The final buzzer sounds. The last thud of rubber on hardwood, the sharp clacking report of sticks hitting the rack for the summer and then everyone is off for rest and relaxation and if they’re good, some off-season conditioning.
On the other side of the painted lines, even die-hard fans admit their enthusiasm for off-season coverage can and often does flag. Some fans avert their post-season ennui by moving from fall and winter months romances with sturdy Autumnal/Wintery mainstays to Summer lovin’ with MLB.
Tell Me More! Tell Me More! Did Ya Get Very Far?
If you ask Cody, 43, from Tampa Bay, the sweet, candy-ish, sandy Summer charm of a zen sport like baseball just can’t transform into a tough-talking Pink Lady of a game like football or hockey.* After a couple of years of trying, he found it to be a nonstarter.
“Not that I have anything against the Rays, but my boys are the Bolts and the Bucs. When talk radio and tv goes to all baseball all the time, my attention wanders. It really is too much like finding a summer hookup to pass the time while your girlfriend is at camp. I’d rather wait for the real thing.”
Preseason? Training camp? What about speculation about drafts and free agency on ESPN and NBCSports?
David, 37, another Tampa Bay sports fan, shrugs. “Most of the news you see on ESPN has already been blogged and reblogged. There’s no point. I might call in to The Fan if it gets interesting. Otherwise, it’s background noise.”
Pleasant background noise?
“Yeah. Just not my game, so I’m less likely to engage.”
Is it All About The Game?
Yes, to an extent. The overlap of seasons that stretch well into the start of another sport’s time in the sun have balkanized many fans, who find themselves making some hard choices about time and disposable income.
Cafeteria-style broadcast choices mean that the Big Game is likely to be purchased separately. Viewers are no longer given the option of the added Wide World of Sports-style sampling that kept their fathers and grandfathers in the know about what else was happening beyond the rink, turf, green, diamond, and court.
Frank, 62, and his son, Ben, 39, are both die-hard Cowboys fans.
“We’re beyond fanatics,” said Frank, “Ben grew up in a house with a den decorated with all things Cowboys and weekends and Monday nights set aside for watching them play. He was nearly grown before he figured out Roger Staubach wasn’t a blood relative.”
“Here’s the difference between us, and I think the big dividing line is before and after the internet. When things wind down, I’m reading about what’s going to happen this summer and next season. Ben has already checked out.”
“It’s not that fans are less interested,” said Ben, “I’ve looked at some of my Dad’s digests and guides from the seventies. People had to wait weeks, sometimes months for information about prospects and administrative developments that I can pull up on the internet in a minute. His sense of things having a natural flow and mine are very different.”
Less Is More, Or Something…
Does that mean that the draft is not as fun as it was?
“Oh, the draft is still Hockey Christmas as far as I’m concerned!” Cody laughed, “When I was a kid, there were always the pullouts and special editions and then the early NHL sites in the 90s started putting up information about the top prospects.”
“But there is only so much information,” added Ben, “You read it or hear about it the first time and it’s great but when one source reports something, every outlet repeats it in some form and you get this echo chamber effect of the same story getting bounced back and forth in a dozen different configurations.”
How do you stave off overkill?
“Comics,” was the quick answer from Ben, “Dad and I have that in common. He shared his collection with me when I was a kid and now we pass them back and forth between us and my daughter.”
“It’s funny. I catch up on them during commercials and between plays during the season and she gets a little frustrated because she thinks I’m not paying enough attention to the game.”
“I tend to accumulate movies during the regular season.” Mark, 24, a member of the Blues faithful and graduate student in education admitted that his classwork, student coaching rotations, and following his favorite team leaves him little time for movies.
“You can’t always expect to stream them, either. By the time I’m ready to watch a movie, it might not be available. There’s also an element of unplugging that I like about being able to pop in a disc.”
“Unplugged,” Cody agreed. “That’s the quality I’ve been trying to put my finger on. When it starts feeling like another job, that’s when you add escape on top of escape. Being a fan now is a lot more participatory. I feel like there is pressure to know everything. Some days, no, most days I just want to watch the game.”
*Pull your eyebrows down, Chachi. Have you seen Stockard Channing as Rizzo? In her prime she could make Stu Grimson in his prime cry.