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The NFL works astonishingly well with no fans

It’s almost like nothing was missing.

For months we wondered how an NFL game would feel without fans, and honestly — midway through the first quarter on Sunday I forgot nobody was in attendance. Sure, it makes a difference for players used to feeding off a live crowd, but for the rest of us the experience was more or less the same.

How did it all work so well? What can be improved? These are going to be questions moving forward for the rest of the season.

What went well …

Credit where it’s due to CBS, FOX and NBC for making a few small adjustments that made us forget the crowd wasn’t there. Production leaned on tighter shots of players, rather than cutting to fans in the stand. It was so subtle you probably didn’t even notice unless you really combed over the games.

Bill Belichick didn’t think it made much of a difference either.

This made me laugh out loud. pic.twitter.com/5PUiKPZGKy — Mark Dondero (@MarkDondero) September 14, 2020

The natural camera angle we’re used to see plays cuts out much more of the crowd than the NBA or NHL, where we’re more accustomed to seeing the fans behind the play. Yes, we still miss a little of than fan-fueled flavor, but the experience of seeing a game at home was basically the same.

When paired with simulated crowd noise it felt largely like every single game we’ve been watching for years.

What could be improved …

Just because there’s a lack of fans doesn’t mean we need to lose personality. That’s the big thing missing. If the NFL really wants to sell the idea of virtual fans with simulated cheering, they should accept the full fan experience and make things more contextual.

For instance, the simulated crowd never booed a…

James Dator

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