The fan is dead, long live the phone?
By Tom McGowan
Jesse Owens’ triumph over the Third Reich in Berlin at the 1936 Olympic Games, Zinedine Zidane’s perfect volley in the 2002 European Champions League final, Tiger Woods’ astonishing chip-in at the Masters in 2005 or Rafael Nadal celebrating in the growing dusk around Wimbledon’s Centre Court after overcoming Roger Federer in 2008.
All iconic moments in the history of sport, forever etched in the memory of spectators lucky enough to be able to say “I was there”.
But these days witnessing greatness is clearly not quite enough for the modern sports fan as countless spectators religiously record career-defining events on mobile devices and post their own personal accounts on various social media websites.
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“The pleasure of sport lies not so much in witnessing an event as talking about it,” explains Ellis Cashmore, professor of Culture, Media and Sport at England’s Staffordshire University.
“We’ve all at some point sat at home and watched a fight or a tennis match in isolation and it’s never as enjoyable as when we are in company, talking about the competition as it unfolds. Mobile phones have opened out the possibilities. We can talk to anyone, anywhere while the action is taking place.”
One event to have resisted the tidal wave of mobile technology which has swept through society is the British Open — golf’s oldest major — which will take place for the 152nd time this weekend.
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But this year the R & A, which governs golf outside the United States and Mexico, has relented, allowing spectators at north-west England’s Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club to bring their phones into the event for the first time since 2006.
“The attachment people have to their mobile phones is getting ever stronger,” R & A head of communications Malcolm Booth told CNN.