Since half the fun of watching baseball (OK, 90% of the fun) is seeing if a fan gets smacked on the side of the head by a foul ball or reaches out to interfere with a ball still in play, it was sad to know there would be no fans in the stands this abbreviated season. Clearly, Fox Sports felt the same way and has announced that it will use software to install virtual crowds when the games air later this week. Since it will all be fake, Fox can populate the crowd any way it wants.
This opens up a whole new way to stomach those three-hour (ok, four-hour) snoozefests by watching carefully to see if Fox fills the stands with folks in no masks and MAGA hats screaming that having to sit on the visitor’s side is a violation of their constitutional rights. They can sprinkle in some confederate and SS flags, but then someone channel-surfing might mistake it for a Trump rally.
Sometimes in ads you see stock pictures of crowds that appear to be in the thousands, only to look closely and realize it is the same square of nine people repeated over and over, so the fat guy in the green shirt is always flanked by the young kid with the glove and the significant other on the phone. If Fox does that with animation, your best course of action is to get incredibly stoned and watch the same guy drop the same hotdog over and over in an endless loop. Pretend it's “Groundhog Day.” Bet your friend who just walked in that this guy will drop his hotdog any minute now.
If Fox called and put me in charge of this effort, here are some crowds I would superimpose:
Woodstock. Sure, the clothes, haircuts and granny glasses might look a little dated, but see if you can guess who is on stage by lip reading or interpreting the dancing gyrations. Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out when Santana takes the stage. If everyone turns and looks angrily at the person next to them, then they have just made the announcement about the bad doses of Orange Sunshine in circulation (or said that the state police are ticketing cars not parked properly.)
Oscars. It might seem odd to see baseball fans in black tie sitting nervously at dining tables —but hey, it beats the one-hitter going into the sixth. See how many of your favorite movie stars you can spot walking awkwardly to the stage pretending that the Academy made a huge mistake by voting them the winner. Fortunately, Fox can eliminate the acceptance speeches -- and you can focus on reading the lips of the losers whispering to their neighbor that it's time to call the limo driver.
Altamont. Yeah, it’s just another rock concert crowd, but this time the Hell’s Angels beat the living hell out of audience members (including a Jefferson Airplane singer) with pool cues and motorcycle chains. So, if you are a Red Sox fan, you will feel right at home.
Oakland Raiders. Nothing says Clockwork Orange like the lower-level fans at a Raider’s game. We assume that if they don’t mind spending two hours getting into psychedelic Viking’s gear and makeup, they won’t mind the drive to Las Vegas. It might be a tad distracting to watch two guys fight over the last beer in the vendor’s ice chest, but it will be infinitely more interesting than the one-hitter that is going into the ninth tied at 0-0.
Thank you, CGI, for saving baseball.