How to become a virtual fan in the stands at a Toronto Raptors game
The NBA season has finally resumed after nearly five months of pandemic-mandated downtime, thrilling fans who can get more involved in games than ever before — even despite a physical ban on all human spectators.
Up to 320 "virtual fans" are invited to attend each game inside the NBA bubble at Disney World for the remainder of the shortened season.
You may have noticed them already, flickering on 17-foot-tall boards surrounding the court, behind player benches. They're hard to miss.
Hats off to the NBA for making you feel like nothing has changed. @NBA @Raptors @Lakers Virtual fans are hilarious and there are moments I forget they are virtual and it feels like regular season before coronavirus 😂 pic.twitter.com/S2Qd4JU9Po— Moe Howard (@Moehoeme) August 3, 2020
Powered by Microsoft Teams, the virtual fan experience functions somewhat like a giant Zoom call, but one where participants appear to be sitting in individual stadium seats... with inconsistently sized heads, bodies and body parts.
Virtual fans can see the game live, and be seen by both players on the court and in the background of games by anyone watching at home, making those 320 spots incredibly visible — and coveted.
Who wouldn't want a chance to sit next to Chris Bosh while catching a game for free?
If you're looking to become an NBA virtual fan at a Toronto Raptors game, I've got good and bad news.
The good is that it's totally possible. The bad news is that MLSE, which owns the Raptors, isn't providing much information about how regular fans (as opposed to, say, employees or corporate season ticket holders) can get seats.
According to the NBA, it's up to each individual team to determine how to use the virtual seats for their home games. The 320 seats per game are divided into 10 sections of 32, with the league itself reserving one of those sections for players' family members and other VIPs.
Another section is reserved by Michelob, the program's title sponsor, for contest winners (American only), leaving eight sections open for the Raptors to fill with virtual bodies and heads.
Unlike the Heat or the Pacers, both of which have registration pages set up for people to reserve a digital spot, the Raptors haven't put out any sort of public call for virtual fans.
Multiple people on Twitter have admitted to scoring spots by either being or being close to an MLSE employee, but that doesn't mean you're out of luck as a regular NBA diehard.
Virtual fans playing the guitar at NBA games... 2020!!! pic.twitter.com/bX4KckchKG— Highlight Hoops 24/7 (@HLHoops247) August 4, 2020
The NBA has released a step-by-step guide for joining the waiting room to be selected for a game. You'll need to download Microsoft Teams, have a working webcam and microphone, and you need to be able to stay for the full game.
If you do get in, be warned: A moderator can easily eject you for misbehaving, just like a security guard could kick you out at the Scotiabank Arena. You can also get the boot for an extended period of inactivity.
There's no guarantee you'll be chosen to help fill the virtual NBA stands, but there's no harm in trying.
The Raptors face off against the Orlando Magic tomorrow night at 8 p.m., but Toronto's next home game (aka your chance to score a seat in the virtual stands) is this Friday at 9 p.m.
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