Sports Without Fans: 5 Patriots who could be helped and hurt by playing in an empty stadium

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Hat-tip to BSJ member Claus, for this suggestion: "You might have seen that German soccer has started without fans last week. I was born in Dortmund and still follow the league and the team from Boston. One of the overlooked but very interesting development is that certain players actually perform better without fans. In Germany, we call them 'Trainings weltmeister' (training champ) — basically players who are excellent in practice but never good when everyone is watching and maybe whistling after the first bad pass. Those players were fantastic the first week; it was absolutely stunning to see. Would be very much interested to read, who you think in US sports could be helped by this?"

First of all, love that BSJ a has member named Claus who hails from Germany. Secondly, this is a good idea that I had thought about in a different way (one that could be written up this weekend if I get enough callbacks) but not specifically about individual players.

This is actually a phenomenon that has been studied. And it has been talked about in Germany.

"I have seen a lot of players who shone on the training pitch and whose nerves fluttered on Saturdays in the full stadium," said 74-year-old Franz Beckenbauer. "They benefit from empty ranks, can turn up like in training. There can give some surprises."

Interesting stuff. For example, among past Patriots, I would definitely have Jimmy Garoppolo on the Hurt list. Garoppolo was an average practice QB for the Patriots, but he flipped a switch when the lights came on. Monitor that this season.

So which Patriots may or may not be affected by the lack of fans?

(I still think there's a decent chance football coaches opt for consistent, fake crowd noise, the type they use in training camp to keep things consistent because otherwise, you might have to change a lot of signals, checks and audibles from game to game.)

Here's one man's list:


Stephon Gilmore: When you're at the height of your athletic career, when you can basically stop anyone on any given play, and love to talk trash, it's a very good combination. Gilmore is the type who's fairly quiet until you speak up, and then he slams you. There could be a problem actually finding players to engage Gilmore in a verbal battle to get him going.

Devin McCourty: You're going to start to see a pattern here with the rest of the players, because I think no noise will favor veteran players who are very smart. This could play right into the hands of a player like McCourty, especially when it comes to anticipating routes over the middle. He can hear the QB, see some of the checks and hear the in-play communication. McCourty should have had a decided advantage.

Dont'a Hightower: