Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like we’re fairing a bit better in the battle against cell phones and other distractions than many other forms of sports and entertainment.
A social media post from Brad Gillis, the badass guitar player of the band Night Ranger (a classic rock band who prove nightly that you, indeed, can still rock in America) caught my attention.
In the post, entitled “Loving Japan,” which paid respect to the culture of Tokyo and the audience from the previous night’s Night Ranger concert, Gillis wrote, “When performing, music fans cheer you on with a wild reception and become dead silent when speaking to them.”
I miss the days when concert audiences in the United States did the same.
These days, audience members talk non-stop, and loudly, over even acoustic portions of a concert, as well as the moments when the artist is trying to engage the audience between songs. The endless cellphone selfies, cellphone photos of the band, and the ridiculous videos that serve no actual purpose simply create distractions and obstacles for those in the crowd actually there to experience the show.
There is an inability of audience members to go even the length of a 30- to 40-minute set without numerous beer or bathroom runs (I’m assuming they’re going to the bathroom; so many people seem to be so busy heading off to somewhere) – disturbing everyone else in their row in the process.
It’s not that they suffer from an actual Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s an inability to allow themselves to be engaged in something other than their own little bubble of a world, of which they are the center of all things at every moment. It’s pathetic.
And, before anyone gets the impression that I might be targeting young people with my criticisms, I’m not. I regularly experience just as many 40-, 50- and 60-year-olds with an inability to simply let a short period of time be about something other than themselves.
And, it’s not just at concerts or other types of shows or performances. Most of you have probably experienced the dumbass in the movie theater that is texting, or even the ones that actually answer phone calls.
But this also takes place at many types of sporting events. Baseball audiences may be the worst. Look around the grandstands at a baseball game and there’s plenty of obsession with texting and selfies, while virtually ignoring the game itself.
The economy must, indeed, be recovering, because purchasing tickets to events that you have no intention of actually committing to experiencing proves that some people apparently have plenty of disposable income.
However, despite seeing some people in the audience at short tracks involved with their phones throughout the night, it doesn’t seem to me that race fans are as badly afflicted with this self-absorption.
I don’t count, for example, fans who are using an app like Race Monitor to keep track of qualifying times or running order, as that’s an enhancement to the on-track action as opposed to a distraction from the night’s events.
Some of you may have different experiences, but as I travel around to races I’m kind of proud of race fans, and their commitment to still being engaged throughout the night. The vast majority know what’s going on all evening, and hang on to their seats each time the green flag drops.
Granted, maybe 900 horsepower engines with open headers make it a little tougher for morons to loudly relay the meaningless events of their mundane day at work to their wives (as the jackass in front of me did this July throughout an entire Kansas concert in Ohio, after stating, “I don’t know this one either,” every time the band started the next song …but, I digress).
The bottom line is that many forms of entertainment – from concerts to Broadway shows to sporting events – are struggling with a new self-absorbed society. Some music artists have begun bagging phones before the start of their performance and giving them back to the owners at the end of the evening as a last resort to deal with the phone- and self-obsession of some fans and the distraction it creates to the artist and others in the audience.
In short, it’s a testament to not only the excitement of our sport but also the commitment of our fans that race fans can focus on cheering for their favorites and living in the moment for an evening.
Again, your experiences may differ. You may have experienced way more of that guy that, mid-race, makes yet another beer run, as well as his return trip clumsily sloshing four plastic cups full of Budweiser over your head as he stumbles his way back down your row to his seat.
But it has always seemed that we have far more serious fans than casual fans at our events. These days, other forms of entertainment are not nearly as lucky.