THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

It’s the best time in human history to be a sports fan. You can access practically any game on earth (sometimes illegally) just by turning on your wifi. The range of changes, however, goes beyond merely accessing public information.

Technology has become more intrusive and revealing in sport. From putting microphones on coaches to use parabolic mics to hear what players say on the bench, viewers are uncomfortable close to the action. Of course, there are more cameras in newer positions giving a variety of angles. And video reviews have actually impacted how games are called and can influence the conduct of games themselves. They determine the severity of a foul, whether a shot was a three-pointer or just a long two, and so on. This was unthinkable back in the day.

Attire has also loosened up, quite literally. Commentators and courtside reporters wear sneakers on the regular, an offshoot perhaps of the requirement to wear rubber-soled shoes on hardwood floors. But more than that, neckties have become optional, and in many sports, collared shirts with or without jackets or blazers have become the norm. When you think about it, sports events were once formal gatherings. Now they are more casual entertainment, hence the downgrade in dress code, even for broadcasters.

Exclusivity. The fight to protect exclusivity has never been fiercer. These days, broadcast rights holders actually prevent other networks from shooting their sports events, even for news purposes, which is covered by the international rules of Fair Use Doctrine. This can be indirectly traced back to the feud between ABS-CBN and Solar back when the latter had the rights to the NBA and the former acquired the UAAP. Solar asked for permission to use footage from the UAAP broadcasts for their news, but was denied. When they got the rights to the NBA in the Philippines, the shoe was on the other foot, and they replied in kind to a similar request from ABS-CBN. Ironically, they don’t bother to stop the hundreds of vloggers who just snatch their feed off the air and repost them online.

New sports. There are roughly 20 new sports that have hit the mainstream in the last quarter of a century. Capoeira has been left by the wayside because it takes at least seven years to produce one master.

Women’s sports have also taken their place in the mainstream. Beginning with the establishment of the WNBA right after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, women have earned their rightful place in the market. Locally, things took a turn for the better when the Shakey’s V-League had the good fortune of having successive De La Salle-Ateneo finals which propelled women’s volleyball into the ratings. The spotlight has expanded into weightlifting, women’s boxing, jiujitsu, cycling, and many others. In other countries, they are also slowly winning the battle for equal pay, particularly in combat sports.

From reporters to pundits. There has been a proliferation of sports talk programs over the last 15 years or so. This trend began gradually with the likes of CNN putting less boots on the ground and relying more on experts in the studio. As more and more people started putting their opinions out on the Internet, it became easier (meaning lazier) for producers to just ring up people to get their opinions.

Streaming and binging. In the Philippines in particular, the broadcasting market breached the 50-percent mark in viewers watching mainstream broadcast content on their mobile devices almost 10 years ago. This has allowed to turn TV into radio, keeping it droning on in the background as they do other things, only pausing or rewinding it when something exciting happens. Unfortunately, this has also enhanced “highlight culture,” wherein many people simply watch the condensed plays of games thinking they’ll know the full story.  Attention spans have never been shorter.

As I said, it’s a great time to be a sports fan.

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