Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sports Fans, We're Older Than We've Ever Been

So the other day, The Shooter Eldest, who is now 7, was down in the Man Space trying to fathom football... but the tone to the questions gave her away; her heart really isn't in it. Or the baseball games I've taken her to, or the basketball games that are occasionally on as well. She likes going places, spending time with me, gets what fantasy leagues are, and knows who Dad's favorite teams are. She's also smart enough to give me space when things aren't going well. But actual interest in the game? Not so much.

Independent of my questionable parenting skills, I'm wondering if there isn't something more widespread going on here. When the Ninja comes over to watch games with his kids, none of them are showing a great deal of interest in the game, either -- even the eldest, who has a fantasy team in a Dads and Kids league that the Ninja runs. The grown-ups are reacting to plays, yelling at the television, giving fist pumps and high fives... and the kids are either looking on bemused, or finding something else to do.

And that's the gist -- they're finding other things to do, and they're going to keep doing that. In the next 20 to 30 years, these kids are not going to have the same sense of overwhelming urge to root for their team. Some will, of course, but others will keep it at arms distance with video games, social networks on the Web, music and, um, porn too, since they'll be teens and grown ups with all of the usual stuff going on.

Watching sports is a habit, possibly even a vice. It feels like more than that, because it's a shared and communal experience that acts as social glue; the biggest meathead in Philadelphia and I can get through five minutes of not completely awful conversation if we just keep it to Da Iggles.

But if you had given me the same access to everything the world had to offer, via the Web, as a teenager... well howdy, I was online during the 300 baud dial-up modem days when doing so meant that I was always on the phone, driving up my mom's bills and really annoying the rest of the family, and all for the joy of text messaging on bulletin boards in a slower and less exciting version of CB radio.

So what does this all mean? That the seemingly perpetual explosion of interest in sports has a real and definite end date, at least in the US. That the ads you see will start creeping upward in age, from college-age beer and car ads to middle-aged prescriptions and financial services. And that leagues will, as the demographic numbers start looking less robust, will start to truly embarrassing and regrettable Youth Outreach efforts at the ballpark.

Wifi? You betcha. Team-mandated MySpace pages for every player? Oh yes. Wince-inducing "rap" sessions where the youths are magically transformed into football fans forever through the simple touch of a messianic quarterback?

To the point where you can parody it, but yes, yes, yes...


Kim said...

I agree with this completely, thanks for the post.

tracer bullet said...

I don't think the situation is quite the dire. My 3-year-old daughter can watch a game for at least a few minutes (she is 3 after all and has no attention span) and she frequently asks to wear her Brian Dawkins jersey (yeah, I dropped the cheddah on the officially licensed version 'cause that's how I roll). Kids don't do anything for very long without getting bored so I suspect the little parasites will eventually figure it out.

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