We often think of sport as just being a form of athletic competition where the fastest, strongest, and most agile of our species rise to the top in the battle to prove they are the best in their field. After all, when you watch a game on TV, all of the focus is on the people competing and their own individual performances.
This is true even in team sports. For example, in basketball, big names like LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan have hogged the limelight despite the fact they were one cog in the machine that was their team. The same is true in football, where quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have often been depicted as one-man armies.
Another element that is often overlooked in sport is the technology that has helped to make these professional athletic competitions what they are today. Without it, players couldn’t become the superhumans that we know them as, teams wouldn’t be able to construct the giant temples of sport that they call home, and fans wouldn’t be able to watch games from home.
Over the years, a whole host of technological advancements have helped to shape the sphere of sports in a spectrum of ways. Here are some of the biggest.
By quite a large margin, television is the technology that has had the biggest impact on sport in the last century. It has left its mark on the sporting world in both a direct way and through many secondary indirect ways.
Directly, TV has made top-flight sports more accessible to more people than any other innovation. Before it, the only ways to follow a game were to watch in person, listen on the radio, or read the results the following day in a newspaper. But with a TV in your home and a series of cameras in the stadium, you can get up close and personal with the action, far more than you could even if you were in the stands yourself.
While a stadium may seat up to 100,000 people, a television broadcast can show the game to millions of people. These spectators also don’t need to be nearby. They can enjoy the game from anywhere in the world.
The effect of television is compounded by the fact that this large audience creates new opportunities for teams and leagues to generate significantly greater revenues. The bulk of this revenue is made up of the fees they charge the TV networks for the privilege of broadcasting games to their customers. Other direct incomes are derived from sponsorships, including on player jerseys, around pitches, on screen, and for the naming rights of the stadiums themselves.
Indirectly, the increased popularity that television offers to sports teams and leagues allows them to generate even more revenue. For example, by having more fans, the demand for tickets to watch games in person expands, allowing clubs to charge more. Similarly, a larger fanbase means there is a bigger market for team merchandise, hospitality and other licensing deals.
This money has then allowed major sports leagues and their teams to become more professional, increasing player salaries, investing in better stadiums, and improving the quality of ‘the show’. One of the easiest ways to see this in action is to look at a top-flight European soccer game today and compare it to matches from the 1960s. Back then, fields became muddy messes over a 90-minute match. Today, every blade of grass is uniformly cut and combined with artificial materials to improve play and ensure pitches look pristine for the entire game.
The internet is another major technological advancement that has left its mark on the sporting world. Its influence is far-reaching and diverse, just as it has been on the rest of our lives.
One noticeable change is in sports betting. Instead of being forced to travel to a sportsbook to place wagers on games, fans can now do so from the comfort of their own homes. But convenience is just the start. This increased accessibility has meant that punters also have more choice, since they have the ability to compare odds and promotions without having to schlep from bookie to bookie in person.
Having a lot of competition in the market has also led to the creation of sites like OddsChecker that make it even easier for sports fans to find the best free bet promotions to use on the wagers they want to place.
The World Wide Web also gives fans access to greater quantities of sports news, much of which is delivered in real time. Injury updates, transfer news, and other developments can now be beamed instantly to a computer, smartphone, or tablet and fans alerted to the latest news with a push notification.
As an extension of this, social media, which also relies on the internet, has helped sports fans and athletes to connect on a more personal level, allowing the public to get a glimpse into the daily lives of their favorite stars while they’re not competing.
You may not immediately consider clothing to be a piece of technology, but there have actually been some key developments in this space that have helped to shape the modern sporting world. One of them has been the switch from natural fibers like cotton to synthetic ones like polyester and nylon. These fabrics are more suited to sportswear as they allow an athlete’s skin to breathe and for moisture to quickly evaporate away.
Combined with a process that converts ink directly from a solid to a gas and back again, teams can create sublimation-printed sportswear that has the signature vibrant designs we know today. The flames, animals, and bright patterns that we’ve become accustomed to are the result of the combination of sublimation and synthetic fibers. Without them, players would still be taking to the field in mono-color T-shirts that became heavier and heavier throughout the game as they perspired profusely.
Like TV and the internet, there have also been secondary impacts of this technology. Teams have been able to turn their uniforms into a revenue stream. By mass-producing these garments, they can sell replicas to fans that want to show their loyalty and become part of the community by wearing their team’s colors.
While you may not always notice or appreciate these technological advancements, they have helped to shape the modern world of sport that we know today. So the next time you’re enjoying a game, spare a thought and be thankful for their contributions.