Colin Cowheard is one of my favorite sports commentators. Today on his ESPN radio show he pronounced the death of golf. Citing the news that Dick’s Sporting Goods just fired 500 golf pros and a report that 400,000 people quit the sport in the last 12 months, he made the observation that the digitally obsessed young people in their early thirties and twenties don’t have the patience or the time to watch or play golf. Golf is leisurely. There is no time limit. It’s expensive to play. And it’s in the decline.
Another sport on the proverbial hot seat is baseball. Baseball games are long, sometimes three to four hours in length. The action is slow as you wait for the batter to get settled in at the plate or for the pitcher to begin his windup. The average age of a baseball fan is 53 and that is sure to increase in the coming years.
While interest in golf and baseball is on the wane, soccer is on the rise. This year’s world cup final between Argentina and Germany drew a record high American T.V. rating of over 26 million viewers. This for two teams who were not Team U.S.A. In contrast, the last baseball world series between the iconic Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals only drew a rating of 15.
Why is interest in soccer growing? To start off with, there are no commercials during the game. It is finished in a reasonable amount of time, approximately two hours. And a goal can be scored at any time. There is also a demographic component as many more children and youth play soccer then baseball. In addition, the Latino/Hispanic population is larger among the young and soccer is a sport that has been admired by their families for generations. Even more telling, the average age of a soccer fan is 37.
Of course the implications of this goes beyond the realm of sports. The youngest among us is a restless bunch, looking for activities and services that don’t waste time, that respond quickly to their interests, and connects to them via their smartphones and tablets. Whether it’s a church, a school, a restaurant, or store your future depends on your desire and ability to respond to the digital mindset of today’s young. To ignore it or to hope it will go away is to fail to understand the waves of change generated by the digital age are deep and wide.