Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Biggest Problem in Sports: Fans?

I was recently watching a show on CNBC called “The Life and Times of Donny Deutsch.” The topic of the night was the 10 things wrong in Sports. While these ranged from ridiculousness of NCAA rules to the disappearance of boxing and racial hypocrisies, I was surprised to see that the number 1 problem in sports was fans.

That’s right, fans are the biggest problem in sports, according to this roundtable discussion which included Mike Greenberg, Tiki Barber and Robert Klein.

The panel made the case that alcohol and media coverage have destroyed fan etiquette as they only want to make shows of themselves. However, Barber’s point on the subject seemed the most intriguing. He claimed that as a result of media saturation, ridiculous contracts and extravagant lifestyles, athletes are more detached from fans than ever before.

As a result, there is a subconscious envy by which every fan wants to be that person scoring the TD down on the field. Every fan feels the ultimate significance of the game because the players are so important and the outcome is critical. Through the power of the internet, fans across the country can keep constant track of scores and stats and fantasy leagues have put fans in the driver’s seat. Barber claimed that fans have to know that they are crucial to a community that is growing more and more surreal and ridiculous. As a result, they feel privileged and even obligated to insult refs, pick fights, and be drunk for the good of the team.

And as an interesting finishing touch, Klein pointed out that despite our stadium raucousness (three fights broke out in my section at the Panthers v. Bucs game last year), European fans are dangerous to the nth degree. Fights, deaths and destruction are norms at most soccer arenas. I wonder why the hatred? Why the lack of reason?

I think our culture, which is so often both reflected and generated by the sports sub-culture, has adopted a newly different sense of carpe diem. While past generations have taken stands and marched on DC, this generation needs to seize the day because they are scared. We are a generation of fear and I think that sports reflect that. We fear to lose. Sometimes we fear to win. We fear missing out on the opportunity. Our new motto has been stolen from Eminem: “You gotta lose yourself in the moment.” The operative terms being “lose yourself.” Being out of control is praised and desired because that is apparently the only way to live.

Our culture takes it cues from our sports culture (you watch any other channel, especially news, on TV and I can tell you how SportsCenter set the precedent for each program is presented). Our sports culture takes cues from our players. Our players take cues from the media, which takes cues from our culture. Somehow, somewhere, someone decided that everything matters now. Losing oneself is highly desired and all the rules were meant to go out the window.

No comments: