It used to be a clear case of who was high on the totem pole of the sports in the United States. Sure it might change time to time with a new fresh face of some new star behemoth or some money-spending owner. Maybe some phenomenon would erupt, his or her face splashed over the sports landscape.
However, what seems to be gaining steam, in between this flavors-of-the-moment, is a new kid on the block.
You are quickly changing much of the sports hierarchy. Businesses are scrambling, adjusting, and flexing to deal with this new interloper who they thought they had down pat.
For years, sports teams, corporate marketers, and network executives knew that the fan sat in either a stiff narrow seat, their armchair at home in their den, or maybe slapping back a few at the local pub.
This simple relationship was a comfort. It was an established pecking order that did not change for years and years.
Thanks to the internet, you are far more than some didactic relationship entity. Joe and Jane Fan have become far more proactive, moving away from the usual two-prong sports watcher...live or on TV only.
Instead, you have moved over to the digital landscape where you are empowered to comment, vent, read, vote, and watch in a completely new area. This has made sports teams, networks and marketing gurus break out in sweats. Because that new area is out of their carefully crafted control.
These days you or I can waltz along the digital ether and find our own information. We do not have to wait for some talking head to hand us their homer opinions. We find our own. We make our own. We post, blog, look up stats, search for articles, watch video and listen to podcasts.
How powerful are we? It depends on the sport. But show me one that doesn't have some network, mainstream media, or sport parent trying to create their own digital footprint as they finally have spied fans skirting around them.
My own experience in hockey can be an exclamation point to the new school of fan and our empowerment. I started blogging last year. I was quickly snatched up by what is now one of the biggest U.S. hockey websites to ply my opinion, knowledge and chutzpah.
Soon after, the NY Islanders themselves were looking to create an official press box just for bloggers. In nearly six months, I was credentialed, selected as one of the founding members of the NY Islander Blog Box, given access to all home games, locker room and coach interviews. I, along with my compatriots, found ourselves in SportsBusiness Journal and Sports Illustrated.
Me. A fan. I was in the house where established media had to shuffle aside to fit my brutish keyboard-clacking figure. I will be continuing to do the same next hockey season. Other NHL teams are considering doing the same thing as the Islanders did; recognizing the new sort of fan in their midst.
We have taken over. Many in the mainstream actually resent our crossing of the lines. They preferred that previous divide and static relationship. Things were so much easier that way.
Buzz Bissinger, lauded author of Friday Night Lights and other legendary books, basically lost his mind while sputtering and jabbering, saliva spackling Deadspin's L'enfant terrible, Will Leitch on Bob Costas's ham-handed attempt to understand blogging and the new sports frontier. I am quite sure at least half of you have read about it on your frequently checked newsfeeds and favorite sites.
But tell me this, fellow sport powerhouse . . .
Have you commented on some article online? Have you voted on some poll? Are you reading some other sport website? How many are bookmarked on your browser?
You are what make the new sports hierarchy. You. Me. We.
As some will throw Tiger Woods, Sidney Crosby, or other tower figures of sport skill to be glorified by the light they shine, they are missing the boat. The fan is who is in control these days. And woe to those who haven't gotten the message yet because those are the ones wondering where all their demographics went.