Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Attending live sporting events is a tougher and tougher sell

Ten years ago my girlfriend, now wife, bought us tickets to a 49ers vs. Seahawks regular season game up in Seattle. I was excited, having lived for more than two decades without ever seeing an NFL game in person before.

We left early and fought our way through traffic, eventually paying an exorbitant amount to park in the same zip code as the stadium and made our way to our decent seats.

Midway through the game I started searching out the scoreboard to catch results of other games, trying to figure out what players had big games in terms of fantasy football points.

Early in the third quarter, a scuffle between fans broke out a few rows behind us and a pair of highly inebriated individuals were eventually escorted from the building.

By the end of the game, the temperature had dropped significantly and we were both starving as my wife had virtually needed to take out a loan to pay for the tickets and, as a couple who had just recently graduated from college, ordering a pair of hot dogs at an NFL stadium likely would have constituted the most expensive meal we would have eaten all year.

Don't get me wrong, it was still a fun venture and one I'm glad I got the opportunity to experience. However, by the end of the day, I viewed it similarly to how I viewed my family's trip to Times Square for New Year's Eve in high school – one of a kind and unforgettable, but something I probably wouldn't want to do again.

All of that is a lead-in to talk about a statistic that I heard on the radio this morning. A sports radio host was pointing out that, in a recent poll, 53% of individuals stated that they would rather watch a sporting event at home rather than live.

That marks an enormous shift in American culture, one that has been steadily building steam for the past decade.

For ages, going to the stadium was perceived as the ultimate fan experience because nothing could top the sights and sounds of live action.

But now? That's simply not the case. Perhaps even more telling in that poll, was the fact that, when asked to give a reason for their response, the cost of attending a live sporting event came in a distant third. The No. 2 reason was the convenience of staying at home while the No. 1 reason was how advances in technology, particularly those in the quality of televisions, has made the home viewing experience incredible.

That's a fact that's difficult to dispute. My wife and I were married a year after our trip to the Seahawks game. We cashed in all of the Target gift cards we received to purchase a new TV. It wasn't a flat screen, it weighed about as much as our car and it wasn't HD but it marked a significant improvement to what we had been using.

Two years ago, we upgraded again. For roughly the same price, we were able to get a TV with a screen more than twice the size of our current TV which was only seven years old. It was also HD, could be easily mounted to our wall and probably even dispenses drinks through a feature we haven't discovered yet.

Not only that, but more cameras and higher quality cameras have been added at many games, allowing viewers to be closer to the action than ever before.

Cable programming has also expanded and, for prices that don't completely break the bank, you can have access to hundreds of sporting events on a daily basis.

I am not knocking the pro sports experience entirely. As a huge baseball fan, I still feel like there is something magical about spending a day at the ballpark in the summer. But, as someone who now has two small children, I can understand how the prospect of getting away to a game can often seem like a hassle.

Obviously, football has been the most affected by this recent shift. Television coverage of the NFL has improved tremendously while the popularity surge of fantasy football makes the idea of spending an entire day at one stadium without access to every Sunday game seem less appealing.

The trend has become so pervasive that football stadiums have even started to significantly cater to the fantasy football fan.

Jacksonville will be airing the NFL Redzone channel on its Jumbotron, the no-commercials station which flips back and forth between games when a team is close to scoring.

Meanwhile, San Francisco's new state-of-the-art stadium will apparently be equipped with wireless internet in all of its seating, allowing fans to seamlessly stay connected to scores or even stream other live games while in attendance.

Getting people to attend its events is certainly a task that commissioners will have to deal with in the years to come as the television experience continues to change and improve.

However, in 10 years at this job, the high school sports viewing experience has remained virtually unchanged. And I appreciate that.

I love the atmosphere surround the first football game of the season in the balmy late summer or a crucial soccer playoff game played in sideways rain.

I love a packed gym for a big volleyball or basketball contest and the energy at the district track and tennis tournaments.

And, until each of those events is carried live with dozens of high-definition cameras, I don't see that changing.



Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy

69°F

West Linn

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 63%

Wind: 0 mph

  • 29 Aug 2014

    Mostly Cloudy 78°F 59°F

  • 30 Aug 2014

    PM Showers 74°F 57°F