I was amused earlier this month when Taiwan Baseball returned to play with mannequins and cardboard cuts taking the place of fans in the seats. As leagues begin to wrap their heads around the logistics of playing in empty arenas, I wonder how they’ll deal with the lack of fans in the seats on live broadcasts. I know that we are itching for live action, but I also think that many of us realize the overall ambiance that a live crowd adds to a broadcast. Being an academic and man of science, I posed this question to my small cadre of Twitter followers.
You’ll notice I didn’t include mannequins as an option, but I think the results are interesting enough. It would appear that most folks don’t want a virtual or artificial simulation of the crowd–even if it’s just simulated crowd noise. The split between keeping the seats dark and acknowledging the emptiness with all of the lights on is notable, maybe a tacit admission that we want to fully embrace the weirdness of what lies ahead. As for my vote? I’d like to see the seats full of digital avatars, perhaps with some random celebrity easter eggs thrown in.