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Around this time of the year, I write a post to celebrate the arrival of baseball, the national pastime. This year the pastime has not arrived on time; it may not arrive at all.

Its absence is far from the saddest story of Covid-19–though sad enough for the unemployed beer vendors, ticket-takers, and security guards, as well as the hot prospects who were going to break into the big leagues this year and the fading veterans who were going to resurrect their careers for just one more turn. Yet, true fans still yearn. We read the latest stories that baseball writers have scrounged from the recycle bins of their laptops, such as features on the best second-string left fielders who played on the teams west of Mississippi in 1977 or on the meals that the local team’s bullpen catcher is whipping up for his kids during confinement. Meanwhile, TV provides reruns of games that local nine never lose. empty ballpark trimmed

What will MLB do with the season? One idea being pitched and batted around, semi-endorsed by Dr. Anthony Fauci himself, is to play the games in stadiums scattered in a restricted locale–the Phoenix region is often mentioned–with the players effectively quarantined together (think of a cruise ship berthed in Scottsdale) and no fans in the stands, just tv cameras. What would baseball be like without the fans?

Athletes almost always publicly credit the fans, calling them the 6th man in basketball, the 10th man in baseball, the 12th man in football–really, the 6th, 10th, 12th person. Winning teams thank their fans for the support without which victory would have been impossible, losing teams praise them for their faith and loyalty through hard times. But, do fans really matter (besides paying the fare)?

I did a quick literature search on the topic.

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