The KBO, South Korea’s baseball league, has held live games for some time now. The stadiums are still empty, since fans are still not allowed in due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league hopes to gradually allow a certain percentage of fans as things improve in the country. But until then, the KBO has found a creative way to fill those seats: cardboard cutouts.
It’s such a small and silly gesture that you wouldn’t think much of it had someone proposed the idea to you but after watching a game between the NC Dinos and the LG Twins, it made all the difference. The cutouts were complete with NC Dinos jerseys and speech bubbles to make them more lively. Members of BTS were “in attendance”, as well as dogs, cats, and even babies. The idea is so wholesome.
The KBO isn’t the first league to do this either. Taiwan’s CPBL has also had cardboard fans in their stands. Other teams and leagues should use this idea to customize their audience for their unique fanbases. A Lakers home game isn’t the same without Jack Nicholson in attendance, so why not get a cutout of him in his signature look of sunglasses and a Lakers hat. One can argue that a Knicks game wouldn’t be Knicks game without Spike Lee clapping courtside, so having a stand of him cheering the team on might help.
These cardboard cutouts of fans should range from traditional to just plain weird. Maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves can include a cutout of a wolf just casually enjoying a basketball game. Staff members can swap them out during game breaks as an Easter egg for the folks watching on TV, as well. And top of all that, that team you hate that has historically low attendance rates can have fans now!
There’s also a high-tech version of this for sports that take place indoors. A league can have teams play behind a giant green screen background that would allow the folks behind the scenes to replace the green with footage of fans cheering on the home team. This wouldn’t be the first time something like this was experimented. As far back as 1989, the American Wrestling Association implemented this idea with a green screen and a virtual crowd to cheer on wrestlers as they walked to the ring.
This might be slightly more comforting to fans at home, though if you watched the “Fifteen Million Merits” episode of Black Mirror, this idea might sound incredibly creepy and dystopian. It would probably be too expensive anyway.