The future might not look like it did when Marty McFly tried to keep Biff Tannen from building an evil empire and attaining a sports almanac. Nevertheless, the future of sports is bright, and the sports industry is heading in the right direction with the following moves.
With the availability of specific statistics, many teams across all sports trust their formulas more than their eyes. Although this line of thinking has been a constant for decades, it didn’t come to the mainstream until the film Moneyball shed some light on the importance of data analytics.
The 2002 Oakland Athletics weren’t concerned about the name on the back of their jerseys but about the numbers in specific categories. Like everything in the sporting world, once someone has accomplished something different from the rest of the crowd, others begin to copy it. Now, all MLB teams have a data analytics team that helps make decisions by looking at a spreadsheet.
Data analytics will continue to get more in-depth and play a vital part across all the major sporting leagues. The NBA is already analytic-driven because the mid-range jumper is a dinosaur now, considering it’s one of the least effective shots on the floor. NFL coaches have begun the trend of going for the two-point conversion down 14 points after their first score, referencing the analytics that tells them to do so. The analytics trend will continue across leagues and worldwide, remaining a key factor for continued success.
One trend that continues going in a downward spiral is the viewership of live sports. With homes cutting the cords and the endless number of streaming services that can entertain you at a moment’s notice, watching an ordinary game every night is a thing of the past.
However, live sports are one of the only forms of entertainment that are unpredictable and feel like appointment television. Media conglomerates recognize the value of live sports, or else they wouldn’t be shelling out billion-dollar rights deals to these leagues. Without these agreements, the NBA wouldn’t be able to hand out $100M contracts to guys averaging 10 points a game.
We’ve got a small taste of what the future of sports media will look like with Apple TV+ carrying baseball games on a Friday night, and we will see what happens when the NFL has its Thursday night game on Amazon Prime this season. Is this a harbinger of what’s to come? Will live sports only be viewable on streaming platforms? Only time will tell.
Mental Health Awareness
Each league will continue to make strides toward improving its players’ overall well-being. Physically, changes will continue to happen to protect their heads from traumatic head injuries, players will receive more off-days, and artificial intelligence can assist teams in recognizing when someone is ailing through cutting-edge technology and analytics.
It’s no secret that athletes’ feelings haven’t always mattered the most until recently. But the shift towards mental health is still new and will continue to grow.
Several athletes have been open about the pressure they face when performing. Simone Biles brought that into the spotlight on the world stage when she withdrew from multiple Olympic events citing her mental health. The former number one tennis player in the world, Naomi Osaka, continues to be an advocate for the significance of mental health. And NBA players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love spoke candidly about their bouts with depression.
In years past, if you could physically participate, then there was no reason you couldn’t hit the field, court, track, or mat. Thankfully, that archaic form of thinking is beginning to fade as we continue to focus on the importance of our mental health.
With sports gambling becoming legal in several states, the trend of acceptance of sports gambling will continue throughout the U.S. Before long, most, if not every, state will legalize sports betting for everyone to enjoy. The question is: how will leagues embrace it?
We see the sponsorships around the ballparks, arenas, and stadiums, but who will be the first to hitch their ride to live betting? Imagine a world where you can cash out a winning ticket at the gate of a game you attended or place a bet at a kiosk before kickoff. It’s going to happen, and it’s going to be glorious.
Gen Z may not gravitate toward the four major sports that their parents did. Currently, more youth might dream of being a Twitch streamer rather than becoming a New York Yankees shortstop. Esports will continue to become more mainstream as the traditional leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) dip in viewership. In some cases, some esports contests have more viewers than some games. The times are changing, and esports leagues will continue to draw interest from the younger generation.
Playing All Over the World
There’s a reason these sports leagues take their show on the road and travel abroad. Every sport’s governing body is in a game of Risk, doing their best to expand globally and dominate the market. The NBA has taken its game to Asia, while the NFL focuses on turning the Jacksonville Jaguars into the London Jaguars.
These one-off games in different countries are enjoyable, but it will be no surprise if a team relocates or expands its team on a different continent. One could bet that the NFL will be the first to test the waters for international expansion, considering what they do with the Jaguars yearly. Plus, the Jaguars’ owner, Shad Khan, owns the Fulham football club in the U.K., so a connection is already established.
There is a lot up in the air about the future of sports and where it is heading, but the one thing that will continue to control its path is the money. Whatever makes these teams, networks, leagues, and players the most money will be the road they take. If that means expanding the game globally, then these athletes should prepare for cross-country flights becoming the norm.
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