Football, like most everything else in 2020 is VERY different this season. Maybe it is because I’ve limited my football viewing to YouTube highlight reels of B1G conference games and the NFL.
Football without fans is…well…boring. It’s like watching a scrimmage. Granted a high-end TV production of a scrimmage, but still it has all the excitement of a scrimmage. At least, it does to me.
This must change the level of play too. For most players, the energy that a crowd brings to the game effects how they perform. Both for the good and bad. There are players that will perform better when being cheered for, there are some that feel the pressures of a huge and electric home crowd.
Some visiting players feed off the jeering from the opposition fans. Some visiting players will under-perform based on the jeering from the opposing team’s fans. We are getting little if any in the 2020 version of big-time sports.
Conversely, anyone that has been in organized sports or organized competition of any kind knows of at least one competitor that was a great practice player and folded like a cheap suit when competition began, especially if there was a crowd to observe.
We may be seeing good performances from players that normally would not shine in the spotlight and perhaps less brilliant play from those who ‘turn on’ when the lights come up and the fans cheer loudly.
For Packer fans, the lack of spectators has not changed the play of Aaron Rodgers or Davante Adams. They are in a groove with each other that most competitors never get to experience. Those at the top of their game are not affected by too many external variables.
There is one thing that the lack of in person fans has changed. Home field advantage. When testing my hypothesis, I chose the NFL for collecting data. This league prides itself for leveling the playing field. The NFL system makes parity the norm.
Parity in the NFL has had one exception. Being the home team. From 2002 to 2019 home teams had a statistical edge over visiting teams. The home team won 60% of NFL games during these 18 seasons. That has changed this season.
Fourteen weeks into the 2020 season sees absolutely no advantage to be the home NFL team. After the week 14 Monday night game NFL home teams have won 103 games, lost 104 games and one tie. That’s 49.5% home wins. Let’s round up and say teams have a 50% chance of winning no matter where the game is played. Now that is true parity.
Home teams won more they lost only during weeks 2, 5, 10 and 11. Ten weeks of majority losing home teams versus 4 weeks of more winning home teams than losers. Assuming near even odds, if you were to bet the visiting team each week in the NFL you would be ahead of the bookies.
Unless this season has been a fluke…kinda like the year 2020 has been…and if the NFL wants continued parity, they should gain all revenue only from broadcasting contracts. Building stadiums in the future will be less expensive because they will no longer need to house 60,000 to 100,000 fans. Communities will not have the pressures of being asked to pay for professional venues for the sake of keeping a franchise that is threatening to move to a town that will build a huge state of the art stadium.
I do not hope for this speculation, attending professional and college athletics is awesome. We miss attending live performances of all kinds, athletics is no different. The new normal of isolation stinks, let’s hope the new year ushers in plenty of safe gathering.