In a recent article on cbssports.com, Mike Freeman writes that the NFL is scrambling to add technology in their stadiums. They are striving to improve fan attendance and convince more fans to attend live rather than watch the game at home on their couch. The NFL is busily adding wireless networks and all manner of technology to keep the tech-savvy fan interested and engaged even while at the stadium. Otherwise, more and more of those fans would rather stay in their man-caves and not venture to the stadium at all.
I don't get this trend. I know I am getting old, 47 in five more days, but I prefer the live experience by such a wide margin that watching a game at home doesn't even compare. I also tend to not answer my cell phone, I rarely send a text message and I do not have a Facebook account. So maybe I am not the prototypical person of the 21st century. Other than the Green Bay Packers winning the Superbowl, which I saw on television twice, every one of my favorite moments watching football involve being at the stadium.
To me the difference between high-fiving your boys after seeing the big play on the big screen at home or doing the same thing with 70,000 of your good friends at the stadium is not even a comparison. So why are so many people now eschewing the stadium in favor of their home?
I will list some reasons I feel may explain why watching in your man-cave appears to be taking over the stadium experience. Since I am so one-sided on my views of the topic I will probably miss some key ones. Feel free to tell me what I missed or got wrong.
Going to a game is expensive. This is obviously true. A ticket to a game, plus food, plus parking (and more) can all add up to a big chunk of change. A quick search showed that the total was $427.42 for a family of four to attend a NFL game in 2011. If you have to add in travel to this, it can be the cost of a vacation to attend a single game.
This will certainly limit the number of games that the average person can attend. I am sure most of us can think of plenty of things we could do with $400 that are more important than a football game.
But to me this makes the games you can afford to attend all the more memorable. It means you may have to plan and pick what game to target. It also means that going to the stadium is a special event you don't get to do very often.
But many don't feel this way. There are many people who say they would rather stay at home even if they could afford to go to the game. Here are some reasons for this feeling.
It is undeniable that you are subjected to the weather of the location when you attend a game live, unless the stadium is domed. If you are in an outdoor stadium you may be forced to contend with heat, cold, rain, snow, wind or whatever else Mother Nature can think of to torment fans.
Even in a dome the seating is far from the quality of your favorite chair in your living room. The seats are hard or maybe even little more than a bench. By the end of the game your behind is ready for your favorite chair.
Many times the angle you have to view the game at the stadium is also far from ideal. Your seat may be in an upper deck or end zone giving you a view that television cameras rarely bother with. At home you are always in perfect position for every play. In the stadium you are not always in a spot to glean all the details you can see easily at home. Sometimes it is hard to tell if that last run was a two yard gain making it time to punt or a six yard gain and the drive continues.
When nature calls you have to go stand in those huge lines at the stadium. Modern stadiums have sound piped in or screens to let you see the action even in the restroom, but you usually end up missing something. At home you can go any time and just rewind if you missed anything.
I can predict the argument but not really understand it. I can sit in my easy chair any time, but the opportunity to be in the crowd with the feel and excitement of a live stadium can only be enjoyed once in a while. If I have to let my butt be a bit sore to do it, then so be it.
I grew up in Wisconsin and once I moved away for career reasons I would often return for the holidays. When possible I would go to a late season Packer game. I have been to many subzero games. I have attended games in snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures. You just have to know what's coming, prepare for it, and then enjoy your experience. Maybe putting on your long underwear and five layers of clothes is not for everyone, but to me it just becomes part of the story of attending a live event.
In the stadium you don't always see every detail of every play. Modern stadiums have extensive screens and replay systems but it does not match the quality of high definition cameras and the multiple angles of the coverage on television. At home you may also have the ability to rewind that last play back, watch it again, and just shorten the next commercial break to get back to live play.
With modern technology you can choose to watch a game anytime. If you are interrupted you can pause, answer the door or take that phone call, and go right back to the game when you are finished without missing a second of playing time. My brother will DVR games he attends live and watch them again later. Whether this is to pick up details he may have missed or just to relive the moment, I am not sure.
I realize that when you are live in the stadium, at any time you may turn your head and miss a big moment. I guess I don't see the big problem of this. I was at the 1993 game when the first Lambeau Leap occurred. I was fortunate to see it all unfold as Reggie White picked up that fumble and lateraled it to LeRoy Butler. When he went to the end zone to clinch the Packers first trip back to the playoffs in some umpteen years, Butler jumped into the stands and started a tradition. The friend I was with missed what happened and I had to tell him by yelling in his ear. Although he did not actually see the Leap, it did not dampen his ability to celebrate in the big moment. It was a fantastic, memorable experience that I am sure I would not recall as fondly if I had just watched it on television.
Football has a lot of dead time. Almost every play has a huddle and then there are timeouts, replay reviews and all manner of delays. For the modern viewer, this is the time they watch the updates of other games, or the player statistics, or make a comment on their blog. This technology is usually lacking at the game and leads to moments of inactivity for some. What other people call the lackluster fan experience at stadiums—I call the normal rhythm of the game. But this is an area of concern for the NFL and what they are trying to update in their stadiums.
Watching Multiple Games/Fantasy Football/Gambling:
At home the latest trend is to not watch just one game. The modern football viewer will switch between multiple games. This may be due to a bet or multiple bets he has in play. It may be due to a desire to see how his fantasy football team members are performing. It may be due to just general interest. Sometimes he will even watch the Red Zone Channel or some other form of on line program that allows him to just watch scoring plays instead of an entire game. Modern culture and technological advances appear to have us watching more highlights than full games.
Fantasy football is also a big factor in the modern watching of football games. Some people are so into their fantasy team that they will go from game to game monitoring their players. They root for people instead of teams.
I can't describe how much I hate this trend. I watch football to watch the games. Usually I watch my favorite team and then the other teams that affect my favorite team's position in the standings. I want to watch the entire game to understand what went down. I want to see the switches in momentum and big moments that may have changed the outcome. I am into my fantasy teams in a big way but there are a million ways to find all of their statistics later. I don't pay much attention to them during game time. But again, I guess I am not the norm these days.
At the stadium you have no control over who sits next to you. You may end up with loud, drunk fans who yell a lot. They may even be yelling for the other team. You may hear foul language. It may even be directed at you. Fights at games are not uncommon. The drunk next to you may end up throwing up on your shoes. All of this can keep many people from venturing to the stadium.
At home you know who is there and can be sure you will enjoy their company. If you are on opposite sides you can rib each other in a fun way. A fight in the man-cave is a bit more rare. As is throwing up on your neighbor.
I have usually enjoyed the other fans at the stadium. A few notable times, I did not. I once had a memorable discussion with a drunk classmate who happened to sit behind me at a game. In his state, I had a hard time convincing him I was indeed the person he had graduated high school with twelve years earlier. A parent does have to consider whether their young child should go to a stadium filled with drunks, but for an adult it is usually exciting and entertaining to enter a stadium.
It is undeniable that at home you can control the experience more. At home you can control the environment, the seating, the food, and the company. You can even control the game and how you watch it. That was the point of the CBS article cited at the start. The NFL is attempting to make the stadium more like the experience at home. They want to add wireless networks so you can watch all the highlights on your phone or portable device. You will soon be able to attend a game and watch an entirely different game on your portable device. They want to allow you to keep up on all your statistics and fantasy happenings. They want you to be able to blog and update your status whenever you desire.
It is not for me. I won't even be bringing my phone into the game. I welcome any chance I have to leave the phone behind and just enjoy where I am located. I am not updating my status or tweeting every time the Packers score. In fact, I have never tweeted—or twitted—or whatever it is called. I want to root and cheer and enjoy the stadium experience. When there's a break in the action I want to talk to the person next to me and learn about him. I am becoming a minority in this desire and, more times than not, that person next to me will be too busy texting during the break to be able to talk to me anyway.
Today's fan is as concerned with his blog as he is with his team. He would rather be at home than at the stadium. Air conditioning and his favorite chair are more important to him than the buzz of an expectant crowd. As Mike Freeman stated in his article, “....technology and comfort will actually trump the excitement of being at a game.”
I find the atmosphere and energy of a large crowd infectious. Home is quiet and sedate in comparison. My favorite chair and the ability to jump from game to game on my television is nice when I am home, but I relish every opportunity I get to attend a game in person. The noise and disorder is part of what makes it exciting. I just hope enough of us continue to feel that way so that the stadiums remain loud and exciting. At least, until I am too old to care anymore.