NOVAK: Live sports without a crowd lacks energy

I had very little expectation of what sports with no fans would sound and feel like going into Sunday.

I guess since it was golf and NASCAR, I thought it might not matter if there were no crowd sounds since golf is supposed to be played in hushed tones, and the roar of a stock car engine usually drowns out more of the cheering.

Boy was I wrong.

Without any crowd interaction, it felt like there was no emotion at either the PGA or the NASCAR race at Darlington Speedway. It was even more evident when they interviewed race winner Kevin Harvick, and you could almost hear the crickets chirping in the background.

Each day I see that more and more sports are moving toward restarting as states begin to loosen up their stay-at-home orders. I know fans are excited for it to happen, but be careful what you wish for. You may not like the product that you get.

I really do not know how to explain how I felt on Sunday. I was happy to see live sports back on the television. Heck, I even had both events going at the same time. But there was just something missing. They both lacked that magic that apparently the fans bring to the broadcast even when you do not actually see them.

I have read a lot of comments about WWE and how their two shows each week have that same issue. But professional wrestling really needs that fan interaction as part of its show. Just having a few wrestlers march down to the ring with loud music and then try to play out some script just does not work.

I watched HBO’s Real Sports a week or so ago when they interviewed four of the top broadcasters from the various professional and college sports. I actually laughed off Joe Buck’s comment about piping crowd noise into the broadcast to give you more of a real-game feel. After this weekend, Buck maybe on to something.

For decades, college coaches have piped crowd noise or loud music through their speakers at practice to get a team ready for a notoriously loud venue. I guess that could work as we return to live sports with no crowds.

I know we are a long way from having any sporting events with live crowds. Nothing we can complain about or wish for is going to change that. I guess I will have to get used to it for now and hope that the networks can figure out something that would give each sport the “real feel” of fans attending.

But for now, I will sit back and enjoy seeing sports return one by one.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at