Most people have gotten used to being advertised at constantly, even in places that they’ve paid to get into. There were complaints at first, but now everyone sits quietly through ads at the movies, and no one worries about an event being sponsored by some company or another. Recently, though, I think the process has finally gone from being annoying to effecting my enjoyment of the game-as I discovered when, after years of waiting, I finally got to go a Redskins game last season.
It wasn’t a big problem when every inch of the stadium was covered with ads; you could still focus on the game, and hope that the ads were helping keep your ticket prices low. Then they started renaming the stadiums. At this point, it was clear that all of this advertising wasn’t keeping prices particularly low, and that something was being lost when you had to call a stadium something different every few years, when the naming rights expired or the company was bought out. But the game was still the game.
Then highlights were brought to you by a sponsor. This didn’t bother me much; everyone likes watching replays. The problem is that every game only contains a few highlights, and teams have now started selling every conceivable play. For example, there is a “Crunch of the Game” that has been bought by a potato chip company. In this Sunday’s game, there weren’t really any notable hits, so all of us had to watch the replay of a totally ordinary tackle for the sake of the company’s advertisement.
Soon plays that were never considered highlights will be sold to someone, and we will be forced to sit through them again. A delay of game penalty can be brought to you by a watch company. Every screen pass, spectacular or not, can be sponsored by a movie theater chain. The jumbotron will become, even more than it is now, a distracting mass of relevant and irrelevant information. This has already happened in basketball, where everything from the three pointers to the time-outs are brought to you by someone. At least on TV you know exactly when the commercials are starting.
Having already diverted your eyes from the game, the ears are next. For the first time during the last football season, I heard regular commercials shown on the big screen and blasted through the loudspeakers. The words are so garbled by the amplification that they are impossible both to ignore and understand. A relaxing afternoon starts to feel like walking down a boardwalk and having a hundred hawkers yell for your attention.
So far, these interruptions have only taken place between plays. But how much longer will we have that luxury? Like everything else, people will eventually accept all of these distractions as normal, encouraging advertisers to move a little closer to get you to pay attention. It is time to say something, to the management and the companies buying the ads. There are only so many pieces of the game that you can sell before you start selling out the fans.
Labels: Are We Paying to Watch a Game or Ads?