If you listened to the most recent episode of Feuerstein’s Fire, you will know that I was a bad U.S. soccer fan and watched the Costa Rica friendly via DVR the morning after the match. Watching the game after the fact made me realize how my sports viewing has changed just over the past year – it was quiet as I watched the match. Not quiet as in the house was quiet and the dog was sleeping (although that was also true) but the social media noise was quiet. I tend to watch matches with a computer in front of me, reading Tweets as they come in and both laughing at the jokes while enjoying the thoughtful commentary in 140 characters or less. But that was obviously not happening this weekend as I watched a replay of the match hours after it occurred. Chuck Klosterman wrote a thoughtful piece in June for Grantland on how DVR is changing our sports culture, but I know for me personally its Twitter that has improved my sports viewing experience, especially for soccer.
Not having Twitter in front of me made me feel a little empty. I am able to compose my own thoughts on games and don’t need positive reinforcement from others, but I like to know that other people are watching the same game and noticing the same things. As those of you who are on Twitter know, there are some really smart soccer writers and observers on Twitter. When someone like Grant Wahl comments on an aspect of the game that you also noticed, I personally love the positive reinforcement that he and I are watching this game the same way. Call it self-centered, but everyone likes it when someone else agress with an observation.
Conversely, Twitter helps me catch the things I miss in real time. As you know, I am a fairly late convert to soccer, really beginning to follow it intensely after the 2006 World Cup. As such, I don’t have the historical knowledge of the game or the teams that many other fans and writers do. I can find these thing out after the fact, but when I am writing for MLS Talk and the information is available during a match, that helps improve my viewing experience and post-game analysis. Same is true for those rules I may not know as well or for the interpretation of the rules as the game is happening; Twitter for example helped explain in real time why Portland took three successive penalties in their May 29 game against DC United. Again, I could have waited for the post-game write-ups but instead I knew the correct answer to my questions immediately.
But my favorite part about following Twitter during a game is the camaraderie with those watching the same match. Even though we are in different parts of the country (or, in some cases, around the world), Twitter allows me to quickly interact with fans as the game is happening. If you follow me on Twitter, you can tell that there are some people that I enjoy trading comments with during specific matches, both in MLS and the BPL. You will notice that some of those conversations work their way into the articles for this site. It is also the hash tags that allow fans to interact with others fans they may have never met; I know the number of people I follow has expanded immensely solely due to funny and insightful comments during a match. This is especially the case in a boring match. As little as four years ago, running blogs and post-match posts filled this valuable role, but they were usual after-the-fact statements that helped little in understanding and enjoying the match as it currently happened.
I am probably not saying anything revolutionary for people on Twitter and if you hate the idea of it, I probably am not convincing you to get an account. But it is amazing how in so little time I am addicted to a social media site to the point that not having it up while watching a match feels odd. I can safely say my ability to learn more about soccer and connect with great fans would not have happened without Twitter.