26 October 2010
This statement goes against the very fabric of this blog's existence, but we fear that the value of the live stadium experience is degrading. With each new high definition technology, added camera angle and on-screen "PitchTrax" box, watching at home on a big screen HDTV or at a bar with friends is becoming increasingly more appealing. Think about it - in terms of knowing exactly what happens, as it happens (one of the main benefits of attending a live sporting event in the first place), the stadium experience is lacking. This point is backed up by our recent experience at Yankee Stadium for game four of the Yankees' 2010 American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers.
During that pivotal game, there were no less than three defining moments in the game that fans in many areas of the stadium (including our section, section 428) were left wondering about:
Before anyone goes off in the comments section explaining that this is the way attending a live sporting event has always been, let us explain our point. Ever since the average fan was priced out of the seats closest to the field, the allure of attending live sporting events has been the camaraderie of 50,000 like-minded fanatics and the resulting atmosphere. Our argument is that with the enhanced at-home baseball viewing experience via new technologies, the desire to experience "mystique and aura" is at risk of being replaced by "I want to see the damn pivotal moments." Also, when you go to a game, you might run into this guy (who actually DID get to see that Cano play, up close and personal):
We wouldn't have written this post if we didn't have at least the beginnings of a solution, so here it is: get rid of the antiquated policy of not showing key replays on the HD video boards. We appreciate that sports
teams [leagues, see update below] don’t want to incite riots and put the umps on blast for blown calls, but keeping fans in the dark is not a way to keep them going to games in large numbers, or to keep them engaged while they are at the game. In our increasingly information-based and digital society, people EXPECT to have information at their fingertips. Therefore, the fix is simple – show replays on the video board immediately. Make umpires responsible for their calls and enlighten fans, providing a better experience. They'll look at their smartphones less and enjoy the game more. Everyone wins.
UPDATE (10/26 1:35 PM): Already some great responses on Twitter. @gcf123 points out that the "no replay policy" is the doings of MLB and not the individual teams. This is a great point that gets to the crux of the issue. If teams want fans to pay their hard-earned money to attend games, it is their job to advocate for fans and improve the experience. It is up to the teams to understand how advances in technology (and rules changes such as the introduction of official instant replay) are affecting the fan experience, so they can present it to the league. Each individual team runs promotions to get fans into the seats, why shouldn't it be their job to continue to go to bat for those fans when league policies make absolutely no sense?