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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Sporting Life

Because of the Rose Bowl game last night, I once again bring up the relationship between sports teams and its fans. Not in any way to take the piss out of UT's win last night (it was a thriller), but I'm still in the dark with how spectators feel they are a part of a team.

There is no 'I' in 'team' and I feel there is no 'we' in 'team' when it comes to fans and teams. All I can do is watch, observe and react to a game. I don't think I'm a part of the team I'm cheering/rooting for no matter where I am (whether in the stands, at home or out at a place with a big screen TV). Like it was brought up in the MTV.com article I posted the last time I talked about this, do you hear Peter Jackson fans talk like this: "Hey, have you seen our latest movie, King Kong?"

Sports are exciting to watch and they are big business, especially in the case of college and professional levels. No matter what PR nightmare a sports team or league may go through (the NHL hockey strike last year, for example), people come on out and pay up big time for the experience of seeing it live. Hearing about $9 cocktails at sports arenas and hearing about people buying Rose Bowl tickets for $1200 a pop, I wonder where the fan element ends and the consumer element begins.

I can understand if you have a good seat near the players and think you're a part of team, but these guys are going to play whether you're there or not. They do care about their fans (games without audiences in the stands wouldn't be the same), but it's a mass audience-not an individualized, specific audience-rooting them on.

I won't lie: if a game is on that I'm remotely interested in, I may very well get into what I'm seeing. There have been plenty of Cowboys games that Jason and I have viewed in our den and we've hooted and hollered about good plays and touchdowns. Do I ever think I'm a part of the team? Nope, I'm just a guy watching a game on my TV. Seeing a good play for a locally-based team draws something out of me, but not a sense of oneness with the players and the coaches.

In the case of college and high school teams, teams appear to represent the hope of the people that go to the school and live in the town it's in. Well, the team represents the name of the school, but I don't see the correlation between observer and player. Texas is a big football state and it's not uncommon to hear about people losing their marbles when "their" team loses a big game (case in point, the UT/OU game every year). Hearing about how people are depressed for a whole week because their team lost, I scratch my head at the emotional investment.

I often think of seeing big games much like seeing big shows: there is a lack of intimacy. Maybe it's my need for individualized attention, but I don't want to be treated as a generic consumer. I don't fault the teams or the bands for drawing large audiences but I don't want to drop a lot of my money to see them live. I'd rather stay at home and have a better look at what I'm seeing.

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