Sports in the Age of Twitter

Being a sports fan with Twitter is hard, but I don’t think I’d ever go back to watching games in the dark. Here’s what I mean.

I’m a Warriors fan, and whenever I watch a game, I’m always checking Twitter during timeouts, free throws and half time. I want to see what the local beat reporters at the game are saying. Whether it’s updating everyone about an injury (poor Brandon Rush) or getting an assistant coach’s take on a defensive adjustment, these tweets give extra information I’m not getting from the broadcast. But sometimes it’s distracting. You ask yourself, are you missing out on a spectacular dunk because you’re looking down at your phone? Are you fully immersed in the back-and-forth pull of the game, or are you getting distracted from a funny person in your stream?

Of course, you can always rewind your TiVo to catch the play again, but that brings me my second point. Twitter and TiVo do not get along most of the time.

Live, or “Live”?

If you ever had to TiVo a game because you have dinner plans, or because you’re running late getting home from work, you know that you should never check Twitter. It doesn’t matter if you don’t follow any reporters, athletes, or news outlets to spare yourself from spoilers, one errant tweet from a friend can ruin a third of the game for you. And if you’re a frequent/habitual Twitter-checker like me, that means you need to actively force yourself not to refresh.

There was an article a couple years ago where someone was pontificating on the lack of enjoyment from watching a TiVo’d game. In the back of his mind, even if he didn’t know the score, he thought that the game he’s watching already happened, and therefore its conclusion had already been decided. “What’s the point in watching,” he thought, if the outcome is finalized already. While I disagree with the overall sentiment (I enjoy TiVo’d games just fine, and every episode of Homeland has already been “decided” months ago), I do agree that if I start watching a game from the start that’s already at the third quarter when I begin, and I accidentally catch a peek at the halftime score, it ruins the suspense of the first half.

Audience Participation

Because Twitter is such an easy way for broadcasters to get an audience reaction to how the team’s doing, broadcasts eagerly put out questions for people to answer. As the image above illustrates, even I can get my semi-informed opinion on the air as long as I can construct a coherent tweet. But what do I know? Why is my opinion on David Lee vs. Carl Landry worth listening to? (It’s not. Not really.) So why are shows like Inside the NBA on TNT putting viewers’ opinions on the same level as analysts?

Good or Bad?

Ultimately, the question becomes “is checking Twitter good or bad during a game.” Like knowing a player’s efficiency is actually low despite his spectacular plays (like the Bucks’ Monta Ellis, for example), Twitter is information that may lessen your enjoyment of what you’re seeing in the moment. Overall, however, you’ve got more knowledge and a bigger picture view of the sport, and more knowledge is always better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch the Warriors demolish the Orlando Magic while waiting to see if one of my tweets show up in the pregame show.

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