by Keith Aksel
In the last week, the UEFA Champions League Final was completed, Scooter Gennett from my Cincinnati Reds completed an astounding feat by hitting four home runs in one game, the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals completed, and the U.S. men’s soccer national team earned a tie against Mexico in the always-confounding Estadio Azteca. Needless to say, this was a busy week in sports, and fans had plenty to watch.
I got around to viewing about half of it. Weeks like these usually result in my just tracking scores from my phone, as watching the waves of live sports becomes an overwhelming prospect. I have a (somewhat) adult life, complete with adult responsibilities, which assumes that I can’t sit in front of a TV for every single big sporting event without being accused of man-child-ness. Still, it is still important to me to remain in the know regarding the sports world, and I want to be able to follow the talk the next day about what happened in the matchups the night before.
As a result, I, like many of you, rely on the web to fill my knowledge gaps regarding what happened the night before. And to be honest, I’m often not sure what I missed in not viewing the event live. Thanks to today’s news information technology, it has become easy to pass off having watched a game in real time when in reality, I didn’t. Online media reports have made it exceedingly easy to review major events from every single athletic contest known to man, complete with highlight videos and detailed stats. Twitter gives me a nice look at the fan reaction of each contest, and I can review them as far back a game’s opening tip off and read forward from there.
The next day, I find that I can still talk intelligibly about the event whether I watched it or not. Filling viewing gaps is now so easy, it becomes tempting to replace live viewing with Twitter and the like. If I still feel as if I watched the event (even if I missed it), what’s the hurt in totally replacing my sports viewing with these web-based tracking methods?
For example, the Stanley Cup Finals between the Nashville Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins recently finished up, and I didn’t watch more than ten minutes across all six games. The matchup didn’t really interest me, and I have no allegiance to Nashville or Pittsburgh teams. But, championships are kind of my major interest in sports, so I still kept an eye on things in the title rounds. Somehow, despite my only spending meager time watching live, I still feel like I got the gist of the series; Carrie Underwood became the national face of the energized Nashville fan base; the Penguins jumped out to an early 2-0 series lead at home; the Predators evened the series in the next two games in Smashville; then the Penguins stepped on the Predators’ throats in games five and six; the refs were suspect during the final two games; and Sidney Crosby beat a guy’s head in. How did I do with my summary?
When it came to listening to sports radio the day after the cup was awarded, I didn’t feel out of the loop when the discussion turned to the NHL, suggesting that my ad-hoc tracking methods actually adequately kept me in the discussion. Unless I was a die-hard NHL fan, my cobbled together tracking system seems to satisfy my desire to stay intelligent about sports events without dominating my life.
I know that the drawback to skipping the live viewing experience is missing the in-the-moment feelings of excitement and awe that follow seeing something happen live. So much of what we chase after as fans is that feeling of exhilaration and joy, that to miss out on it would be significantly damaging to the fan experience. Still, we have responsibilities. We need to go to work, tend to our children, and make sure our spouses feel like they aren’t being ignored.
My food-for-thought question is, how much of our sports viewing can come through cobbled-together methods before we cease being real fans, and just casual observers? Can we truly consider ourselves fans if we completely eschew the live product in favor of these alternative methods of following games? Maybe fans are just becoming lazier thanks to these alternative tracking methods. After all, how many things in our lives do we actually devote three hours of concerted attention to, without losing interest? In any case there’s a lot of thinking to do about how easily-accessed news and social media have increased flexibility regarding tracking sporting events. I, for one, don’t want to go back to a time before I had the option.