April 22, 2009

No Time Like The Present

Print More

A revolution is taking place, and the beneficiaries are sports fans all over the world. Compared with previous generations, the modern fan has greater access, enhanced coverage and more instantaneous analysis. Thanks in large part to the Internet, sports fans have never been afforded anything close to the luxuries we take for granted today.
While this may be hard for those of us born in the ’80s to understand, once upon a time, most people followed their favorite sports teams through grainy radio signals. For the millions of sports fans who were unable to attend a given game, the only way to stay up to speed on the local contests was to listen to a radio broadcast. If someone was interested in a game that did not feature a local team, that person would often have to wait for the newspaper to arrive the following day.
Radios eventually gave way to television, but it was not until the last decade that the technological explosion took place. First, with the advent of the Internet, people could follow every game as it was happening. The days of getting scores from ESPN’s bottom line and awaiting details in the newspaper were over. With the click of a button, anyone could find an up-to-the-minute play-by-play account of every game in progress.
Around the same time that the internet began to provide instantaneous updates, DirecTV began offering “NFL Sunday Ticket,” a package that allows subscribers to watch every NFL game, regardless of what their local cable providers were offering. For the first time, Philadelphia Eagles fans in California could watch their team whenever they liked.
As technology has improved, so has ease of access. Packages similar to DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket” are now available for every major sport through the internet. Slingbox allows users to transmit a television feed via the internet to computers anywhere in the world. As a result, transplanted Detroiters like me can watch local coverage of every major sporting event.
For those forced to be away from their laptops during a game, cell phones offer previously unimaginable coverage. Currently, various phones offer automatically-updating play-by-play coverage of games. Phones such as the iPhone can also stream radio coverage of the game. Innovators even claim that they are very close to developing technology that would enable live video feeds of games to be seen on an iPhone.
Just 50 years ago, people had to hope that their favorite team’s game was being broadcast on a local radio station. Otherwise, coverage was limited to a box score in the next day’s newspaper. Within the next few years, if not sooner, people should be able to watch any game from any location with only a mobile phone and a wireless internet signal.
The improvements for the modern fan are not limited to the ways we can watch a game. Thanks to the internet, sports analysis is better and more instantaneous than ever before. At one time, the only sports analysis the average person had access to was his or her local newspaper columnist. Today, there are several hundred blogs devoted solely to covering sports. As soon as anything happens in the world of sports, dozens of blogs pounce on the story to provide instant analysis. As the supply of analysis has increased, so too has its quality. While at one point newspapers had a relative monopoly on sports analysis, in today’s environment, writers who fail to deliver timely, accurate and clever perspectives will be passed up in favor of superior coverage.
Along with hosting blogs, the internet has also created a setting for fans to get to know players better than ever before. The middle-man in the relationship between athlete and fan –– otherwise known as the media –– is no longer vital to the connection. More than ever before, players are interacting directly with their fans. Players such as Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady have maintained websites where they divulge information that people simply would not have had access to a decade ago. Other players have taken advantage of their newfound abilities to post pictures and videos of themselves.
Several players have also taken to posting on twitter. Charlie Villanueva posted a halftime update for his followers to read. Paul Pierce has given away tickets to his games via Twitter. Shaquille O’Neal has used Twitter to alert his followers of his location at various times, so that local fans can meet The Big Fella.
Fans should appreciate the times we live in. In the span of a few decades, we have evolved from having access only to local radio broadcasts, to having the ability to watch any game, anywhere, with just a laptop and an internet signal. The progress has been unimaginable. I wish I could imagine where we can go from here. I’m just happy to say I’ll be along for the ride.