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New Norms in NFL Stadium Attendance

Football is back! The NFL has two weeks under its belt with a third week on the way and thirteen more following, hoping they make it that far. Last March when the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak started the sports world was gearing up for the tournament season of college and high school basketball (I’m using basketball because football ended in February). The initial reaction was to limit fan attendance. The first reports were that they weren’t going to allow fans at the BIG TEN tournament, ACC tournament, or any other conference tournament and for high school, only two fans per kid. As we all know, everything got cancelled. Fast forward six months to September and football is on as scheduled. With one difference, no fans, or at least limited attendance. 

It’s refreshing being able to get back to normal by turning on the television on Sunday afternoon and seeing football, however, you can tell the atmosphere is different in those stadiums. You tune into Lambeau Field to see Rodgers drop dimes in an empty stadium. No “Go Pack Go” chant, none of that classic Green Bay home field advantage. But then, Dallas gets the Sunday night prime time game and once Ezekiel Elliot breaks a big run you hear the roar of a crowd. That begs the question “Why do they get fans and we don’t?” That answer is determined locally.

ESPN reported what each team is going to do with their fans. As for the local teams; the Chicago Bears said they want to have fans in their stadium and were working on a plan to achieve that, but with numbers in Chicago and Illinois still being so high that allowing fans in Soldier Field is not looking too good, according to ESPN. As for the Green Bay Packers, they said they will not allow fans for the first two home games and that the chance of fans won’t come up until Nov. 1. If fans are allowed in Lambeau Field, there will only be about 10,000 to 12,000 fans allowed, according to ESPN. 

There is no real consistency with the whole NFL allowing fans or not, but the decision is centered around what local officials say. For example, the Jacksonville Jaguars are allowing a maximum capacity of 25% for every home game in 2020. Then, still in Florida, where the Tampa Buccaneers said they will not allow fans until Oct. 18. The remaining 28 NFL teams are doing one of these three; no fans at all the whole year, not having fans through the first 2 weeks to a month of the year then reevaluating or having the stadium no more than 25% full.  

It’s frustrating as an athlete because you really feed off the crowd’s energy. When the whole stadium comes alive when their team needs a big fourth down stop, or when the visiting team trots out their kicker and you have the whole stadium screaming at the top of their lungs hoping to get in the head of the kicker. Things like that you just can’t simulate. Without the crowd teams like the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints may not be as dominant or may not look like themselves without the crowd behind them on every snap.

On the bright side, football is back, it’s being televised and there have been no outbreaks in the NFL. All we can do is cheer from dorm rooms and hope to see packed stadiums in the future.

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