Ethan Sturm | Rules of the Game
Brave new sports world
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 07:11
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about technology. Maybe it’s because my computer is in for repair and I’m stuck hurriedly writing this column in Tisch. Or maybe it’s because I’m in a class focusing on the effects of the digital world on sports media. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s amazing how rapidly the world has changed. Less than 20 years ago, there was no ESPN.com. Less than seven years ago, there was no Twitter. Today, we can’t imagine our lives without them. But are we really better off for these changes? Sure, Internet streams allow us to view irrelevant soccer games halfway around the world, and sites like Twitter give us instant analysis from reporters and consistent views into the lives of the athletes we covet, but at what price?
For me, things have gotten quite bad. I slowly became an addict to new-age sports media without even noticing it, simultaneously watching streams of three different Champions League matches and an MLB playoff game while also streaming an ESPN live chat of the soccer games and my Twitter feed. Some people sneak away from their significant other to steal a smoke. I sneak away to send out a tweet. I joke only in an attempt to cover how pathetic the situation has become sports, and sports media, are now an unhealthy habit for me.
I’m not ready to call for the death of Twitter or the end of the live blog, but some things need to change. First of all, someone needs to get a hold of Twitter. The site has become sports’ version of TMZ, with athletes tweeting out stupid comments and everyone eating them up on a near-daily basis. Of course, as sports fans and reporters, we feel we need to follow these stories as though they were announcing the next major blockbuster trade. By doing so, we become no better than the Kardashian-obsessed MTV watchers I have for so long mocked. Just as people have no right, and no reason, to carefully monitor the lives of actors, sports fans have no right or reason to follow athletes on Twitter with such a fine-toothed comb.
The problem only gets worse for those reporting sports news, who now must rush to be the first one to break something, rather than being able to take the time to fact check and carefully construct a story before publishing it in the paper the next morning. What that trigger first instinct creates is a foggy cloud of contradictory reporting that lasts for many hours in the immediate aftermath of a story breaking. Through Twitter and other means of publishing, reporters will tweet just about anything they hear, whether it actually turns out to be fact or not.
Attempting to follow the Jerry Sandusky allegations at Penn State on the day it broke was an exercise in futility. Every time a new tidbit popped out, it was countered by another article or tweet five minutes later. In an attempt to keep us all in the loop with what was going on, the reporters instead made us wait almost until the next morning’s print deadline to get a definitive story. What I’ve learned over the past five days being without a computer is just how freeing taking a break from the constantly updating world of sports can be. By checking ESPN.com a few times a day, I can remain just as informed about the world of sports as anyone else, just at a slightly slower rate.
Am I the first one to tweet out a witty comment about the Philadelphia Eagles’ pathetic excuse for a team? Maybe not, but in the long run, no one is going to care one way or another who that person was. In fact, even the concept of the scoop is losing its value, as every sports site in the world will have the same article posted within 10 minutes of you posting the original. So take a break, log off of Twitter, and watch sports at your leisure for a few days. You’ll be thankful you did.
Ethan Sturm is a senior who is majoring in biopsychology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @esturm90.