The following 7 signs indicate a changing of the sports landscape. Some changes are more significant than others, but all serve as reminders that the good ol’ days can’t last forever. Let’s get started.
1) Athlete’s Personal Lives Are Big News
Social media has provided the opportunity for fans to be up-close and personal (maybe a little too close) to their favorite sports stars. Two months ago, ESPN showed a segment on Amar’e Stoudemire’s wine bath. To take things a bit further, the ESPN correspondent jumped into the tub with Stoudemire to give his personal take on the wine bath. Too much.
It’s a good idea to connect athletes to the fans, but this goes a little too far. Such as “reporting” LeBron James’ visit to the dentist.
2) No More Bo Jacksons
Due to the demand of keeping athletes in a designated sport, this atmosphere makes it hard for athletes to transition and even excel in different sports simultaneously. Players are able to accomplish this in college such as, Jameis Winston (baseball/football at Florida State), but to perform at a high-level in the professional field is not an easy task today.
Many people may have forgotten, but Deion Sanders is the only person to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series, while also running track. That’s a true multi-sport athlete.
Multi-talented athletes could realistically play multiple sports at a high level. However, the specialization and time commitment required to have success in just one professional sport all but eliminates the possibility of anyone playing two.
3) Digital Trash Talk
If you’re familiar with ESPN’s 30-for-30 series, you may have watched Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (A film that explores the rivalry between the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks). This episode is most likely in my top 5 for the “30-for-30” series. The film shows how Reggie Miller did not back down to John Starks, Anthony Mason, or even Spike Lee on the sideline.
Reggie Miller and Spike Lee (wearing the orange longsleeve and Knicks jersey)
If any player today re-enacted the verbal performance Reggie Miller put on display during the New York series in the 90’s, I would be very surprised. Today, most athletes take their beef to Twitter instead of doing their talking on-the-field. After all, athletes are often penalized for their conduct on the field.
The great thing about trash-talking in the days before social media was it generally had to be done in the flesh. Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali—their in-person big talk helped define each of them. For players today, it’s just not the same.
4) Baseball Cards Are Irrelevant
Remember when you used to brag about having a player’s rookie card? Those days are long gone. The disinterest with collecting cards has greatly declined, as well as its value. With the vast array of video game selections, younger sports fans have a reason to turn a blind eye to the thrill of trading sports cards.
5) Memes Are The New Blooper Reels
Since the Internet is a thing, and since Photoshop is a thing, no longer can a player trip on a basketball court without the world mercilessly making fun of him.
Baylor Football LB Shawn Oakman
The sports world is definitely not immune from the meme craze. We’ve seen players such as Shawn Oakman, Brandon Knight, and recently Tony Parker, become victims to the meme-driven social media culture.
I have to admit, most of these memes are pretty entertaining,
6) Unproven Rookies Lead Jersey Sales
Shortly after he was drafted in 2014, Johnny Manziel’s Cleveland Browns jersey led the NFL in sales for a time. When an unproven rookie can generate that level of popularity without having taken one snap in a professional game, you know times are changing.
Manziel was a star in college, but people who bought his pro jersey did it largely for one reason: hype. We now live in a world where hype can, and often does, trump actual performance.
7) Selfies Are The New Autographs
An autograph from your favorite player used to be the Holy Grail in sports. Now, it seems physical access to players is more limited, plus memorabilia dealers have left a sour taste in some athletes’ mouths. With autographs losing their luster, selfies have swooped in to pick up the slack.
Case in point: Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens recently posed for a selfie with a young fan during a stoppage in play. Instead of a signed puck in a glass case, the fan will likely preserve that selfie for years to come.