RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And commentator Frank Deford wonders if fans will keep going to games when there are more and more reasons to watch at home.
FRANK DEFORD: I have the odd sense that what was falsely feared more than half a century ago may be finally coming true now. When television was new, sports team owners were intuitively afraid that if you put games out there for people to see free, they wouldnt pay to come out to see the games in person. The NFL was praised to the heavens for having the wisest restricted TV policy.
But as time went on, the revised wisdom was that far from stunting the growth of live attendance, television whetted the appetite. You wanted to go out and be a part of what youd gotten a taste of on TV. And cleaner stadiums, more comfortable seats, luxury suites, more convenient parking, and public transit made it even more attractive to come on out.
Not only did sports crowds increase tremendously, but owners also got paid more and more from the TV networks fighting over the chance to televise sports.
By now whole generations have grown up expecting every game to be at the beck and call of our clicker. And games televise so clear and gorgeous. Living color - TV clarity today is better than mere life, its heavenly. Football, which televises best, has seen NFL ratings go higher than ever.
So I think were seeing the beginning of a sea change in custom and habit. Thats probably accelerated too because the owners - and this will come as a shock, I know - have grown more greedy, and even rich fans are balking at buying seats that have Tiffany price tags. How often do you see games on TV where the best seats are the ones that are empty? Thats something altogether new.
But even more important, younger fans have been raised on TV and other electronic entertainment. These are people who play video games for fun by themselves and who dont communicate so much face to face, but who text and Facebook.
In the past, we thought that you had to be at the location to watch something in-person. To younger people today, whats in-person is wherever their person is. Besides, everybody has access to huge, brilliant high definition TV. A Nielsen survey has shown, in fact, that sports events are watched by 21 percent more viewers if they have HD.
Ive talked to folks whove been on the sidelines at the huge new Cowboy Stadium and they say people down there, close to the field, nevertheless choose to look away from the live action and watch on the monster video screens above.
Jerry Jones didnt build a stadium. He built the worlds largest sports bar.
It seems obvious to me that the appeal of traveling to pay to be an eyewitness is being edged out by staying put and being comfortable. And when Internet betting is legalized, itll be that much more convenient to gamble at home. The roar of the crowd is so yesterday.
MONTAGNE: Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And Im Steve Inskeep.
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