All sports fans will tell you that they want to be entertained. It may not seem like it when their team has just lost its seventh game in a row and everyone in the stadium looks as disappointed and world-weary as they could be. But fans look for entertainment from their sports teams.
Traditionally, that kind of entertainment is different from the world of entertainment. But no more. In recent years there has been a definite blurring of the lines between the sports and entertainment worlds. How has this happened though? And what does this trend tell us about the world we live in?
More and more people seem to profess some kind of knowledge of sports these days. That may not mean that they don’t still need moneyline betting explained to them. But sports is definitely reaching parts of society that it didn’t before. Sports is now regarded as an entertainment vehicle itself.
It could be argued that sports have been invading popular culture for decades. Everyone may not have known the scores and games but there have always been some athletes that have entered into the entertainment world. These athletes were said to have transcended the sport that they played.
A perfect example is Muhammad Ali. This was a man who was known all over the world for his charisma, personality, and strong beliefs – even by those who would never have actually watched a boxing fight in their lives. These celebrity-status athletes have been the forerunners of modern athletes as entertainers and there is now more than ever before.
Most people turn to streaming services these days for their TV fix. Many of the biggest and best dramas, comedies and movies can be found on Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime. But there is another genre of programs that has become just as popular in recent years.
The sports documentary series has become one of the most popular types of program – and its popularity is far greater than just the core sports fan audience. The Last Dance, Last Chance U, and the All or Nothing series are all ratings winners. Welcome to Wrexham is even credited with bringing a whole new audience to soccer. Entertainment shows about sports are everywhere.
Including the Fans
Another way that sports have embraced the entertainment culture is by listening to and including the fans. The game day experience – whether on the screen or in person – is now produced with the fans as a priority. Some sports have always been good at this but those that are not quite as forward-thinking are now left lagging behind.
Sports fans now expect to be part of the experience, being able to immerse themselves and feel part of the family. This is something similar to the way that the media has been socialized. Being a part of the proceedings allows fans to be entertained in a better way and brings together the two worlds once again.
There are “sports” that are legally classified as “entertainment”, of course. Although the term “sports entertainment” was first coined back in the 1930s, it was World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), formerly the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) that put sports entertainment at the forefront of its business model.
Co-founder Vince MacMahon used the phrase as a marketing tool in the 1980s to great effect. Detractors had long criticized pro wrestling as a staged show rather than actual sports. The fans didn’t seem to mind anyway and McMahon realized that the term “sports entertainment” was a better fit than pretending that his product was just a sport.
Sports and Society
Part of sports evolution into a wider mode of entertainment has been in the way that it can impact society. Using the celebrity status of athletes that we mentioned earlier, sports have been able to change the way society acts on a wide range of topics. Acting as a tool for societal change, sports have emulated entertainment and the way it can reach its audience.
Sports have been able to provide a communal setting in the same way that millions of people traditionally came together to watch certain TV programs. With the advent of streaming sites, it could even be argued that traditional entertainment providers are not able to do that in the same way that sports can.
Advances and developments in technology have also brought sports to a wider audience. There used to be a time when only those at the game could watch the event, with others only able to listen to announcers on the radio. Now TV channels make most of their money by being able to broadcast the big games.
A more immersive broadcast experience has also made sports part of the entertainment world in this way. By bringing more viewers in, these sports events become another TV show and turn the athletes into star performers. This, in turn, feeds the celebrity world, helping sports become even more of an entertainment vehicle.
Sports and Entertainment
Although it can be argued that there has always been a strong relationship between sports and entertainment, the idea of sports entertainment is one that has grown – and continues to grow. It is not surprising to see non-traditional sports fans interested in scores and players these days and that is something that shows no sign of slowing down.
With all the money and exposure involved, sports is now essentially a part of the entertainment world – and a major player at that.