Personal Essay

I am a life-long sports fan. My interest in both playing and watching sports started when I was less than a year old and I would play with balls instead of toys and dolls. I distinctly remember my father and uncle setting me down to watch baseball games and showing me basketball highlights when they took care of me- that’s when I became a fan of all New York sports. When I began elementary school, my parents let me play in just about every sport league possible, as long as the seasons did not conflict with each other. I started with soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball in the spring, and tennis in the summer- but that wasn’t enough. I even added obscure sports like golf and jiu-jitsu to my schedule, and quickly found myself playing sports at nearly every waking hour. I absolutely loved it. From then on, most, if not all of the activities I chose to participate in were sports-related whether it was playing or not, so choosing my topic for this project was very easy. 

Sports have been integrated in all nineteen years of my life, however, as a young girl who loved sports, I found it difficult to find other girls who enjoyed them equally. Until I enrolled in all-girls travel leagues, I was the only girl on my baseball team, and one of very few on other teams. This grew harder the older I got, and on top of that, there were no professional female athletes to look up to. They certainly existed, but until I was in high school, I was unaware of who they were due to the lack of media attention on women’s sports. This became an area of concern for me going into college. I knew that my love for sports would never disappear, but I also knew that there were a lot of improvements to be made when it came to how to sports were consumed, especially women’s sports. This is why I decided to declare an Interdisciplinary Studies Major focusing on gender disparity in sports media here at Emory. My goal is to find out why there exists such a gap when it comes to media exposure of women’s sports and female athletes, and to one day heal this divide. Sports is such an important piece of American culture, and it has real impacts on our cultural fabric. This is all to say that I went from a young kid who found such joy in playing and watching sports to a young adult who equally enjoys playing and watching sports but can acknowledge that there must be change. 

Aside from the social and cultural implications that sports contributes to, I am also extremely interested in how sports are adapting to new technology. I became interested in sports at the beginning of Web 2.0, and since then, I have seen such dramatic change in how sports utilizes new technology. As a young child I would log onto the websites of my favorite teams to check on standings and scores, then this evolved into checking apps on my phone for information. More recently, however, I have begun to notice even more advancements in how technology has changed the way we consume sports as I currently work in content sponsorship for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. I have been made aware of how technology is used to analyze various aspects of the game, and plans for how to improve this for the future.

Watching sports live on television or via streaming has changed tremendously for sports fans, including myself. Watching sports live has evolved from showing just the footage of the game, to adding certain graphics on the screen to accompany what announcers are saying, to now including graphic analysis. Essentially, you cannot go one game of any sport without seeing some sort of digital addition to the screen. As a fan, I love this technological advancement as it offers new information that was unavailable before in real-time. It makes watching games lives more engaging, and I think that this was a great development in order to keep fans more invested. In all sports, reply technology has become huge. Replaying different plays from different angles has made viewers at home more invested in the outcomes of games and has provided a more inside-look. In baseball, strike zones are superimposed onto the screen in order to help detect what is a strike or a ball. Baseball’s newest technology, StatCast, is intended to provide baseball fans with metrics. This includes Perceived Velocity (PV), Spin Rate (SR), Exit Velocity (EV), Hit Distance (DST), Launch Angle (LA), Batted Ball Direction (BBD), xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, and Quality of Contact. I’ve also recently enjoyed watching soccer games live because of the goal-line technology which overturns goal calls. It adds to the drama of the game and contributes to the integrity of the game. 

Overall, there are so many aspects of the sporting world that I have grown to love. Since I was young, I have enjoyed the physical and psychological benefits of playing sports, and I likely will never stop playing in my leisure time. Now, however, I see that sports is a special driving force of American culture, and the sporting world and the people involved have the power to make real change in the way we view things. Sports has made such an impact on my individual life, and I know it has greatly impacted many other individual lives. New technology in sports has offered fans a new level of attachment to the industry, and I am extremely interested in further exploring this. Just like the name of this class, “Digital Media and Culture”, sports has a direct impact on culture. I believe in studying the three of these things: sports, digital media, and culture, and how they interact with each other will be extremely beneficial for the community, but also extremely interesting for me as a person who loves sports.  

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