It's been just about a year since the coronavirus outbreak completely changed everything — including how fans experience live sporting events. Everything seemed fine this time last year when Miami hosted Super Bowl LIV, but it was only a few short weeks later that the NBA put a halt to its season, signaling that this new pandemic was something to take seriously.
Slowly but surely, things are now beginning to get back to normal, especially in Florida. Well, normal-ish. Our new normal.
As the Florida Panthers, Miami Dolphins, Miami Marlins, and Miami Heat all work toward acquiring a WELL Health-Safety Rating and bringing back fans, now's a good time to look ahead and imagine how attending games in person may be changed forever — or at least for a while.
Say goodbye to the Kiss Cam. Remember Kiss Cam? You know, that thing NHL, NBA, and MLB teams sometimes do during breaks in the action to lighten the mood and entertain the crowd? Yeah, that's not coming back for a while.
The worst-kept secret of all time is that most of the kisses are setups. Dudes aren't out here just kissing the stranger sitting next to them on a Jumbotron. Those couples are planted. But the fakery is a tradition we'll miss.
Passing a beer down the row to the stranger 12 seats from you. Everyone's been to a baseball game, purchased a beer or snack, and had it passed down a row of strangers into their hands. Nope! Not any more! Not a thing.
Can you imagine — in the midst of a pandemic — purchasing a hot pretzel and then watching everyone from Seat 1 to Seat 14 get a grip on it before it eventually gets to you? Hasn't Dr. Fauci been through enough already? Why are you doing this to him?
No more stranger high-fives. You know those peak sports moments when the home team does something so exciting your hand has no choice but to slap that of a total stranger or you may spontaneously combust? That's gone for a while. We haven't even been shaking hands in business settings for months, but you think you're going to slap a stranger's whole-ass hand after Duncan Robinson hits a three to bring the Heat to within 14? No.
Stranger high-fives are a part of sports. For now, stranger thumbs-ups?
Paper tickets. Many teams had already been moving away from actual physical tickets to more digital options as of late, but COVID will make them completely obsolete, if they weren't already. Everyone has a device with them these days. There really isn't a reason to be ripping ticket stubs any more.
There may still be some sort of option for people without a device to get in games, like a wristband or a QR code on a piece of paper you could pick up at will-call, but the days of physical tickets are done.
Drinking games at tailgates won't be as gross. Who among us hasn't sucked from a beer tap after ten people already did a keg stand with it? Raise your hand if you haven't played flip cup for hours with the same 20 cups and a Ping-Pong ball that has likely rolled in dog urine. All of us have. But probably not any more.
I mean, people will still do these things, but will you? If so, then good luck!
No more worrying about being able to see. There are advantages to every bad situation — like being up at 4 a.m. for a flight and having I-95 all to yourself. With teams only letting in so many fans for the foreseeable future, you won't have to worry about those people who stand up in front of you even when the game doesn't call for such a thing.
Fans will be spread out, which means so much room for activities. No armrest-sharing worries and no stranger's butt in your face during the third inning of a Marlins game.
Long bathroom lines. Being stuffed inside a damp bathroom during halftime of a big Dolphins game is, oddly enough, one of my fondest childhood memories. Trying to pee and grab some nachos and get back to your seat before the third quarter starts is practically a game within itself.
For multiple reasons, long, crowded bathroom lines at sporting events are a thing of the past, at least until 2022. The fact that crowds will be seriously decreased in capacity and no one in their right mind will volunteer to pack into the worst-ventilated rooms in the world makes the long, storied tradition of bathroom lines at sporting events a thing of the past, for now.
Sharing food. Double-dipping was always a party foul, but in 2021, it might get you slapped. Blindly reaching your hand into a bag of peanuts or popcorn as the Marlins are at bat is part of the ballpark experience. In the middle of a pandemic, though, you're going to want to make sure you know who you're sharing those snacks with pretty well if that's a thing you're going to continue.
Are you sure your coworker Pam passes the nacho-sharing test? Probably not. Your kids or dad? Maybe.
Fighting over foul balls. When I was a kid, I used to go to Marlins games, sit down, and find a foul ball from a previous game or batting practice under my seat. This happened three times. That would never happen in a ballpark that was packed, but in 2021, no parks will be packed.
With the Marlins announcing they'll only allow 20 percent capacity in the ballpark to begin the season, the days of fighting over a foul ball are surely over. It's definitely possible you'll be able to watch a ball bounce 12 times in a section to your left, get up, amble over in a leisurely fashion, and pick it up.
The traditional game-day experience. In the end, attending live sports games in 2021 just won't be the same. What makes attending sports events special is packing in with thousands of people and feeling the ground shake beneath your feet when your team does well. That's not happening, because there will be fewer of us there this year.
Hopefully, the way we attend sports events in 2021 will be an outlier, and in 2022, we can all go back to how things used to be. But not this year.
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