124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Fox will populate its MLB broadcasts with thousands of creepy baseball Sims

Adam Schefter tweeted something kind of funny this week. While not ordinarily known for his sense of humor, on Wednesday night ESPN's NFL guru graced his 7.8 million followers with the punchline of all punchlines, confirming an @nflprguy report that all fans at NFL games this fall will be required to wear face masks. LOL. Fans at NFL games? This fall? Hahahahaha, Schefty, you deserve your own Netflix special for that one my friend.

Now, Adam Schefter has very little to do with baseball, but the NFL’s almost comical denial of reality illustrates a point other sports leagues around the world have either already learned or are in the process of learning: Next to the logistics of employee safety in this zombie apocalypse of a world, the biggest hurdle facing league offices is just what the hell to do without fans in the stands, both from a revenue and product perspective.

The solutions, band-aids, makeweights and consolations so far have been various. The Mets have erected horrifying cardboard cutout versions of their fans. European soccer has piped in elevator music versions of their iconic songs. The NBA cool-kids have a giant LED screen featuring taped fan reactions from seasons past while FC Seoul finally put their sex doll collection to good use. Fox’s MLB broadcasts have a completely new plan, however.

Sims. Thousands of drunk, screaming Sims.

For many Americans, baseball is being hailed as a “return to sports,” and it’s hard to imagine sports without sports fans. But those of us who have been watching the PGA Tour and Premier League for the last two months have a slightly different perspective:

Who the hell cares?

Is baseball better with fans hanging on every ball and strike call like the meaning of their very lives depends on it? It sure is. Are said fans necessary for the core viewing experience, especially when 40% of the stadium is empty and 10% of the people who are there are actually paying attention? They sure aren’t.

Maybe we should applaud Fox for thinking outside the box and trying something. But isn’t fake crowd noise pulled straight from a video game video gamey enough? Do we really need to add Robo Jim and Robo Jane to the equation? If you want to watch baseball, you’re going to get to watch baseball. That should be good enough for now.