By: Jonas Plaut 18′
On a national level, live-streaming has changed the way that people view sports. Viewership numbers online have increased exponentially over the past few years. Live-streaming capability has filtered down to college sports and, yes, even high school sports. Case in point: live streaming of the Boys Varsity Basketball games at Heschel is rapidly growing in popularity. This year’s recent Yeshiva League championship game, which featured Heschel playing Frisch, drew over 350 viewers, a stunning number for this league.
Heschel began broadcasting Varsity Basketball games a couple years ago. Most certainly, if you cannot attend a game, live streaming affords a great opportunity to watch and engage in the game from afar. However, live streaming carries with it both advantages and disadvantages.
When it comes to the advantages, fans can live stream a game from just about anywhere. For fans who cannot personally attend a game or series of games, this is a very appealing opportunity. One need not leave the comfort of one’s own home or, better yet, one’s own couch. Focus on homework can continue uninterrupted – or only slightly interrupted – while simultaneously viewing a game. Heschel fans therefore can live in parallel realities. Also, given the general busyness of Heschel students’ lives, there is no expenditure of time to travel to a game. Plus, live-streaming may ultimately increase the Heschel Heat’s fan base, as students who would not ordinarily attend a game might be tempted to view it online.
Despite its benefits, live-streaming does present some drawbacks. Quality of the video-stream is certainly a factor. Sports events involve intense movement. It is not easy to capture the movements of an entire team as players careen around the court. Perhaps the immediate question that should be asked, however, is if Heschel’s live-streaming capability actually negatively impacts fan attendance at the games. Apparently, there is a core group of fans, comprising family, friends and diehard Heschelians, who consistently attend games, but there is most certainly a dividing line between home games and away games. The size of the fan base in attendance is in proportion to the proximity of the game’s location. Home games regularly draw approximately 50 or more fans, and the playoffs and tournaments seem to draw larger crowds, especially those that are held in the Heschel gym. However, live-streaming may actually have the unintended consequence of giving fans license to not come to games. High school teams need their fan bases to fully enjoy the benefits of the home-team advantage. On a general level, what team does not benefit from the loud verbal encouragement of its supporters?
Furthermore, fans who stream the games from home do not feel the intensity of experiencing the game in person. The shared euphoria of being part of a crowd cheering on your team is noticeably absent. Live streaming does not deliver the vibrant sights and sounds of actually being in the bleachers. The ethos of the Heschel School is about direct and positive community engagement. Live-streaming may actually have the unforeseen effect of isolating a Heschel fan from community engagement. Despite the convenience afforded by live streaming, there is clearly a difference between passively watching a Heschel game from afar and the excitement and engagement of in-person attendance.
Despite any potential drawbacks, live streaming is here to stay. Let’s hope that the strength of the community spirit at Heschel will continue to draw large crowds to games.