Thu | May 28, 2020

Tanya Lee | Let’s rethink sports consumption

Published:Friday | April 3, 2020 | 12:32 AM
Ronaldo
Ronaldo

The COVID-19 pandemic has pretty much caused a lockdown of the sporting sector not just here in Jamaica, but across the world.

Until the virus is brought under control and it is safe to gather again, sports fans continue to be starved of live competition.

This presents a significant challenge for sports journalists and sports media houses globally, which have had to increase innovation and creativity to remain relevant to a rabid sporting audience. Rabid because with persons home more than ever before, sports demand is at an all-time high while the supply is obviously non-existent.

Suddenly a game of curling or the world poker championships doesn’t seem like bad sports television after all. Even a bout of professional wrestling could satisfy our appetites currently, and we’d likely treat it like the World Cup final.

The Fate of Sports Journalists

One of the questions I’ve been asked quite frequently since the suspension, postponement, and cancellation of many sporting events across Jamaica and the world is, how will sports journalist remain relevant in this climate?

It is a pertinent question. Like employees in many other fields, many sports reporters have been working from home or converted to the news desk.

But it is a time that demands creativity. The growing digital trend is for sports fans to embrace a diet of archival content, replays, and historical highlights. Replays of football leagues from earlier this season and legendary NBA matchups from decades past have made for good TV viewing at this time.

I recently became lost in a YouTube interview that Piers Morgan conducted with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2019. Ronaldo cried openly while watching a never- before-seen video of his late father, who was an alcoholic who never witnessed the heights of his career due to his passing. He also bemoaned the lack of privacy and inability to take his children to the amusement park as some of the downsides of fame. I suppose now, we are all level. None of us will be visiting amusement parks anytime soon, but the interview is a great way to spend an hour understanding the mind and immense work ethic of one of the world’s greatest athletes.

VIRTUAL CHAMPS COVERAGE

Last week, no one could tell me that the ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships (Champs) 2020 wasn’t live at the national stadium. The nostalgia was far and wide, and even my good friend, Ricardo Chambers, deeply bothered by the cancellation, decided to provide entertainment for our track and field WhatsApp group of 61 administrators, coaches, and the media by sending us audio clips of himself in commentary as if Champs was in full swing. We were equally wrapped in lunacy, asking for points standing and making predictions for each event.

The KLAS Sports FM 89 team must be commended for their virtual coverage of Champs 2020. It certainly kept many Champs-loving fans entertained as the KLAS team conducted interviews with stakeholders, reminisced on former champs, and replayed commentary from memorable races, among other innovative Champs-related programming.

It is that type of ingenuity that will serve the sports media landscape well throughout this pandemic.

Journalists will need to be creative in what they deliver and how they deliver. I believe some topics of interest from sports fans could include compiling a list of the top 10 performances from the last five years.

Live discussions, podcasts, and digital debates have also been highly sought content in recent weeks. Maybe even inviting sports fans to submit their own commentary could unearth some new, talented individuals from the viewership pool. I spent some time last week watching a marble championships (yes, you read that right), and just today, I was locked into an intense commentary that matched a visual of two rats wrestling on what appears to be a supermarket shelf (yes, you read that right again). Surprisingly, I was highly entertained.

So while many sports shows have resorted to the living room podcast format, and many athletes are amusing themselves and their fan base with TikTok videos, the sports world continues to find inventive ways of keeping the amusement alive.

I believe the first sporting event to be held right after this pandemic has passed should have some significantly high viewership numbers. And maybe, just maybe, we will be more inclined to give some other sporting events a chance to make an impression and gain our interest. One love.