Now that crowds are finally allowed back into sporting events – why it took South Africa so long to catch up with the rest of the world remains unfathomable – I really encourage you to attend a ‘live’ event.
The TV experience has made it so convenient for the armchair critic to sit there, remote control in one hand, cellphone in the other, and to rant and rave about things on social media.
While watching TV, the viewer’s experience has been shaped by what the commentators say, and technology has exposed all the human frailties of those who participate in sport – be it the players or the officials. Which is basically what TV has evolved to do – bring the sport into your lounge or anywhere on your handheld device.
But, TV falls short in so many areas and I have one wish for you as we enjoy the 2022 sporting year unfold ahead of us.
If you can, just go to one live event next month where professionals are playing. You’ll marvel how different the experience is to what you have become used to seeing on TV, amplified by the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restriction of fans at live sports events.
Being close to the boxing or MMA action you can hear and ‘feel’ the impact of a punch. At the racecourse, you can feel the earth shake as half-ton thoroughbred horses race to the finish line and you can hear the crack of the jockey’s whip.
If you go to the cricket, sit at square leg for a while and see how far the ‘carry’ is from a fast bowler past the batsman to the wicketkeeper. It’s about another pitch length (20m) and is something you can’t see on TV.
There are other examples, applying to every sport. In rugby, tackles are like collisions, you can hear the smacks of flesh on flesh and the physicality of it all, which is often lost on TV.
And then there’s golf. No matter who the professional is, walk nine holes with them and see how good they are ‘in real life’. You can also hear it. The sound of the clubface making contact with the ball is different. Close your eyes and listen and you’ll be able to tell that the ball was hit by a professional. TV simply doesn’t give you that effect.
Stand close to a player when they shape it; you get an insight into what that golfer is thinking. Have a look when they get into trouble in the rough and watch how they get out of it. It’s a great lesson, because us mere mortals spend a lot of time in the rough and we leak a lot of shots trying to get out of trouble. Pros take their medicine and the brilliance of their recovery shots can’t adequately be beamed back into the lounge where you’re watching TV.
It’s so easy for a TV viewer to focus on the poor shots, the missed putts, but walk around a golf course with a pro who shoots ‘only 70’ on any given day and you’ll see why they are as good as they are, especially off the back tees.
You’ll also find that the pro golfer enjoys having people watch them and have no objection to the handful of people following them around the course. Say hello to them and I assure you they’ll greet you right back.
After all, nothing can beat the live sporting experience, no matter how hard and ‘perfect’ TV is.
– This column first appeared in the March 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!