- Sports Fans 2.0: How Fans Are Using Social Media to Get Closer to the Game by David M. Sutera
Throughout the twentieth century, newspapers, sports magazines, and broadcast radio dictated what information was given about professional sporting events and professional athletes. However, by the twenty-first century, the use of the Internet ushered in a new phase of communication that revolutionized the ways in which sport enthusiasts connected to the game. This particular change is the focus of David Sutera’s book Sports Fans 2.0, which examines how social media has heightened the ability of fans to connect with professional athletes in an age where communication via the Internet through the use of media such as smartphones and tablet computers has become the norm.
Sutera opens the work by discussing the role of sports in American society and how athletic competition shapes the identity of many males who have aspirations of athletic stardom. The author argues that as they fall short of fulfilling their aspirations of playing at the collegiate and professional sports levels, they become fans that use technological media to get them closer to college and professional games. The author asserts, “Before social media, broadcast officials and mass media news agencies had tight control over the way fans received most sporting event game information. Television networks and radio stations were the only ways fans not in attendance at the actual event could know what was happening while the game was still being played” (p. 41). This “‘trickle down’ model of the past” has become obsolete with the widespread use of social media. News outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and international conglomerate ESPN are no longer the sole reporters of sporting events in real time; fans also play an integral part in the dissemination of information. Much of the literature dealing with sports in American society focuses primarily on athletes and professional sports teams, while Sutera gives great attention to fans and their many exploits. [End Page 369]
Sports 2.0 uses an ethnographic approach to explore the use of social media. The author focuses especially on websites like Facebook and Twitter, paying particular attention to their sociological and psychological implications. He is particularly interested in “American male sports fans 18 to 49 years of age” (p. xii). They represent the majority of sports fans in the United States, and as such, are targeted most by sports programmers and marketers. Sutera uses an array of blogs, academic journal articles, sport websites, census data, statistical data, numerous secondary sources, and newspaper articles as source material to discuss the complexities of social media and technology on domestic and international levels. The author illustrates how the “proficient and reckless” use of Twitter (and other networking sites) has resulted “in disastrous pervasive negative publicity” for athletes often leading to the forfeiture of their careers (p.137). For example, Sutera examines how the use of online communities has impacted the careers of professional athletes. In particular, he focuses on the domestic battery case of former National Football League (NFL) player Chad Johnson as well as the rise of Tim Tebow’s popularity through “Tebowing” a gesture that mimicked the NFL quarterback, which became very popular amongst some sports fans. The author also discusses how social media impacted the 2008 and 2012 summer Olympic games. During that time numerous Olympians suffered considerable damage when their respective countries suspended them from the games after they posted racist and socially insensitive comments on their Twitter accounts.
While this book serves as the groundwork for future discourse, it would have been beneficial for Sutera to discuss the economic implications of social media’s use within the realm of athletics, as there is not much scholarship that examines the link between the two. Overall, Sports Fans 2.0 provides an insightful analysis of the ways in which fans utilize online services and mobile devices to enhance their sports...