Have we reached the point where the lure of watching from home actually trumps going to a sporting event?

Attendance continues to decline at games all around the state. Is it because itís just better on the couch?
Empty seats at sporting events such as this USF men's basketball game last month, make some wonder if the experience of watching from home has become a greater lure. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
Empty seats at sporting events such as this USF men's basketball game last month, make some wonder if the experience of watching from home has become a greater lure. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published February 12

The Rays, Gators, Seminoles and Bucs, as well as NASCAR, have all experienced attendance declines. The best marketing efforts and the never-ending push to enhance the “game experience” have yielded only mixed results. Is it because we’ve watching from the couch now proves a better overall experience? We ask our Roundtable team.

It depends on the sport

Matt Baker, State colleges reporter @MattBakerTBTimes: My favorite part of this job is covering a college football game, live, in person, at an actual stadium. The atmosphere isn’t the same at home, even with a comfy couch and nice HD TV. But few (if any) other sports have that kind of environment; most pro venues are sterile with timeouts that feel insufferably long. Watching from home is cheaper, easier and more comfortable, so that’s my pick … unless the team/sport/league creates an irresistible stadium atmosphere that’s enough to get me off my couch.

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Take me out to the ballgame

Marc Topkin, Rays beat writer @TBTimes_Rays: There is no doubt that watching from home is easier, given the advancements in the home viewing experience with bigger (and cheaper TVs); surround sound and interactive internet options. And that going to a game is harder, given the rising costs of tickets and food along with the inherent hassles of traffic, parking, comfort, crowd behavior, concession and bathroom lines, etc. But, and granted I say this as someone who has attended way more events as a working journalist and not a fan, there still is something about being there. Despite all the negatives and the costs, hearing the music, feeling the crowd’s energy, exploring the stadium/arena (or comparing it to what you’d seen/read/heard) still resonates. Seeing the players, among the best at their craft, do their thing is still special.

The experience is everything

Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: There’s no question that viewers are exposed to more continuous information by watching sports from the comfort of their home because so much more analysis and data is available than it was yesterday. But aren’t we talking about the experience here? And being at the event to witness that game-changing fourth-and-inches play or a bottom of the ninth situation is hard to compare, and the intensity of those moments ratchets up in the postseason. The moments you remember are from being there, not by watching from afar. Fans have to maneuver the maneuver the costs of attending games -- it’s not cheap when you add everything up -- so it’s easier to stay at home, but if it’s within your means, there’s nothing like the experience.

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Spoiled Sportswriter, Episode 12

Martin Fennelly, columnist @mjfennelly: There’s nothing like being there. Standing on the field at Fenway Park before a Rays playoff game. The sound of Florida Field before Gators-Seminoles. The smell of new mown grass in Amen Corner at the Masters. Standing near the turnbuckle, screaming at Andre the Giant to go for the heart punch against Hulk Hogan in Wrestlemania III. Yelling for Evel Knievel to go to afterburners while standing on the edge of the Snake River. Telling Neil Armstrong to shut up and take one small step so we can move this along already onto the lunar surface. Yeah, there’s nothing like being there.

Benjamins vs. being there

Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: The attendance dips we’ve witnessed have as much to do with value as they do convenience. Fans have to believe they’re getting their money’s worth when they invest time and dollars going to an event. When the cost of a single beer soared past the coast of two six packs, when parking started requiring a short-term loan, gameday started feeling more like the first of the month -- when the mortgage is due. At home, you control the replays, refreshments are a step away and there’s not a line get into the bathroom. Sure, being in the stadium still offers a greater sensation, but given the creature comforts of your house, you choose to go once or twice a season instead of every game. And your wallet breathes a sigh of relief.