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If the WWE can have wrestling shows without fans, so can the Steelers and the NFL

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Do you need fans in the stands to enjoy a Steelers game? While it’s preferable, no, no you don’t.

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Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it.

What’s that? The WWE, a wrestling promotion (maybe you’ve heard of it), holding live events without fans in the arena.

I was appalled, but not necessarily because of any sort of risk the wrestlers were taking by performing head-locks and suplexes amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. No, my main bone of contention was the WWE having wrestling shows without anyone watching live. Not that I wanted fans to be put in harm’s way for the sake of a wrestling show, you see. It’s just that, well, how can you have a wrestling show without fans cheering the faces and jeering the heels? Isn’t that sort of like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his or her hat without anyone else in the room?

Not only do the wrestlers point to invisible people and flex their biceps in the direction of no one in particular, they do live promos right in the middle of the ring—no word on whether or not they tell invisible fat boys in the audience to shut up (copyright Ric Flair).

Wrestling fans are part of the show. Without the fans in the stands, who can the heel tick off by threatening to slap them with the back of his hand? Without fans in the stands, who can the good guy feed off of for his or her inevitable comeback?

It’s like having a live sitcom without a live studio audience. Speaking of which, SNL cast members have figured out a way to do skits from the comfort of their own homes.

What the...?

Anyway, this is my long-winded way of saying that if the WWE can have live shows without any fans in attendance, if SNL cast members can do skits in-front of their computer screens, if magicians can pull rabbits out of their hats without anyone around (not sure if that’s ever happened), then sports can resume without fans in the stands.

I’m perfectly fine with it.

Unlike Razor Ramon, T.J. Watt doesn’t need to draw the ire of the fans in attendance in order to be the bad guy—he just has to sack the quarterback. And while Razor needed the fans to truly hate him before he slapped on the Razor’s Edge, Bud Dupree doesn’t need any help from the fans in order to set the edge on a running play—although, I’m sure that’s always appreciated.

How about the officials? As you know, some of them are truly evil people—including former WWE referee Dangerous Davis, and worse, current NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron.

That no good son of...

According to the 2011 book, Scorecasting, officiating bias may be the number one factor in the huge advantage home teams generally have. Why? Crowd influence. And while I’m not talking about quite the same influence the crowd had on Frank Drebin in The Naked Gun, the enthusiasm of real-life home crowds is apparently enough to sway calls in favor of the home team—especially in high-leverage situations.

What does that all mean for sports in empty stadiums/arenas/ballparks? Perhaps a more level playing field for all involved.

Yes, I realize the NFL may pipe in crowd noise to support the home teams, but I doubt artificial cheers will have quite the same effect on an official as a stadium full of fans chanting "bullspit!"

Will it seem weird watching football without fans in the stands? Yes, but not as weird as an entire NFL season without football to watch.

Finally, unlike WWE shows, where those in attendance are most prone to agitation, Steelers players can still make people watching at home angry by engaging in cocky touchdown celebrations.

It’ll be just like being there.