Andrew Mulligan: Twitter a game changer for sports fans

Lydia Ko tees off at Clearwater Golf Club. Photo / Getty Images
Lydia Ko tees off at Clearwater Golf Club. Photo / Getty Images

Twitter turned 10 this week. Popped a cork? Pulled a party cracker? Weep a single tear for the decline of the feel of real human interaction?

Where have we reached (or plumbed) as a sport-digesting civilisation now that social media is marking such significant milestones?

Twitter is fun but a pain in the backside sometimes. It's so useful as an aggregate for news and opinions but also for trolls and inanity.

But give me Twitter any day of the week. Its use is becoming more about broadcasting real events and reactions to the happenings you're interested in and the interaction of the fan for a game, match and event that they're watching or experiencing first hand.

The "multi-screening" habit can be blamed on Twitter. Lineout taking an age to be formed in your #SuperBangBang game on TV? Then it's easy to look down at your smart device or laptop to see if anyone else noticed that the Stormers' try shouldn't have been awarded.

Scrum reset again? Fire off a tweet about how the tighthead on the opposite side has been boring in all day, ref.

Engagement and maintenance of a fan base drives the teams and athletes we follow on social media but what about the way we digest the package delivered.

Long gone are the days that people aren't on their phones during a game. Ten years ago people were conversing and firing hot takes and poorly thought opinions to each other. Ten years ago I was doing that.

In fact, 10 years before Twitter it was who could make the other four or five flatmates laugh in our North Dunedin flat while watching a UHF picture on a 21-inch screen.

If you had told me then that I would have something 512 times more powerful than my PC Direct, camel-coloured desktop in the palm of my hand watching a conversation online with more people about a game that was actually at Carisbrook, I'd have said you were crazy.

For the teams and athletes, "controlling the message" is what now drives the social media game for them.

Facebook lets certain high profile teams and individuals broadcast live from their accounts and live-stream apps like Twitter's Periscope and Meerkat are doing the same for Twitter accounts.

If a star or team ever wanted to deliver their message it was through press conferences and only then would selected soundbites or quotes be used.

Now you have personalities, a lot of blandness to be fair, but there are irresistible people who can be entertaining and engaging in a way that has made sport a deeper experience for all.

Recently, a motivated content company teamed up with Ian Taylor (of the America's Cup graphics fame) to live stream Lydia Ko at the New Zealand Open on Snapchat with great success.

"Switch TV" came about because no broadcaster could commit to the cost involved in a conventional broadcast of it, but to stream is to lower people's expectations through social media apps.

You couldn't get the quality you wanted if you knew how to put the Snapchat picture on your 65" flat screen, but you weren't missing out at all if you were following Ko around the fairways in Christchurch through the app. All this could be done in between deliveries as you watched the cricket, in HD, on said flat screen.

Social media and sport will always be intertwined as Twitter turns 10, Facebook continues to grow into a monster and snapchatting golf stars feels like the beginning of something new so pass me the party poppers and a slice of birthday cake, I'll Instagram it right now.

- NZ Herald

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