The Return of Sports Is Great. It’s Also Deeply Weird.
Kyle Schwarber crushes a baseball towards centerfield. The crowd oohs, and the cheers grow louder as a Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder watches the ball sail over his head. Fans in the bleachers stand to try to snag one of the season’s first home runs.
At least, that’s how it looked and sounded if you watched Sunday’s nationally televised game on FOX—and if you weren’t watching too closely. In the real world, the only cheers came from Schwarber’s Chicago Cub teammates, and no one was scrambling to catch the baseball as it thunked off the empty stands beyond the outfield wall.
Like all professional sporting events right now, the game was played behind closed doors. But viewers at home still got something vaguely akin to the “normal” experience. Simulated cheers and general background crowd noise have been edited into soccer matches by Fox, ESPN, and other networks during the pandemic too. But last weekend’s baseball games marked the debut of Fox’s use of “simulated fans” to make stadiums appear jam-packed even when they’re virtually empty.
No fans? Not on FOX Sports.
Thousands of virtual fans will attend FOX’s MLB games this Saturday. pic.twitter.com/z9oQU0rYuC
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) July 23, 2020
In some ways, it’s a cool idea—one that the Miami Marlins probably wish they’d dreamed up years ago. Fox and Major League Baseball borrowed from video games, hired artificial reality programmers, and edited the whole thing together using a more advanced version of the computer that seamlessly draws the yellow line-to-gain on football fields during broadcasts. The Verge has a terrific deep dive into how it all works, if you’re curious.
But does it work? Not really.
Those simulated crowds are an attempt to embrace the idea that the return of pro sports to TV represents a return to normalcy. But the uncanny valley that Fox and MLB have created serves mostly to reinforce just how weird, h
Article from Latest – Reason.com