The New Sound Of Sports

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I adore the symphony of sports. The din of cheering fans, the roar of a pumped-up marching band and even the occasional thud on the field or court. They combine into quite the crescendo.

But over the last couple of football seasons, I’ve found that I barely hear these melodies anymore. Instead, the noise that’s really perked my ears is the chirp of a new tweet on just about every play of the game.

I’m addicted to social media, and that has extended to my game-watching.Tweets from sports reporters, athletic information departments and sarcastic bloggers have become the modern equivalent of the booming play-by-play that filled my father’s headphones during every game.

I didn’t realize just how bad it had gotten until the last match of the college football season. During our “gameday lockdown,” my husband and I decided we’d stay off Facebook and Twitter, solely focusing on the game. It was hard. Much harder than it should have been for at least the first quarter.

I was used to getting by-the-second updates on everything from rushing yards to the angry epithets lobbed by the offensive coordinator off-screen. The detailed drama had become as much fun to me as the game itself.

But as I watched the SEC championship unencumbered by my iPad and phone, it became obvious just how much I’d been missing all season.

I realized after the game that when Georgia QB Aaron Murray was blindsided by an egregious late hit in the second quarter, none of my favorite tweeters had really picked up on it. How could they? Most of them were hundreds of yards away from the field in a press box. They didn’t start talking about it until the next day, after catching up on game tape. But I had an up-close and personal view in HD — maybe too up-close and personal — and the hit made an immediate impression. It infuriated me, and I suddenly felt more invested in the game than I had been in any we’d watched all season.

I began to embrace the freedom of focusing on just the on-field action. It reminded me of what it’s like to actually be at a game. Living 600 miles from our home turf, it’s a bit of an indulgence to see Georgia play live now. We make at least one game every season, but we always complain about how we can’t get reception in stadiums crammed with fellow cell-phone addicts.

Now I realize that we also are enjoying those games more because our attention isn’t diverted by whatever hysterical zinger Clay Travis or EDSBS just released in the Twittersphere. I’m not sure when that kind of commentary became a necessary companion to sports viewing, but it clearly keeps my attention far from the game itself.

Throughout the past season, I’ve also had many moments when I wished my team had less social media interaction. Nothing reminds you just how profoundly stupid most of us were in our early 20s like reading the unedited Tweets of NCAA athletes. And the leaders of these multi-million dollar programs often show themselves to be exceedingly petty and thin-skinned in fewer characters than your typical fratastic “Gameday” sign. Irresponsible Tweeters parading as journalists have fueled the false reports on coaching searches and interviewing, too.

Of course,Twitter is a poor substitute for the beautiful play-calling we used to hear from legendary voices like Paul Eells and Larry Munson. There are no tweets that I remember the next day. And I certainly can’t quote a single one word-for-word like the famous Lindsay Scott call.

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for social media in sports, or that it doesn’t actually enhance the experience most of the time.

Tweets from reliable reporters always add context that I don’t find anywhere else. Those Instagram photos of crazed fans and post-game celebrations make the whole thing more fun — especially as a fan in another SEC team’s backyard. Plus, there is something wonderful about Twitter’s ability to make you feel like you’re in a giant, nation-wide sports bar during a big win or breaking news.

But as I recently learned, sometimes it’s nice to put the cell phone down and fall back in love with the game as it’s played. I, for one, needed to hear its siren song again.

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