In 1979, the Florida Gators went 0-10-1. There was no FireCharleyPell.com and people did not jump on their rotary phones to chat with other fans about how bad Denny Aldrich's offense was.
Now, because of technology and the enhanced experience of watching at home or following along on mobile devices, we are all experts. Those of us who did not play college or pro sports can be just as sophisticated and intelligent about the game as someone who did play at a high level. We use new statistics to determine a player's effectiveness and visual technology to analyze how the player became that effective. After we do that, we get on websites, Facebook or twitter to discuss what we saw. No longer do we rely on the season tickets holders next to us to be our fan community. We have a virtual one, as well.
Of course, as our knowledge of the games we play increases, the press (who have the access) and the teams (who have the information) try to hold back as much as they can. As fans, our appetite for the game is insatiable. The press knows that, which is why every Gators beat writer has a blog and their regular beat or column. But as they fight for online readership from people like me, they choose to get themselves closer to the team. As someone with a day job, I can rip coaches without mercy. Beat writers, who could lose their job if a coach decides to black list them, cannot.
Urban Meyer has made his relationship with the press into a theater of the absurd, so much so that Miami Herald writer Mike McCall said he is, "rarely comfortable believing anything," Meyer says. I said on one of our podcasts that if you asked Meyer if the sky was blue, he would tell you it was green. Not surprisingly, Steve Addazio has followed Meyer's lead, and spends every press conference talking in circles. Teams control their "message" like a political candidate. Not surprisingly, Florida took the incredible step of hiring their own beat writer this year.
The lack of a relationship between the press and coaches is why we love reading blogs or watching talking heads on ESPN (face it, you love College Gameday, even though there is never any actual breaking news on the show). We want to know more. And if we run out of information to know, we go to people who try to offer a different perspective, even if that perspective might be our own. Even better is that you don't have to lick a stamp and wait three days for your letter to reach the cigar-chomping beat writer of the 1970s. You can instantly leave a comment.
There is a negative effect to this. On the internet, the audience determines credibility, not an editor. If you repeat a lie enough times or if you give information in a certain way, people will believe it. Newspapers or television reporters risk disciplinary action if they do that. But the positive impacts are far greater. Fans know more about the game and why things happen on the field, which means a greater level of accountability. No longer can a coach rely on a five-year contract for job security.
We'll never get inside practice or the locker room, but we will take the exchange of an increased fan experience thanks to technology.