Technological advances have changed the way we consume sports
Views | Jake Krier for The Clarion
Social media is changing the ways we learn about sports.
Watching sports is not the same as it used to be. If you are unable to get your hands on a ticket stub to a game, the likelihood of you still finding a way to watch it is very high thanks to today’s technology. Online streaming, DVRs and smart phones allow fans to access just about any professional or collegiate game from wherever and whenever they desire. This was the case for me one November Saturday. Rather than traveling the 400-plus miles to Concordia University Chicago, I watched Bethel’s football team play in their first-round playoff game from the comfort of my bedroom.
The Bethel Royals football team has proven to be a perennial powerhouse on the gridiron, with seven postseason appearances since 2000. On Nov. 17, they made their trek to River Forest, Ill., to face the undefeated Cougars. Concordia had not reached the playoffs in 75 years, so the Royals knew that the Cougars would come out gunning. They did just that, donned in their maroon and gold, ironically resembling the pride of Minnesota’s universities.
The opening quarter was filled with near-misses, big plays and turnovers. Despite the flurry on the field, the score stood at only 3-0 in favor of the Royals after 15 minutes of play.
In Minnesota, I got my social media fix by constantly refreshing my Twitter feed on my iPod throughout the game. Reading tweets from the Bethel athletics’ official Twitter handle and sending a few of my own, I joined the conversation with others tuning in to the game. During the first half, I was one of over 500 viewers of the stream. Another one of those viewers was my dad, watching from my home in Byron, Minn. A Bethel alumnus, he shared a similar interest in the game, and we sent text messages to each other discussing everything from the big plays to the brutal commentary that accompanied the video. The announcers’ indecisive calls and butchering of players’ names made me think they were probably communication majors with little experience calling games. It actually was quite hilarious and added even more entertainment to the viewing experience.
The second quarter excited everybody tuning in, as Bethel pulled ahead to a 17-10 lead. One of the Royals' scores came on some trickery out of Coach Steve Johnson’s playbook. A backward pass from quarterback Erik Peterson to wide receiver Mitch Hallstrom, who then threw a lob to 6-foot-6 wideout Jay Hilbrands, resulted in a highlight reel touchdown. Freshman-phenom running back Marshall Klitzke led the team on the ground, gaining a good chunk of his 135 yards in the first half, shimmying past potential tacklers each time he got the ball.
During halftime, I sent a quick text to my dad saying, “Klitzke is a stud,” and meandered into the kitchen. There were no concession lines for me to wait in as I popped my lunch into the microwave, nuking the lasagna prepared for me by a chef who goes by “Boyardee.” Personally, I would have rather eaten some fried concessions food. After the 20 minutes of intermission concluded, I squatted back into my comfortable folding chair in front of my desk, ready for the second half.
The third quarter showcased why Bethel has one of the top defenses in the country. Playing very physically, they shut out the Cougars once again. The Royals added another touchdown to the scoreboard when Peterson leaped into the end zone from a yard out. With that, Bethel took a 24-10 lead into the final quarter.
The Cougars responded and scored quickly, narrowing the deficit to seven points. Bethel could not seem to put Concordia away, as they fumbled on the opposing 1-yard line just a few plays after a spectacular, one-handed snag by Hallstrom.
Concordia had less than three minutes to save their undefeated season. They drove down the field, completing passes with ease against the fatigued Bethel defense. A touchdown run with 18 seconds remaining made it a one-point game, and the stadium erupted into complete pandemonium. Concordia called a timeout.
At this point I was standing, as was everybody that was in attendance at the game. This situation was nothing new for the Royals, as their opponents decided to go for two. Bethel defeated Augsburg in a similar situation earlier in the year. They also played the now-famous homecoming game when the Royals attempted a two-point conversion to win by one over Concordia-Moorhead with no time remaining. I glanced down at the viewer ticker and noticed that it said “754 Viewers,” all of us intensely watching the play that would decide the fate of these teams’ seasons. Concordia’s quarterback threw a fade to the corner of the end zone, but Bethel’s J.D. Mehlhorn stepped up and knocked down the pass.
I jumped up, pumped my fist in the air and yelled “YES!” waking up my napping roommate. The Cougars’ hopes were crushed when Bethel recovered the ensuing onside kick, securing the victory and a ticket punched to play at Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the second round of playoffs. Final score: Bethel 24, Concordia-Chicago 23.
I may not have seen the jubilation of the players’ faces up close after the victory, but I had a great view of the entire field from the “crow’s nest.” I may not have felt the sun shining down on me in the clear, 48-degree day in Illinois, but my cozy room did justice. I may not have been able to attend the game, but technology allowed me to watch the game on my laptop and talk with other Bethel fans via Twitter and text messaging. Sports fanatics are blessed to live in this generation with access to so much technology. I reaped the blessings of this on that Saturday, and I am very thankful that I witnessed such a great game!