It’s only since the middle of the 20th century that sport developed into the professional industry that it is today. Before then, it was an amateur and semi-professional affair with players in the most senior leagues, often holding down regular jobs.
Stadiums were not the shiny temples of commerce, decorated with glowing electronic sponsorship signage and lined with dozens of high definition television cameras. They were basic, utilitarian, and without many of the modern comforts we know today.
There was no way to follow along at home or from anywhere else. If you were not at the game, you didn’t get to find out the score until you read it the following day’s newspaper.
However, this has all changed thanks to developments in technology. Today, fans can get closer to the action, build a connection with their favorite athletes, and learn more about their sport. Here are some ways in which technology has made this possible.
TV and Video Streaming
Broadcasting sports games has been practiced since the advent of the telegraph. One of the first recorded instances of it being used was in 1896 when the events of the Stanley Cup were transmitted from Montreal to Winnipeg so that fans could keep up to date with the score and find out who won. A few decades later, games were being aired on the radio, and TV followed years later.
Today, it’s possible to watch almost every competition live, with multiple camera angles, full commentary, insightful on-screen graphics, and endless replays. You don’t even need to be in front of a TV to do it, streaming services from broadcasters and the leagues themselves allow you to follow along live and catch up no matter where you are.
TV broadcasting rights are one of the biggest sources of income for most leagues and competitions and have helped to professionalize and commercialize most sports. Regardless of your opinion of this, without TV you wouldn’t have the access you enjoy today.
Until 2018, sports betting was banned in most parts of the United States. In other regions, like the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, wagering on a sport meant having to visit a sportsbook in person. With the exception of horse and greyhound racing, there would almost never be bookmakers onsite at a stadium.
Placing wagers on most professional sports is now much easier thanks to online betting apps and sites. Instead of having to visit a sportsbook in person, you can compare odds and place your bets from the comfort of your own home or while watching a game in person.
The ability to compare odds can also give you additional insights into what expert oddsmakers and pundits think is going to happen, which can be of interest even if you’re not intending to place a bet.
Social media has completely changed the dynamic between athletes, teams, and leagues and their fans. They allow individual personalities to come through more easily, without the filter of a sports broadcast.
Social platforms also let fans follow the daily lives of athletes away from the stadium, see how they train, what they eat, how they spend their time, and who their friends are. This also gives fans a channel to comment and send messages, either in support or to criticize.
Examples of this can be with athletes like the NFL’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Tom Brady. The latter often uploads photos and videos of his training and a lengthy statement to announce his departure from his former team, the New England Patriots.
In Europe, the soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo has nearly 250 million followers, where he shares insights into his daily life, his training, and his non-soccer business dealings.
His posts often get more than 7 million likes and tens of thousands of comments, showing how engaged his fans are.
Being a sports fan today is better than at any time in history. You can see more, learn more, and engage more than was ever possible before. All thanks to technology.