Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Says Play Ball, But With Fans In The Stands As Well

Long before he became the lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick was a TV and radio sports broadcaster. No, not the Dan Patrick from ESPN, but the one from Houston.

The Texas lieutenant governor authored an editorial in The Dallas Morning News on Friday that advocates not only for sports to reopen, but for their arenas to open as well—to the fans.

"I understand that the fans are as much a part of the game as the players, and there is no reason they can't attend the games when they begin again," Patrick wrote. "I don't believe Anthony Fauci should anoint himself as the commissioner of sports and tell the owners, players and fans what to do."

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick
Texas LT. Governor Dan Patrick waves to the crowd during the Houston Astros Victory Parade on November 3, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 to win the 2017 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Though Patrick decided Dr. Fauci should not "anoint himself" as a sports commissioner, the lieutenant governor, himself, said how sports leagues could operate with fans. Here are some of the major points he laid out:

  • Large outdoor stadiums could accommodate about 30 percent attendance to start, and increase attendance as COVID-19 conditions improve. That would mean about 30,000 fans for stadiums at Texas A&M and the University of Texas. It would mean 25,000-28,000 in the pro football stadiums in Houston and Dallas. If the roofs are open, that is.
  • Fans would be limited on the amount of games they can attend, and this applies to season ticket holders as well. This allows more fans the opportunity to see a game—if they can afford it.
  • Fans would have their temperatures checked at gate entrances. Those with high temperatures will not be allowed in, and their ticket would be refunded.
  • Fans would be required to wear masks to enter sports venues, and encouraged to bring their own. Patrick added, "I predict sponsors will gladly provide promotional logo masks as giveaways."
  • To limit crowds on the concourse, he encourages food and drink sales to stop at halftime for football, and after the fifth inning for baseball.
  • As for social distancing, he said let computer programs figure out the best way to distance fans in the stands. Which likely means no group sales.

"A computer program can easily create a seating chart with appropriate social distancing and seating every other row. A group would be limited to four tickets per game sitting together and would be restricted from the first several rows near the field and where players enter the field. Suites would be limited to the same percentage of fans," Patrick wrote.

Patrick also gave his own tips on how to speed up the games, like instant replay taking only 60 seconds or the play stands. Batters get to step out and adjust their batting gloves just once per at bat. Zambonis should be faster on the ice, and limit the amount of timeouts in the last 60 seconds of basketball.

That way it "doesn't take five minutes to play the last minute."

And when the games are over? Fans exit by section in order to avoid overcrowded escalators and walkways. With just a third of the stadium in attendance, exiting might be easy anyway. Checking last year's Texas Rangers games might be a good indication.

As for indoor arenas, Patrick also recommended the same 30 percent rule, and the same sanitation guidelines. He said it's also the responsibility of the fans to do their part.

"If fans are going to attend games this year, they are going to have to give up a little to do so," Patrick wrote. "These are my ideas, and I welcome input from fans and teams to make my plan even better. Here's the bottom line — let's end all this talk about playing in empty stadiums. Let the games begin with fans in the seats."