One of the changes that happens every fall is I switch from listening to NPR on the way in and home from work to the local sports call in show. I guess that could be termed going from the sublime to the ridiculous. The switch is driven largely by my fascination with football, both college and pro. I find the gridiron to be the best venue sports. There are so few games in a season, it makes every one count more. The potential for an explosive play each and every time is much higher than in any other mainstream sport.
The topic of interest this week shifted from talking about what the Patriots may or may not have done wrong in taping the Jets, to “what the H8LL happened last Sunday against the Browns?”. It occurred to me on day 2 of listening to fan after fan express so much frustration and passion (some more eloquently than others) about their Bengals and all the many different plans they had to improve the team that there may be an opportunity to turn all this into a positive force, rather than just ad revenue for those stuck with AM frequencies on the radio dial.
First a few basic principles: the aim of any professional sports venture is to sell tickets and merchandise to fans. Sure, the coaches and players are trying to win as many games as possible (at least that’s what they say at press conferences), but the owners are all about the box office. So the question is how can the owners turn the passion (and in some cases even expertise) of the fans calling into the radio shows and posting on message boards into revenue for them? The answer is crowdsourcing some of the management functions of the team. The same force that makes Wikipedia possible could help the lowly Bengals make it to the Super Bowl. And this isn’t just an idea for pro football – it would work for almost any pro sport.
A few examples:
- Draft day selections could easily be crowdsourced. Why not tap into the collective knowledge of millions of college football fans to help you decide who you should draft. Your fans know your weaknesses and together they have watched more hours of the top players than anyone on your staff ever could. Tap into that knowledge and let them vte on your draft chart before you make your fist pick.
- Play design could tap into the wisdom of the crowd. Why not let the throngs of rapid fans who think they know better than the coaching staff get a shot at the play book? Let them post their ideas to a fan website and have other fans vote on which ones should be inserted into the next game plan.
- Staffing decisions could be made by the commons. True, there would have to be a special office setup to deal with all the unemployed head coaches (not to mention offensive and defensive coordinators), but in the end the fans would get what they want: someone’s head on a figurative pike. Maybe Marvin would be a little less smug if he knew the fans were more directly involved in him getting a check.
Of course there would need to be protections against fans of opposing teams participating in large enough numbers to negatively impact the results. For example, the Bengals would have to block any IP address originating within 200 miles of Pittsburgh or they would end up with a whole roster full of Akili Smiths and every play would be a 7 step drop with a delay handoff.
All that would be needed is a simple website with some forum and voting software…and an owner with big brass ___. So who’s going to try in first? Maybe a maverick (pun intended) like Mark Cuban? Maybe a small market feeder team like the Frisco Rough Riders? Maybe Mike Brown will shock the world and be the leader that introduces us all to Football 2.0. Yeah and maybe the Bengal’s defense will pitch shut-outs the rest of the year!