My beloved Red Sox are back in the show! After being dead-last in the 2012 baseball season, the Boston Red Sox climbed out of the American League East division’s basement, all the way to the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. They are not the first team to have a last-to-first turnaround in just one season; but I personally have enjoyed this particular epic reversal of fortune the most. Last time the Red Sox faced the Cardinals in the World Series, the Bean Town heroes were able to reverse the infamous “Curse of the Bambino.” The Sox held the World Champions Commissioner’s Trophy again, after an eternal 86-year wait, by sweeping the The Red Birds of the midwest in four games.
A lot has changed from that season to this one — not only for the team, but for me as a fan. In the most surreal way, technology and social media have made me a more engaged fan than I have ever been. I last called Boston my “hometown” close to 30 years ago; but, in a world connected by the Internet, I can follow my team as if I was still there. Almost like riding the T to Kenmore Square to down a Car Bomb (or two, or three) at Lansdowne Pub, just before the ceremonial march into the Cathedral of Boston: Fenway Park. Wicked awesome!
My reality as a fan this season is that I watch the games from my bedroom, recorded on my Tivo, so I instantly rewind the instant-replays. My wife and kids start to watch the games with me; but, by the 7th inning, I am usually stretching out all by my lonesome — wait, except for my newfound buddies online. Instead of being at a bar or the ballpark, I co-mingle with fans (and enrage foes) online using my iPad while watching the game. The level of engagement is amazing.
Friends, friend of friends, acquaintances and downright strangers on Facebook and Twitter, watch the games along with me, and the stuff they write about is spot on. Some of these online fans deserve a Pulitzer in sportswriting for the stuff they pen. The in-depth analysis you get, for free, from these dedicated fanatics are hard to find in traditional media. Moreso, the comments left by others who follow the bloggers and posters are just as fascinating, and the conversations that ensue surpass anything you can expect from a water cooler conversation in the real world.
The level of information and detail about the game is something the folks at ESPN can only dream of broadcasting. Case in point: when you watch as many Red Sox games as I do, you begin to notice that when they play at home in Fenway, many of the fans who sit behind home plate are the same people game after game. Well, guess what? If you search the Web, you can actually find out that there are many other fans like myself, that not only wonder about these essential aspects of the game, but actually research and write posts about them. By the way, ever notice that one fan sitting behind the plate at Fenway who “refuses to blink at foul balls”? (hint, hint, search for Dennis Drinkwater.)
The 2013 World Series has made me realize something I suspected all along: The Internet is about people. What good is a blog without people who read it? An online game without players? An electronic catalog without countermen? An eCommerce platform without customers? All this technology is there to connect us all with each other, and therein lies its magic.
If you really think about it, there’s nothing new to this. Before the Web and before TV, baseball fans everywhere tuned into their radios to catch games halfway across the country. Over the years, I have met many Cardinal fans who never lived in St. Louis. Oh no no, the bulk of the Cardinal fans I know are from Jacksonville, Fla., and radio is to blame for this cross-country phenomenon. I learned this from a dear friend and colleague (who will soon lose a bottle of Kentucky brown water on a friendly wager against yours truly — respect the beard!) who grew up in Jacksonville and tuned in to the Cardinals via radio starting more than 50 years ago; to this day, they are his favorite team.
So, next time you think technology is alienating you from your employees and customers, think again. The power of technology is in creating a better network, a network of human beings (and baseball fans too).