Anyone going to the U.S.-Australia game today in Chicago? Would love to hear your reaction to what USA Rugby says will be a new fan experience.
In a press release this week, the governing body of American rugby said it was partnering with 3 Point Production to make sure what happens at Soldier Field today matches what U.S. fans get in an NFL stadium or an NBA game.
That means “high impact, highly engaged fan experience where they feel a part of the action through in-game activities and promotions backed by modern technology.”
The goal is to “engage fans, link sponsors, and bring a new, modern feel to the USA Rugby test match.”
I suspect that “link sponsors” is the most important element in that goal, and I am not so naïve as to deny the necessity of that to grow the game.
But for those of us whose fan experience consisted of following the play by walking the trampled sidelines with a beer in our hand, this seems a radical departure from what the game has been in America.
It brings into focus the divide that underlies vision on where the game should go next. Should it become just another professional sport in America with big Jumbo-tron screens, nearly naked dancing girls, big player salaries and big money sponsors and ticket prices? That would attract the best athletes to compete on the world stage.
Or should it remain the alternative game of the 1960s and ’70s, filled with misfits and odd characters, an all-amateur endeavor played outside the huge college stadiums where the fan experience was becoming the shiny object that it is today?
I’m as divided on this as you can be. I want to see the U.S. play with the best sides in the world but I cherish my memories of intimate weekend afternoons spent at games where the only other fans were a few rugger huggers and the B side watching the A side and vice versa.
I read the USA Rugby news release to my wife, who has a way of putting things succinctly. She said, “It’s like they think the U.S. fans are so stupid that they have to trick fuck the game to make it interesting.”