Credit: Natasha Coyle

Live and Kicking: the enduring appeal of live sport

By Charles Pring

At-home broadcasting simply cannot compete with the ecstatic feeling of watching live sport in a stadium.

In a world where sports broadcasting is more all-encompassing and readily accessible than ever before, what is it that keeps fans across the globe flocking to stadiums in their millions? Given the ease and comfort of watching from one’s own sofa entombed in salty snacks, and the fantastic multi-camera, hyper-analytical coverage on offer, why go anywhere? Yet the go anywhere element is just what supporters do in the name of following their heroes. And anyone who has experienced the enchantment for themselves knows exactly why.

Firstly, for all the wizardry of modern broadcasting, nothing gives you a truer impression of the skill and prowess of professional athletes than seeing them perform in the flesh. It is often the case that the speed at which high-level sport takes place is not fully conveyed by the cameras. A first-time television viewer of F1 may often remark that the cars don’t look that fast, but this notion would be irreversibly shattered by a trip to Silverstone on race day. Similarly with many ball sports, only watching them with your own disbelieving eyes will reveal how quickly things are actually happening. This also has the benefit of bolstering your appreciation for the skill of the players involved, especially if you are more accustomed to seeing amateurs attempt to play the same sport.

There is also the sensory immersion one gets from being at the ground or stadium that is not available at home, no matter how wide your screen. The referee’s whistle rings in your ear. The shouts and songs surround you from all sides. When all cheer in euphoric celebration, it rumbles your very insides, and the stands bounce beneath your feet in excitement. Your eyes are treated to a banquet of colour, and the rich aromas (often pie related) drift gently back and forth.

But the most central joys of attending live sporting events come from the ritual and the sense of community – people don’t only make Glasgow, they also make sport. It’s the excitement on the morning of the game, the following of the same ritualistic travels and preparations every week, and the discovery of a people to whom you can belong. For some, it’s the pride in their home, and for others, it’s the warm nostalgic sentiment of intergenerational tradition. Many attend for the first time under the wing of a close relative, and probably my fondest childhood memories involve going to big sporting events with my dad – much as he once went, wide-eyed, with his.

In the same way that watching your favourite film is better with a close friend, so too is watching sport with other people. It intensifies the salience of every high or low, every blissful or bitter tear. Humans are wired to enjoy things more in the presence of others, and sport is the perfect example of and vehicle for this. When your team scores that all-important goal, you leap up and your very first urge is to turn to the person next to you and celebrate together, to embrace them, and to share in the rapture of the moment. When such a moment is experienced by crowds thousands strong, the collective ecstasy is not something that can be easily paralleled.


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