Why We Are Building Sports on the Blockchain
Let me reveal a dirty secret: I am not a sports guy. I never cared that deeply about watching or engaging in the fandom of sports outside of a short period when I was about 6 years old and I loved the WWF (now WWE).
That being said, the opportunity to be able to shape an entire industry and social pillar excites me. A lot. Sports play a huge role in society whether you live in a no contact village or in a 21st century hub.
As I started diving into its history, I started understanding the fundamental role that sports play in society and culture. There are cave paintings of wrestlers and sprinters with crowds surrounding them dating back to around 15,000 years ago during the Neolithic era.
For as long as man has lived in communities (maybe even before), sports have been our outlet for play, creativity, and competition, and the top performers (athletes) have been revered for achieving superhuman physical capabilities. Sports have always served as a mechanism for shared culture, even before the ancient Romans used gladiators to engage their citizens and keep them focused on competition in the amphitheaters, and not on the problems of their time.
With the advancement of technology, professional sports have evolved into an entertainment product, but their roots should not be forgotten. Anything that can cause an otherwise sane group of people to riot and destroy property has serious cultural significance. They bring out the most primal parts of us, with the capacity to turn people who might be great friends into enemies and enemies into great friends.
If you look past the foam fingers and vuvuzelas, the most mainstream part of most of our society is sports; and while blockchain and cryptocurrencies have been building in popularity, they still live in the relative shadows of our collective consciousness.
A couple of years ago when I was asked to join a fan run football project, I wasn’t as smitten with the idea as I am now. Part of it was that, at the time, we did not even consider building our platform on a blockchain. In fact, the word never even arose during our decision-making process. Once the long-anticipated first game rolled around, the energy from the crowd combined with the fact that fans were voting on plays with our technology created an intoxicating feeling. This euphoria, though, had the effect of masking the fundamental aspects of the system on which we would need to improve.
When our second game kicked off, I was sick in bed with my laptop. Using Twitch live chat as my strategy advisors, I navigated through offensive plays with the hive mind of fans just like me; and when the play I had picked yielded a touchdown, I couldn’t help but be proud. I immediately felt like I was a football expert: a sport that I had never spent more than about three cumulative hours watching in my life.
Toward the middle of the season, the fans called a game-winning touchdown as the clock expired… and the trolls started to emerge.
Twitch chat lit up WITH phrases like “this was scripted” or “BULLSHIT!”
(Note: it is functionally impossible to “script” a football game, but trolls gonna troll.)
Nearly every single vote had a group of non-believers. To me, this was a fantastic problem to have: people actually cared about what we were doing. The emotion was palpable, and it spoke to a deeper truth about the chord that we were striking.
Once we got through the pilot season, there was one thing that was distinctly evident to me: if we wanted to be a truly democratic sports league, we needed a higher level of transparency than any other sports institution has ever provided. All transactions and votes on our platform needed to be published, and the die-hard fans should be able to dig deep enough into the data to understand that there was no tampering.
Then I get the call from Sohrob, our CEO…
“What do you know about blockchain?”
At the time, the answer was: not much (and even though I’ve been elbows-deep in it for more than six months now, I can’t say I am even close to being an expert). The extent of what I knew at the time had been explained to me years ago by an extremely intelligent and idealistic engineer, but those were conversations of potential utopias, not immediate applications.
One google search later, I fell down a rabbit hole of terminology and jargon and a fog of confusion. Once I got passed the abstractness of it all, I saw what blockchain technology could do for the FCFL and our fans. For the first time on a sustainable scale, we were pushing the evolution of spectator sports into collaborative sports: a true entertainment product for our place and time in history, a professional sports league built for the current generation of consumers.
Blockchain technology is giving us a platform to reveal the inner workings and decision-making processes directly to the people who are impacted the most: the fans and players. Every single vote within the FCFL will be available for audit by anyone that wants to review the results. Blockchain technology has resolved the issue of traditional polling styles where you get things like “hanging chads” and recounts.
I truly believe that, with the evolution of modern entertainment products such as the FCFL, the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain is inevitable, and I am happy that our team has the opportunity to pioneer change in an otherwise monarchical and stagnant industry.
VP of Product and Growth