Have you noticed lately, with some notable exceptions, attendances at sporting events appear to be down across the globe? This decline in attendance is not rooted in any one sport, or to any one country. See any Yankee baseball games lately? Notice those swathes of empty seats, particularly behind home plate? How about Irish soccer at their brand new stadium? Attendances at the recent Carling Nations Cup were nothing short of embarrassing. There were empty seats all over the court during the recent Miami NBA playoff run. In Ireland, people complain constantly about having nothing to do, but Irish league soccer often plays out in front of five people, a cat and a dog.
That’s it in a nutshell really though, isn’t it? We just love to blame something or someone else. If you ask someone, even though they love sports, why they never go to any live games, they will trot out the same old tired excuses.
They blame the economy, they blame high ticket prices, and they blame the parking expenses or the lack of amenities at stadiums. Oh so many obstacles! In this day and age it is safe to comment that sports fans would much rather sit at home in front of their big screen TV, laptop in front of them, surfing other results, statistics and sports news, rather than venture outside and actually attend a sporting event.
Let’s blow the first fallacy up. Ticket prices. There are certain teams that are completely out-pricing their fans, granted. The Yankees are a decent example, with their disgustingly priced, fall-of-the-roman-empire like, $2,500 seats. Even they, however, have cheaper alternatives, assuming you are willing to co-exist with the Bronx bleacher creatures.
For every New York Yankees though, there are ten smaller market teams begging you to come watch them. For every lazy team that is out-pricing the blue collar fan, there are ten that are coming up with new, fun, interesting initiatives to get you to the match, the game, the field, the ballpark. A little bit of thought, and I bet you can think of a team near you that you could go see play without re-mortgaging your house.
It isn’t just the expense of course. Many fans don’t identify with over paid, spoilt and bratty players. Take the NBA. Their players will earn $2.1 billion dollars in 2011. That’s a lot of cheddar. Most of us are lucky to have a few dollars, euros or pounds left after paying the bills. The NFL is no angel either. The average Joe Punter on the street may find it easier to identify with a hard nosed, blue collar lineman than an aloof, business-man like NBA power forward, however Joe Punter is not impressed with that same NFL lineman’s inability to come to agreement with his league as to how to divide up the Kajillion dollars they are making together annually.
Of course not all the news from the world of professional sports is negative and or gloomy. Take the Cincinnati Reds gregarious slugger Brandon Phillips. In mid May Phillips stunned the players and fans at an Ohio little league game by showing up on the back of an invitation from one of the young players via Twitter. Phillips stayed for the game and interacted with fans and players alike.
Phillips simple, friendly venture is a fabulous example of someone unplugging themselves from ‘The Grid’ and taking a time out to invest themselves in some genuine human interaction. Phillips has left an ever lasting positive impression on those Little Leaguers.
You, as a fan, probably won’t have that much effect on the game around you, however you can have that effect on yourself. As a baseball fan, I will always be grateful I was lucky enough to sit behind home plate and watch Pedro Martinez pitch. Witnessing him live had a permanently positive effect on my life.
Sure, there aren’t many Pedro’s around, however lately I find myself more and more wanting to at least look for his ilk. Those balmy Boston summer days and nights sitting in the stands alone or with my brother when he came to visit me, those are the sporting memories that stick with me most. Not the result from last weeks game, where I had the laptop going to check other scores, and the iTouch belching out fantasy stats.
I believe we all know it, we all know live sports is vastly superior to the alternatives, and yet we still avoid going to live sporting events. You can blame any of the above factors, however we all know we are kidding ourselves. The reason you and I aren’t getting off our fat backsides and going to live games isn’t anything to do with the ticket prices, the expensive concessions (or lack of same) or anything like that.
It’s pure unadulterated laziness.
It’s taking the easy way out. It’s raising the white flag at life. No thanks, I am going to work on this ass-groove I am creating on the sofa.
Get off your posterior. Go see a game. Leave your iPhone, iTouch, iPad, HTC, Acer laptop, Blackberry, Blueberry or Dingleberry at home. At the very least turn it off until the end of the game. Invest yourself in the sights and sounds of the event. Soak it all in, digest it, think about it and enjoy it. With each tweet, each text, each glance at our fantasy teams on the laptop as a pitcher winds up to throw right in front of us, or as a striker sizes up a free kick, we are starting to let life pass us by. We are completely and utterly ignoring The Journey and instead taking nibbles at fast food bites of information, instantly gratifying yet completely malnourishing long-term.
We are slowly rotting our own brains voluntarily, reducing our own ability to concentrate, focus and in the end, enjoy live sporting events.
Stop blaming everything and everyone else, stop blaming the economy, spoilt players and greedy owners. Take action and take control. Shake your own life up a bit, rattle your own cage a little. Turn your smart-phone off and go to a game, invest yourself in it, for your own sake. Sure, it takes a little bit more effort than pressing buttons on a remote, but in the end it’s considerably more satisfying.
Pull a Brandon Phillips one of these coming days. You owe it to yourself.