I would be restating the obvious if I said that media has changed everything, so I’ll simply talk about how it changed how people watch sports.
Before the age of smartphones and social media, news primarily came from radio. People would tune in to the baseball game or to listen to the live run down of the week’s basketball games. People would sit on their porch as they listened to the Yankees sadly win another World Series.
Even when television initially was accessible to the populous, radio was still a dominant force in how people got their sports news, updates and even how they preferred to listen to the Boston Red Sox become the titan of a team it is today.
But once the internet was created and then made accessible to all, it was the beginning of a new era in how people accessed sports.
Now, I don’t have to watch a single minute of the Sunday football games, and I can learn how it all went down: who scored, how many yards everyone had and how they are projected to continue throughout the season. At the same time, I can also update myself on how the Ligue 1 (the French Soccer League) is progressing, and I can see each of the match updates, how my favorite players and teams are doing and their schedules for the entire season.
I could do this for most of the top sports and leagues from across the globe, and if I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t have to watch a minute of a game or match. While this sublime level of power can be liberating and still allows the busy Chicago Bears fan to keep up-to-date on whether Khalil Mack is annihilating opposing quarterbacks, this power also eliminates one of the beauties of sports: unpredictability.
With the inclusion of the internet and social media, prediction and stats are now even more prevalent in sports. Sports franchises spend millions of dollars a year to try to predict various matchups. They also try to analyze their players’ running motions and to see how they can mitigate wind resistance while also maximizing arm motion and sprint speed.
Once it becomes important to make it to the playoffs and hundreds of millions of dollars are on the line, teams will try anything to give their players that slight advantage that takes them from an 8–8 team to a 13–3 Super Bowl-winning team (fly, Eagles, fly, baby).
Prediction is now entwined with sports and will not go away, and with this, aspects of the game are lost. It becomes easier to pick clear winners and harder to enter a game not knowing who will win. For me, the massive amount of money being poured into prediction is slowly diminishing any aspect of chance in sports.
Unpredictability is one of the reasons I love sports. If the beginning, middle and end of a book was detailed to me by a complex mathematical formula, it wouldn’t be worth reading.
It saps fun out of the game, it makes watching a full game a chore when I could just see the final score and then go on with studying or working or sleeping. Once the unpredictability is taken from the game, it removes for me the desire to watch the game, and thus the main dish of the meal is gone.
Being there, being present, being in the moment, is what makes sports so beautiful to me. It’s what makes it real. With this saturation of media in the modern game, it feels like the authenticity of sports is being lost. It’s now easier to not watch games, and that’s not where I want the game to be.
Watching sports grants me access to this incredible, universal community. That’s not to say people who can’t watch the games aren’t part of them. I wouldn’t feel like I was a part of it if I wasn’t watching the game.
While media and the internet can bring the game to more people, there’s nothing better than sitting down with friends and family and watching Everton absolutely smack Fulham.
Disconnecting from media and allowing unpredictability is important on multiple levels. Disconnecting allows us to see things without a filter, and unpredictability is what makes life interesting.
For sports, they each are what makes being an Eagles and Everton fan so fun. While we may go barely over .500 each season, I don’t need to read how we are projected to barely get 11th place or how we won’t beat the Cowboys. I can just watch the teams I love and blindly hope they will win it all. I don’t need a smartphone to help me with that.