Jersey Over Apron: Virtual fan experience

The sporting fan experience today is something that’s incredibly varied. Whether it be enjoying a youth soccer game from a lawn chair, a collegiate football game from crowded bleachers, or catching a glimpse of your favorite with binoculars from coveted nosebleed seats, being at a sporting event has greatly changed from its original traditions. The hyper-reality of sport is becoming the expectation for fans. What this means is that the actual experience of sporting events are largely embellished through live media coverage, causing the actual experience to largely fail to meet expectations for live fan attendance. Those many fans who experience sporting events through live television coverage are privileged with great unobstructed views of the players, complete with zoom, graphics and commentary analysis. The fan experience is changing due to the integration of technology into sports entertainment and within the game itself.

What’s interesting about the use of technology is not only that it’s spreading knowledge of different sports, but it’s also influencing how sports are played and coached. This is seen through instant replays, goal line technology and challenges which have been adopted after sports media programs were first able to replay referees mistakes live, while participants within the game found themselves unable to correct missed calls without the technology integrated into the game. Though the game is dynamically changing along with technology, sports have also harnessed different technology to attract the fan even when a sporting event isn’t occurring. 

Technology’s development within the modern neoliberal moment is something that has paralleled the popularity of mass sport since its beginnings following the advent of modernism and globalization following the end of World War II. Technology’s integration into sport can be witnessed in the popularization of fantasy sports, which invite fans to manage and use statistics from real-world games TO generate the value of their own virtual teams. The practice of getting fans closer to the action in today’s age of sportS entertainment is nothing new, and fantasy sports further extend this aspect into a technological tool used as a form of competition and betting by fans around the world. According to sociologists Otto and Mettz, traditional sports media have “attempted to create a sense of vicarious participation, and illusion of reality (or perhaps hyperreality),” further removing the wall between fans and the athlete, allowing them to somewhat control their success based on skill in an unpredictable game. This modern medium of sporting technology within fantasy sports continues the trend of technological development influencing and changing due to society’s desire and value in being further a part of sporting culture.

What’s interesting about how technology continues to develop within sport is how it continues to try to remove the wall between the fan and athlete both through television and fantasy. It makes me wonder whether this hyperreality is changing sports. Why would people go to sporting events anymore if they can get an improved fan experience from the comforts of their couch?