Reading the Sunday NYT II

Here’s something I sometimes think about: March 2008 wouldn’t have been what it was had it happened in March 1998. That’s because it couldn’t have been shared the way it was shared.

I’m not talking about general sporting fandom. I’m talking about us. We experienced those 10 days not as taken entertainment but as shared experience, and it happened not only in Raleigh, Detroit and Davidson, but also in e-mails and texts and on DavidsonCats.com.

So here’s Harvey Araton looking ahead to the next decade in sports:

Digitalization is the watch word for sports industry power brokers and planners, seducing and scaring them as they stampede into the great electronic unknown. Some worry that a fast-changing home viewing experience -- 3D television, in particular -- could make pro sports more of a studio event than a public spectacle. Others wonder if sports could be the new decade’s print news media, reconditioning consumers with online alternatives that diminish traditional revenue streams.

The teenager in the basement -- torn between home-team loyalty and fantasy-league reality, monitoring the televised game with laptop humming and cellphone vibrating -- is the face of a multifaceted future.

Digitization means niche-i-fication, exactly what you want, exactly when you want it. How We Watch is changing, TV, movies, sports, everything. Over the last 10-plus years, with Davidson basketball, that’s meant going from watching the ticker on Headline News to watching the score on ESPN.com to listening on Teamline to watching on DavidsonWildcats.com. It’s never been easier to follow Davidson basketball from wherever you happen to be. This is especially useful within this community, I think, a relatively small group of people, many of whom at some point came to Davidson, from somewhere else, stayed for four years, and then for the most part left and went, again to somewhere else.

It’s gotten to the point where I’d almost rather not have the game on TV because then I can’t watch it on the Web. Then that game belongs to, literally has been bought by, someone other than Davidson College. If it’s on ESPN, or ESPN2, or ESPNU -- fine, I’ll go find a TV and I’ll watch the game like that. But if it’s on some more regional and less available outlet, like SportSouth or Fox Sports South or MASN or something, and I’m still down in Florida, it’s that much harder for me to watch the game. I either end up watching it on some sketchy Web platform -- like many folks here, I think, I watched the Cornell game on my laptop screen thanks only to some Cornell student in Ithaca pointing a camera at his TV and then streaming the image onto justintv.com -- or I end up not being able to watch it all. A TV network is a middle man that’s increasingly unnecessary.

More than that: The reason I follow Davidson basketball the way I do is tied up tight with my relationship with the place, by which I mean the actual place, yes, 28036 and 28035, Belk and the Brickhouse, but also the people within the wider community. And I sort of look at a TV network, any TV network, as a third party, a foreign entity, infringing on that relationship. Granted, TV brings other advantages, direct and indirect, i.e. exposure, i.e. recruiting, i.e. some measure of mass media seal of approval, i.e. now you, the wider you, has seen us, or at least the simple TV representation of us, which undeniably somehow makes us feel good, validated, there. I’m thinking here also of Ricky from Michigan. He came to DavidsonCats.com because he saw the team on CBS. He stays at DavidsonCats.com presumably because of the community he’s found.

I guess it comes down to a question of: Is the point to share it with just each other or with so many others?

No comments: