will have to do their best to replace a key element of the game.
In UFC 249, we saw a great broadcast despite not having its traditional crowd going bananas over the action taking place in the octagon. But football is way different than fighting. Networks will need to get creative to entertain fans as most as possible. Not only that, but the league will need to allow them to try out a few different things.
Here are some thoughts and ideas on how they can make that happen. Some are pretty reasonable while some may come out as a little bit out of the box. But hey, at this time… we need out-of-the-box thinking.
1. Mic’ them all up.
When we talk about missing fans, we’re not talking about watching them sitting in the stands. Sure, we’ll miss that too, but that’s not the biggest issue at all. After all, the cameras will still be showing us what we usually see, which is the playing field.
What we will miss is the crowd noise. Fans getting loud in crucial third downs. Thousands of people screaming when their favorite player scores a touchdown.
Aspiring sportscasters always are taught the importance of shutting up in big moments and let the crowd carry the game. Well, now there won’t be a live audience. How do you replace what fans are hearing at home?
My idea? Mic’ them all up. Okay, maybe not all, but a lot of players. But forget about saving it for post-game clips. Let us listen to it live. What is J.J. Watt telling the Bucs offensive line between plays? What is Jaylon Smith talking about with Leighton Vander Esch in the sidelines?
Let us listen to it all!
2. Midgame interviews.
This didn’t go very well for the XFL at times, but it’s probably because they overdid it. There were some gold nuggets in their mid-game interviews. Reporters would sit on the bench with players and ask them about touchdowns that had just been scored. How awesome would that be in the NFL?
Larry Rose and Martez Carter sideline interview was golden… #XFL #Defenders #Wildcats https://t.co/PStveFFzlJ
If the league allows networks to do something like this, I’m sure fans will enjoy. Just keep from overdoing it and things will likely not go wrong. And if they do go wrong, so what? It’s a challenging season for everyone.
3. Fans Reactions in Video Chats
The league did a great job at covering the 2020 NFL Draft in virtual fashion and a key element was fans booing Roger Goodell and cheering for their team’s picks on video chats. The league should stick to that idea by hooking up tons of fans and monitoring them for the best reactions.
And we’re not talking positive only reactions. Sure, show us guys going nuts about their team taking the lead late in the fourth quarter but also show us the guy whose playoff hopes just went away with his favorite player’s fumble.
Cruel? No… fun.
4. Let us into Booth Reviews
The XFL and AAF got a few things right. One of those was the surprising transparency of letting us into booth reviews.
@FOXTV Transparency. Listen to the pros work their way through getting the call right. https://t.co/WZVXW0V6yg
Officiating has been a big issue for the NFL lately, and rightfully so. This, along with the proposed sky judge idea, could be a huge step in the right direction for the league. Even if fans are allowed to return to the stadiums, this idea should be on the table.
Additionally, it gives us another sound bite to enjoy on game day.
5. Have Guests in Broadcast Booths
I’m not really sure how this would work. You see it a lot in baseball, where the pace is considerably slower and commentators have the chance to engage in casual conversation a lot more. But how fun would it be listening to former players and coaches that aren’t usually in the booth giving their insight to the game and telling stories?
Knowing when to get them in and out would be a challenge for play-by-play commentators but if done properly, it could go a long way for football broadcasts.