I was listening to Colin Cowherd this morning on the way to work.
I know, I know. It’s inexcusable. Just hear me out.
Cowherd was talking with producer Michael Weisman about a new product called FanVision, essentially a wireless handheld device that gives you control over what replays, highlights, or anything else you watch at the game. It’s not yet available everywhere, but you can use it in about a third of NFL stadiums starting this Sunday.
Sounds pretty cool, right?
It gets better. Fans with a FanVision will be able to watch games taking place in other stadiums. They will also have access to the NFL Red Zone Channel, too. Essentially, if the game they’re attending is boring, they can just tune out and watch something more interesting.
At the risk of sounding unpopular, I think this is a terrible idea.
I understand the draw of a product like this. The idea is that fans are reluctant to go to a game when they can have a superior viewing experience from home. I get that. I’m not real excited about the prospect of paying $40 for upper-level seats when I can sit on my big comfy couch for free and see slo-mo instant replays. The purpose of this product is to entice fans back the stadium by providing an experience more like what they can get at home.
And that’s fine, except that it ignores one major problem – watching a game in person is supposed to be different from watching it at home.
This shouldn’t need any explanation, but I’ll go ahead anyway. When I watch games at home, I get invested. I’m listening to a Rockies-Reds game on the radio right now, and when Troy Tulowitzki hit a three-run shot in the third, I yelled and clapped my hands. It’s exciting, for sure. But if I were at Coors Field, I would have leapt to my feet and screamed myself hoarse. An event that’s exciting at home can become legendary in person.
That’s not limited to big exciting, home run-type events, either. Consider this: when Carlos Gonzalez banged out a single in the sixth, I pumped my fist and muttered, “Yessss.” Had I been at Coors? I would have been yelling, “YEEEAAAHHH!! CARGOOOOOO!!!!” And that’s not because I’m a nutcase obsessed with the Rockies, either. I bet there would have been twenty or so people around me yelling the same thing. We would have bumped fists. There would have been high fives.
Actually, I kind of wish I was there right now. Sigh.
But if we each had a FanVision, there’s a good chance the game wouldn’t be quite as exciting for us, for the simple fact that we wouldn’t be watching it, or at least not as closely. We’d yell, sure, but we’d frantically be checking out handsets for every possible replay angle. We probably wouldn’t high five as much – after all, we’d have expensive ($200!) electronics in our hands.
It sure doesn’t help that you can check fantasy stats on this thing, either. Suddenly, we’re all checking to see how how CarGo’s single affects our fantasy leagues.
I know people said these same sorts of things when JumboTrons started making their way into stadiums and arenas. I understand that. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I feel like if you’re attending a game in person, you ought to watch the game. Don’t worry so much about your fantasy scores. Don’t stress about finding the perfect angle for the replay. Watch the game. Be social. Contribute to your team’s home field advantage.
But then, that’s a problem most pro sports teams face. Stadiums and arenas are catered more toward attracting business clients and celebrities than fans. Fans likely to scream and cheer for every little thing are being priced out in favor of luxury suites. Home field doesn’t mean what it used to.
So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I’m going to offer some unsolicited advice about how to watch sports. Watch them. If things like FanVision become commonplace, sporting events will become less and less entertaining to watch.
That puts guys like me out of a job. No one wants that. Least of all me.