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Rick Zamperin: Houston Astros pitcher Zack Greinke would rather play without fans

Houston Astros pitcher Zack Greinke socially distances himself beside cardboard cutout fans in the stands of the Oakland Coliseum in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Oakland, Calif.
Houston Astros pitcher Zack Greinke socially distances himself beside cardboard cutout fans in the stands of the Oakland Coliseum in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020, in Oakland, Calif. AP Photo/Ben Margot

Back in March, when the NBA first announced that it was contemplating a plan to finish the 2019-20 season in a bubble with no fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic, I recall Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James being asked what he thought about it.

His answer was direct and to the point.

“We play games without the fans? Nah, that’s impossible,” James said. “I ain’t playing if I ain’t got fans in the crowd. That’s who I play for. I play for my teammates, and I play for the fans.”

James did end up playing and led the Lakers to their 17th NBA championship while winning his fourth NBA Finals MVP award.

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But what would happen if the NBA, or NHL, or every other sports league on the planet isn’t able to play in full stadiums and arenas for another year, or two, or longer?

Despite having lucrative television contracts, the financial structure of numerous leagues would have to change, and as a fan of sports, that would really stink.

And like James, I would suspect that other pro athletes wouldn’t like it either because whether they are playing in front of the cheering masses at home, or a raucous crowd on the road, athletes get a charge from the crowd.

Read more: Los Angeles Lakers clinch NBA championships after defeating Miami Heat in Game 6

Unless you’re Zack Greinke.

The Houston Astros pitcher admitted before Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the American League Championship Series that he’d rather not have fans in the stands.

“It’s nice not having fans in the stands,” said Greinke, who is Houston’s scheduled starting pitcher for Game 4. “Because then there’s no one there to talk to you and ask for autographs and want pictures and all that stuff. I don’t like to do that stuff. It’s nice not having them, for me. Most people like it. I don’t like it.”

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The 36-year-old Greinke earns the fourth-highest annual salary in Major League Baseball, at $35 million (tied with Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and Colorado’s Nolan Arenado), and has been paid more than $282 million during his 17 year career.

I hope Greinke understands that if there weren’t any fans around to purchase tickets, merchandise and concession stand goodies he would be, more or less, playing for pride and perhaps some beer money.

To each their own, and I appreciate Greinke’s honesty, but it doesn’t look good on him.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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