Do our gadgets get in the way of enjoying sporting events?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: March 24, 2012

For more than a handful of people out there, the smartphone has become an integral part of their life. Whether it has everything to do with work, or nothing to do with it, the smartphone has evolved into something that we use sparingly into a device that has become commonplace and a new standard. It's hard to go outside and not see someone on their phone. In some places, I'd say it's almost impossible. Knowing this truth made it easier to swallow when I saw so many different phones out and about at a recent Spring Training game I attended. But, while that was bad, it wasn't nearly as bad as the 2012 NCAA Men's Tournament West Regional game a couple of days ago.

First, I'll admit that my phone was out, and I was finding myself doing one thing or another on it throughout the events. I could say that having my phone out is part of my job, and no one should blame me for it, but that would probably be stretching it a bit. I will say that my phone wasn't out nearly as much as it normally is. Furthermore, compared to some people around me, the device's time out of my pocket could barely be noticed.

I noticed that something was "wrong" when I tried to upload an image to Twitter. My 3G connection was taking a brutal hit, despite the fact that I had full service and connectivity. I watched as it tried to upload, but took forever to get the task completed. That's when I looked around and noticed pretty much everyone else around me trying to do the same thing, or doing something else on their phone in general. I looked around as people were watching their phone more than the game, and I realized that I was watching the people watch their phones instead of watching the game.

I've asked in the past if having a camera on your smartphone makes more sense than a dedicated device because of that ability to just upload an image to your favorite social networking site right after taking the photo, and after being at the Spring Training game, I think I can safely say I know the answer to that. But it was at that moment that I realized I needed to put my phone away, because I could always upload the images later. I didn't need to do it right then and there. I was there to watch a baseball game, not be bothered by the fact I couldn't upload a picture.

It was at the NCAA West Regional game that my notice of technology was for a different reason. Sure, there were people on their phones taking pictures, and I was doing the same thing right at the start of the game. But despite being inside a stadium, with thousands of people around me, my 3G connection wasn't slowed down at all. Worked like a dream. That's not what got my attention that technology was playing a huge role in the sporting world.

I watched as a kid, probably around 10-years old, was using his Dad's iPad to check up on the scores of another game that was being played somewhere else. He was using the tablet to check stats, too. And then he went and started looking at the roster of the teams playing right in front of him (Michigan State and Louisville). He was using the device as a secondary piece of technology, using it to actually support his time at the game, instead of using the tablet to hinder it.

There were also people on their phones actually watching the other game that was being played at the same time.

I believe that technology has a place in almost every aspect of our lives, but I feel like there has to be a point where we sit back and realize it can wait. But, then again, it could just come down to how we use it. At the Spring Training game, I was made aware that technology was actually getting in the way of the experience. But at the NCAA tournament game, technology was used to improve the experience. It's all in how we use it.

Does technology have a place at sporting events? Of course. It just depends on how deep you get involved with what you're doing. You don't want to sacrifice your time at the event, because there's nothing better than watching your favorite team do something great. Getting that picture is one thing, but watching it happen right then and there, just being there, is also something to remember.

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