Commentary / Coronavirus

The Bundesliga returns: Behind closed doors

There was an issue of Sports Illustrated many, many years ago (or maybe it was ESPN The Magazine?) that posited a number of things that might change in sports in the coming decades. 

The guesses weren’t quite Blurnsball in Madison Cube Garden, but some of it wasn’t far off.

One part of the feature focused on football players whose pads, shoes, and helmets were packed full of sensors. The sensors would provide real-time feedback to coaches, fans, and the media, allowing everyone access to even the most minute insights in the game. From that data, of course, teams could maximize everything from performance to injury avoidance.

That prediction certainly proved to be prescient, as football players have plenty of data to analyze and even soccer players wear a Bro to track metrics.

Another focused on a holographic representations of live matches that could be broadcast on a sort of tabletop-like device in the middle of people’s homes. Gone were TVs, in were… the Star Trek version of this?

Either way, the idea was the hologram might make it feel like a person’s couch was as good a seat as any at any arena. The worry was this would negate the need for fans, but that sports would adapt to become more production than experience.

Sound familiar? The Bundesliga restarts this weekend in empty stadiums.

Why it will matter

If there’s an indelible mark this generation of internet users has left on the digital medium it’s probably the meme. As far as memes go, one that absolutely applies to sports and never seems to get old is the one that goes, “when bae comes to watch you play…”


When players say they play for the fans, in a lot of ways this is what they mean.

There’s a reason the Union chose to defend the River End in the 2nd half of matches if they can: the noise matters, the energy matters, and scoring in front of thousands and reveling in their delirium is the underlying dream.

That process itself is cyclical and self-fulfilling too: young players go to their favorite team’s matches, wear their favorite player’s jerseys, and dream of growing up to be the men and women they idolize. It seems impossible, but ask Steven Gerrard or Brendan Aaronson if it is.

Without the fans, the noise, the energy, the chaos, the madness, a game is just a friendly, no matter the stakes.

Why it won’t matter at all

Every professional soccer player in the world is a mercenary, a hired gun who is on any particular contract for about 2 years.

They kiss the badge, tell fans they play only for them, and generally do and say all the right things. But if players are honest with themselves, they’re playing for the next contract: just ask half of the players in MLS who are making eyes at anything European that moves.

Author’s note: This was the author’s dating strategy before he got married. It wasn’t successful.

If fans are honest with themselves, they know they’re cheering for laundry and when the shirts get washed, often times a new player shows up wearing them.

Case in point: Aurellien Colin.

“BOOOOO!!! Different shirt!!!…. boo”

It doesn’t matter if it matters

Soccer is on television on Saturday. High level, 1st division soccer is on television in America for the first time since March.

The author is an unabashed MLS fan, casually follows Liverpool because of Adam Cann, and knows nothing of German soccer beyond the fact that former West Philly FC midfielder Martin Kerin played in Germany’s 8th division for a brief period of time.

Author’s note: He said it was hard and that the pay wasn’t good.

Therefore the author will watch every Bundesliga game on Saturday and imagines most American soccer fans will too. Attendance or not, friendly or not, and whatever the weird-factor, he’ll tune in. He’s waiting on his Star Trek table, but in the meantime…

Auf geht’s Deutschland!

One Comment

  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Collin is an absolutely FANTASTIC point with the different shirt theory. Haha! Well done. I’ll be watching this weekend OF COURSE

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