Now comes real hard part: Getting fans back into the game

Until further notice Blooper is the only spectator at Braves games.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

The Braves are scheduled to play their first home game in the Season Without Ticket Stubs on Wednesday — a non-traditional home opener against a non-traditional opponent, Tampa Bay’s Rays.

We already know that supporters will not be allowed inside. Truist Park will enjoy the same rush of customers as Blockbuster and Howard Johnson’s.

But just outside the gates, according to a news release that landed recently upon my inbox, fans might gather — within reason — to watch the game. To quote: “Steps away from Truist Park, Live! at The Battery will offer a place for fans to experience Braves baseball in a relaxed, ballpark-style atmosphere.”

Fans also can congregate at a large common area where the plan is to show the game so long as people stay separated and stay smart. Good luck with that.

To recap: the Battery Atlanta’s eateries/drinkeries, as well as its considerable open spaces, will be available to those who just can’t stand to watch a game without spending more money and minus the convenience of all that free parking in their own driveways.

So, let me get this straight: You can gather with others — observing the proper coronavirus cautions we are told — to watch a televised version of a game while having a beer, eating something incompatible with a healthy lifestyle and generally milling about. But you can’t do the very same thing just an achingly few yards away, inside the venue where the action is?

It’s as if the two surviving Beatles were playing a gig, but we’re only allowed to watch “A Hard Day’s Night” on a bed sheet hung in the arena’s parking lot.

Oddly enough, some of the best ballpark-style atmospheres occur in actual ballparks. You can’t beat it for the realism.

Credit a tribal nature for this need to join and share the experience of cheering on the home team. The urge is strong.

ExploreOne way to 'attend' Braves games

And not banging on the Battery Atlanta’s businesses here for trying to stay solvent in hard times. They’re doing what they can.

Just not sure what the rules are for the communal watching of our sports. Everything is so confusing. But you already knew that.

The Braves still hold the hope of one day opening Truist Park to a limited number of fans before this truncated season is done. Maybe this all will make some sense again. Welcome to Freddie Freeman Autographed Mask Night.

In the meantime, it’s OK to sit six feet away from a stranger in a bar, spitting vile oaths at some bad turn in the televised game from beneath your mask. But not OK to sit an aisle away from a like-minded fan in a fractionally occupied ballpark.

The Falcons have said they could foresee playing their home games in front of between 10,000 and 20,000 customers inside the 70,000-seat Mercedes Benz stadium if/when the NFL season happens. Through a blind draw, each season-ticket holder would have access to a game or two among the eight home dates. If the virus numbers don’t recede, welcome to a new and edgy variation of Russian Roulette.

The colleges certainly will be taking notes and doing some hard math on the risk-reward of trying to slip in a few of the big-money donors to watch the proceedings in person. They will be slightly more animated than cardboard cutouts, but a good deal more grateful. As reduced attendance puts seats at even more of a premium, college students become even more of a nuisance at a college game.

In such a world I can’t help but wonder what happens to the secondary ticket market? Does the scarcity of the ticket rocket the resale value skyward? Or does the uncertainty about the health risks flatten prices? I spend a lot of time worrying about the well-being of ticket profiteers.

“Psst, hey, Bud, I got two for the Vandy game in a nice secluded end-zone section for $600 per. I’ll throw in the hand sanitizer for free.”

And here you thought getting athletes back on the field was difficult. Getting real, live fans back in the game — and with them, bringing back honest emotion over the canned commotion — is going to be far more complicated and confusing.

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