New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott took it upon himself last week to accuse sports fans of being distracted by their tech-toys. His opinion is that players on the field are competing with the gadgets fans have in their hands, even when they are sitting in the stands watching the game live.
The mistake he might be making is in assuming the fans are less engaged because they aren’t focused entirely on the field (ice, court, etc.) below. In reality, I believe that tablets and smartphones behave as an extension of the sports-fan experience. Fans in the stadium may be tweeting to their followers and bragging that they are at the game, reporting scores and plays as they happen to interested FaceBook friends, watching replays of game happenings they couldn’t quite see very well or even communicating the kinds of details that news agencies may not find worthy or interesting enough to report.
No matter the activity, they are generating enthusiasm for the sport and for the players. Not to mention, their gadget didn’t prevent them from buying a ticket and contributing to the bottom line that pays Scott’s (considerable) salary.
Professional athletes are flocking to the Internet en masse, joining social networking sites like FaceBook and Twitter so they can market themselves and their branded merchandise. But something else happens simultaneous to this, they start to become more human and relatable. Fans feel more like friends. The result is the public starts to feel invested and interested and casual fans can translate into lifelong supporters. But this also means athletes need to have a personality (or hire one) and need to be considerate and conscientious.
Even Scott must understand this, he has a Twitter account of his own –though his activity is infrequent, especially lately.
At the same time Scott was expressing his concern, ESPN was signing a deal that has them delivering NFL games directly to the iPad. If tablets and smartphones are overwhelmingly used for entertainment, it makes perfect sense that this would extend to the delivery of sports-related content.
ESPN isn’t alone. More and more teams, networks and fan organizations are reaching out to mobile devices with custom apps and web sites.
These gadgets aren’t just being used by the fans either. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently announced that they would be passing out iPads instead of more traditional paper playbooks.
So what’s your opinion? Do you use your iPad (or other tablet or smartphone) to supplement your sports-fan experience? What is your go-to app for your favorite sport or team?