Thursday, August 27, 2009

Will the American sports bubble burst?

Michael Kruse's "For SEC, tech-savvy fans might be the biggest threats to media exclusivity" made me consider the relationship between sports and American society and where it all might be going.

A few weeks ago, I vacationed in central Europe and spent a considerable amount of time watching soccer highlights from my hotel feed. After a few hours, a curious realization hit me: It was refreshing not to be bombarded with Brett Favre minutiae and the latest (and illegal) MLB PED leak and news about preseason contract holdouts by unproven -- and naive -- NFL rookies. There, before my eyes, the sports world spun sans the "SportsCenter" theme music. Who knew this was possible?

Which brings me to the Kruse piece. This summer, I had a discussion with a college friend about the connection between American sports and the current economic situation in which the world finds itself. I asked him, Will the American sports bubble -- for our sake this includes BCS-level college athletics and popular professional leagues -- someday burst?

It is a possibility. Since ESPN's rise as the dominant sports-content provider in the broadband age (a position that will never be challenged in my lifetime), major American sports have reached an unprecedented saturation level. Professional athletes earn millions and amateurs begin branding themselves for future endorsement dollars as soon as they are old enough to comprehend's five-star rating system. It is a vicious monster. And it is growing.

It has to crest someday, right? I think social media might play a part. Eventually, society is going to have to ask serious questions about whether the American sports beast has crossed its bounds. The hype. The money. The LeBron and Kobe puppets. It is becoming too much.

Do not get me wrong. I feel fortunate to be alive during a time in which incredible innovation and exposure are possible. Social media will define my adult life, and it might prove to be an unintended check upon an American sports landscape that, with each passing year, becomes disconnected from reality.

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