Sports Are Back, and Social Media Is the Stadium

Pat White
July 22, 2020

It’s been a long four months for sports fans. Sure, we’ve had European soccer, MLS, Korean League baseball, and golf to quench our thirst to a degree, but it’s hard not to feel the void of some of our favorite events: March Madness, The Masters, MLB Opening Day, NHL, and NBA Playoffs. These are major events!

(Disclaimer: Of course it was important to cancel all of these events in response to the major health crisis presented to the world. Disappointing, but the right decision. As The Fray once so eloquently stated, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.”)

March 11, 2020 was the last day that a major American sports league played a game. It’s hard to believe, but we don’t have to wait much longer!

The MLB will finally celebrate a four-month-delayed Opening Day on July 23, the NBA will tip off again on July 30, and the NHL is preparing to start the qualification rounds for the playoffs on August 1

Can you feel the excitement?! 

With all of these sports leagues returning in a less-than-normal fashion, how vital of a role will social media play during sports consumption? Well, let’s dive in. 

A virtual arena for fans

Across the four major sports, the plan is to proceed without fans in attendance for the foreseeable future. It could happen sooner in outdoor stadiums like baseball, but let’s not hold our collective breaths. 

As an alternative to the arena or even your local bar, fans will rely on social media for that fan experience they will miss from attending games in-person. Twitter has always been the watering hole to flock to during games for fan interaction, debate, celebration, and defeat. The craving for live sports and interpersonal connections within fanbases is going to make Twitter a whole new animal. 

Besides Twitter, I’m curious to see how the group viewing experience will be enhanced with different video chat options. I’ve already had a few friends organize virtual viewing parties via Zoom for the opening day of the NBA season. Personally, I’m suffering from Zoom fatigue but could make an exception for live sports. 

Here’s to hoping Twitter does the trick and we won’t see fans like the ones shown above in the Korea Baseball Organization. No masks, no six-feet separation. Real shame.  

The multiscreen experience

Much like “sports Twitter,” multiscreen viewing isn’t a new concept. We do it all the time and advertisers capitalize on reaching consumers across all devices. What will be interesting is how the multiscreen experience is enhanced with the NBA and NHL scheduling games throughout the day, ranging from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. With a majority of sports fans working from home, social media will play a major role in staying up to date with games taking place during working hours. 

From a sports journalism perspective, it’s going to be interesting to see how games are reported and followed. Live-tweeting games and highlights are going to be the main source of consumption for sports fans while they are working.  

Hub city content

In lieu of being able to see our favorite athletes in the arena, social media provides fans with some inside access into how players are coping with these unusual circumstances. While the NHL has designated Toronto and Edmonton as the two hub cities for the NHL playoffs, the NBA will host all league activities in Orlando, Florida in “the bubble.” 

I personally can’t wait to get an inside look at how players are staying occupied in between games and practices. We’ve already had a few fun sightings of players fishing, complaining about hotel food and getting a haircut at the new barbershop. Here are some of the highlights thus far.

Norman Powell of the Toronto Raptors having a little fun with fishing (and Photoshop).

Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers gave NBA Twitter some fodder by proving the point that he can’t throw a fish in the ocean while standing on a dock. A few jump-shot attempts when play resumes would help silence those critics.

Joel Embiid of the 76ers arrived in Orlando wearing a full hazmat suit. Embiid continues to wear the crown as the best troll in the NBA.

Another 76er, Tobias Harris, has been sporting unruly hair throughout quarantine and took full advantage of the new barbershop built for players in the bubble.

There are going to be storylines aplenty across all of the major sports and I can’t wait to see them all play out. Sure, we missed the entertainment aspect of watching sports games, but the sense of community is perhaps what we’ve been missing more than anything.