Last week while driving and listening to the NPR program Forum, I heard a discussion with the authors of the new book Battle for America 2008: The Story of an Extraordinary Election (the archived program can be heard here). Listening to inside stories and analysis of the presidential campaigns of Obama, Clinton, and McCain was compelling drama to me. Rehashing parts of the campaign and reflecting on my heightened interest levels in the actual campaign vs the dwindling interest in the day to day political system after the election made me think of a pattern I’ve been seeing in myself, others, and the population at large. That pattern is a greater interest in the buildup to the main event or events than the actual event itself—in other words, the behind the scenes parts of the equation more so than the actual show.
For me, my examples include the election, interest in the the offseason in professional sports and fantasy football, and the fascination with the jury process of a legal case, rather than the actual case itself. I’ll delve into each one.
Listening to the NPR program, quickly brought me back to the days of the election and the daily habit of reviewing the latest news, polls, commentary, and discussion. My viewership of news programs on MSNBC, CNN, and even the Daily Show were much more frequent than after the election. I would like to think that I would be as motivated and interested to actually see the execution, implementation, and follow through on key campaign themes of health care, the banking and credit crisis, Afghanistan and Iraq, along with environmental issues such as emissions standards and policy on climate change. The fact is the way the political process works, and has to work, is much slower than the rapid back and forth and dialogue by the candidates and pundits during the election—the exchange is immediate and has wide spread dissemination during the campaign. The execution of a particular policy after the election is much more slow, requiring analysis of reaction and plans of multiple branches of government often in sequential fashion and with the lower interest levels of one’s social networks, in today’s social media world, the push of the news and viewpoints through media such as Facebook and Twitter are also substantially down.
Sports, the Arm Chair General Manager, and Fantasy Football
As an avid sports fan, I’ve religiously followed the major professional sports in the US of baseball, football, and basketball as well as popular world sports of soccer and tennis. Over the years, I’ve found myself becoming at times more interested in the off-season of these sports than actually watching the games. For example, trying to anticipate the trades a baseball general manager should make and what free agents should be signed piques my interest much more. Of course, my individual nature and analytical and strategic tendencies is a big driver in this (see my post Real Options and the Baseball Trade Deadline). But the sports watching infrastructure and accessibility has also made it much easier to enjoy the actual game without actually watching the whole game. Real time updates on the internet, ubiqitous and 24/7 highlight shows, and easy accessibility to professional, blogger, and even your own social network commentary of teams outside of your town make it that much easier to follow all of the details of the team without watching the game. The internet and social media has made it much easier to then share ones own trade ideas and roster strategies with like minded individuals and friends, encouraging this type of thinking and exploration from the common fan. The popularity of fantasy football, to me, is a similar trend. Giving fans of football the option of drafting, trading, and making roster and line-up decisions allows the football fan the option to be general manager and not just fan. Many fantasy football players don’t need to watch the games to enjoy the sport.
How the Jury works
I’m a big legal drama television fan and thoroughly enjoy a good court case with thoughtful argument, analysis, and discovery presented. But having sat in a jury a couple of years ago in a near week long criminal case and having watched many legal shows where the jury deliberations have been the focal point, I’m often drawn to that part of the legal process, whether it be a movie, television program, real life news, or a real life case that I’m associated with. The psychology, strategy, co-operation, and conflict are all compelling parts of the process that I find to be the main draw.
These are all examples related to me, but a trend that I see across many people and public at large. And with the greater accessibility to the behind the scenes events of various activities due to the Internet, variety and non-stop cable and broadcast television, and other media, I’m sure this is a trend that will continue to become more and more profound over the years.