Monday, 27 September 2010

Do sports fans at live games really need more stimulation?

There are times in a serious sports watcher's life when they question whether three hours spent yelling at players and umpires on a rain-soaked pitch has really been worth it.

Or for soccer supporters who sit through a string of nil-all or one-all draws, drained of the satisfaction gained from a pivotal victory, who might wish they had an option of something else to watch than the boring spectacle in front of them.

It was only some time before a professional sports league decided fans needed more excitement and, rather than the baseball tradition of just running more colourful and annoying images on even-larger stadium screens, the time must have come for ticketholders to have their own personal entertainment units along with their overpriced hotdogs and lukewarm beer.

These FanVision gadgets, discussed in this post in the New York Times, allow American football viewers to stream footage from the game in front of them as well as several live games from other stadiums.

Teams will sell their own branded units to fans and it's expected that iPhone-draining apps are also on their way from teams such as the New York Giants and the Major League Baseball stable.

While there are positives for fans way up in the nosebleed section who want to know which of the ants on the field scored or people returning from bathroom or bar queues to catch up on missed play, this looks to be further increasing a sense of detachment from the game.

For a paid-up club member, attending and actually watching every game of a team's season either pays off in end-of-season finals success or the hope that their following season will bring long-awaited reward.

For players on the field then to look up into the stands and see supporters staring at tiny video screens, must bring with it some kind of disillusionment with their own achievements. Yes, this may have already happened with the flood of iPhones and similar devices but there should be a limit to how much of fans' attention the NFL, MLB or other leagues want taken away from the onfield action.

No doubt marketing heads in the big leagues have claimed FanVision and other tools are a way of 'owning the space' and taking a slice of the cash to be generated by live-action video content.

What they continue to forget is the reason fans sometimes go back to the lower-paid minor league and country junior competitions: to escape the overstimulated environments and enjoy the simplicity of a game between two teams where the only instant replay is in a viewer's memory bank.