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Fox Sports Inserting 'Virtual Fans' For MLB Games, A Reminder That Times Are As Strange As Ever

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Here in the fifth month of a full-blown pandemic in the United States, we are living in strange, strange times. The strangest times, indeed.

And for some reason, some decision-makers over at Fox Sports decided that in order to offset some of the weirdness and uncertainty brought about by baseball games being played in empty stadiums, the network will be inserting "virtual fans" into the stands at MLB games this season.

Computer-generated fans that boo and cheer for the home team? Surely, that's not strange at all. What a quaint reminder of how normal things are!

See for yourself:

Fox has long been an innovator of live sports presentations, so it's not entirely surprising that they're aiming to revolutionize this unique moment in sports history. At the same time, folks who dabble in reading dystopian novels set in the robot-controlled future might see this particular revolution as a bit unsettling. Or the creepiest advancement in the history of live broadcasting. Or somewhere in between. But definitely somewhere on that scale.

For Fox, some innovations -- like the hiring of an NFL rules expert, or added camera angles, or an early adaption to high-definition broadcasts -- were industry-shaping. Others -- like the glowing puck -- were panned by critics and viewers and thus fizzled out quickly. Where the insertion of baseball-enthused droids will land on that scale is yet to be determined. We'll see how it goes.

Clearly, the network felt like baseball games in empty, cavernous ballparks did not feel natural -- and few would disagree. It's just that ... adding robot "fans" to make things more natural seems like a case of fixing one problem by creating another.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley..

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