Johns Hopkins University was the site of what is thought to be the first U.S. sports event held without fans as a result of coronavirus-related concerns. Yeshiva University defeated Worcester Polytechnic Institute in a Division III men's basketball NCAA Tournament game Friday in an empty gym at the Baltimore university.
"It was definitely a weird experience," Jake Wisniewski, a forward for WPI, told the Associated Press. "All the emotions that are going on the court, everyone was able to hear it, which was weird. Usually, the crowd can kind of mask a lot of things that are being said on the court."
To make up for the lack of a crowd, the players on the bench imitated what bleachers full of attendees would sound like. They did "De-fense!" chants and cheered whenever appropriate. It only did so much to make up for the lost decibels, as the usual sounds of a basketball game just echoed throughout the gym.
In order to prevent any non-authorized individuals from entering the event, police officers were stationed outside of the 1,100-seat Goldfarb Gymnasium with a sign that read "No spectators" on it. Those authorized to enter the game were players, coaches, employees, media members and referees. Because of the association with the coronavirus, it's not as if people were fighting security for their right to enter. In fact, fears of the disease were so high that not only did it result in Yeshiva having their original hotel reservations canceled, but also three WPI players even decided to take not the court.
Yeshiva would go on to win its first tournament game in program history, 102-78, and extended the team's winning streak to 28 games. Afterward, players lined up and gave each other fist bumps instead of handshakes.
This was not the first time a sports event in Baltimore was held without fans. Back in 2015, during the uprising that happened after the death of Freddie Gray, the Orioles played the White Sox in an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Countries around the world have had to reschedule, postpone or outright cancel sporting events as a result of fears relating to the coronavirus. The disease has infected over 100,000 people and killed over 3,400, worldwide. In the U.S., 200 people throughout 18 states have been infected, resulting in 14 reported deaths -- all but one came in the state of Washington.