TORONTO 2061: The Sports Fan's Future
Published Thursday, January 6, 2011 12:22PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 3:35AM EDT
Toronto sports fans have been waiting 44 years for their beloved Maple Leafs to win another Stanley Cup. And while they may be waiting another 44 years or more, by 2061 the local sports fan will at least be able to get right into the action from the comfort of their couch, experts say.
While the Leafs' fortunes from year to year are anyone's guess, there is no doubt that the way fans watch the games will change dramatically over the next 50 years. Experts say that merely watching games on big, flat-screen televisions or projection screens will seem so 2011.
Bell technology guru Rick Seifeddine says the sports fans of the future will get to enjoy some remarkable innovations that will put them right inside the action, which will ratchet up the excitement factor even if the home-town team is (still) losing.
"The ability of the fan to go anywhere in the action they want, virtually and convincingly, will be one of the most exciting parts of entertainment," Seifeddine told CTV Toronto.
With hologram television, for example, life-sized versions of your team will be beamed right into your living room, a la Star Wars.
"You may be at home but you'll feel like you're sitting in the stands," Seifeddine says. "You'll get up and walk down and step over onto the field and walk up to the huddle." Of course, the players won't be able to see you, but you'll be able to listen to them talk about a play or hear how they felt on that last tackle. "You'll be able to run down the field with the players."
Such technology may send cable bills soaring, but it may also keep fans out of the stands. Paying hundreds of dollars to sit in the nosebleed section and drink overpriced beer will lose whatever lustre it has left for fans who can park their recliner right on the field. Which means teams and venues will have to get more creative if they want to fill seats, says Norm O'Reilly, a professor of sports business at the University of Ottawa.
Fans may one day be allowed to buy seasons' tickets to a league, rather than just for one team, according to O'Reilly. Hockey fans, for example, could choose seats for 82 games for teams other than their hometown heroes, which also may foster greater league loyalty.
But a generation of couch potatoes who no longer have to even muster the energy to drive to their local stadium or arena isn't good for teams hoping to hold onto fans, O'Reilly says. Kids are less physically active today than they were even a generation ago, and with that may come a decline in the popularity of following a team or a league.
"Kids today, our youth today, are less engaged in sport than they have been in the past, and (participation) continues to decline," O'Reilly told CTV Toronto. "There are also less youth than there were in previous generations. That has an impact for Toronto sport 50 years down the road."
Demographer David Foot, author of "Boom, Bust & Echo," says that an aging population that is still physically active may just tip the balance in favour of low-impact sports such as curling. And what if younger generations fail to fill the stands that their elders have vacated, choosing the couch surrounded by holograms instead?
"In the end, the fan wants what the fan wants," Seifeddine says. "And technology is going to make it easier for you to indulge your want."