Tales From The Pitch - Ice #3

Aries 15, 2078, m249

 Hockey offers a much more intimate live experience than aero football.

Hockey offers a much more intimate live experience than aero football.

The Intimacy of the Rink

Last week I was one the fortunate few who had the chance to get actual ice-time with Phantom's Captain, Jonathan Moore. As long-time readers know the concept sport is not without its problems, and there has been a great deal of discussion on the skating ability of the test players, but today I want to tell you about my latest experience after viewing week 4 of ISMO's exhibition series. 

The popularity of sports doesn't rest solely on the excitement of seeing athletes compete for a prize. Sport also creates a sense of shared experience and community. If everyone in your pod is following the Mars Aero Football League you always have something to talk about, and whether or not you or a colleague support the same team is irrelevant. You can speak the same coded lingo, appreciate the same brilliant plays, and gasp at the same crushing defeats. Even while watching the matches live from spectator vehicles one feels a sense of community.

Everyone in that arena is experiencing the match as a unified whole, despite the fact that we are all in small groups housed in vehicles designed to protect us from the harsh climate. 

So, you'll imagine my surprise when I experienced an even more visceral shared moment with my fellow spectators at the latest ISMO game. First, I should explain: the rink used for each match is much smaller than a football pitch. Surrounding the rink is a small amount of stadium style seating, which mostly can't fit more than 250-300 people. And unlike a MAFL match you are close to all the action! I had front row seats and was right behind the glass at centre ice. I could see every play, every facial expression, and even the icy breath of the players. 

I also had 249 newfound friends that viewed and game with me, and more or less gasped when I did, cheered when I did, and grumbled when I did. The solitary act of viewing a sporting event was now a team effort and the reaction of such a crowd in close proximity completely changed the experience for me. 

The small spectator area has its disadvantages too, or it will have if the sport really takes off. While it was no problem for me to get tickets now, it will be a huge problem if popularity increases. This might mean that seeing a hockey game live would only be available to the very rich. And while some sports have historically survived on unnecessary elitism, I would suggest that ISMO will need to put any first-year profits directly into building larger arenas, which the engineers tell me is a logistical nightmare. 

I might be jumping the gun here but I'd strongly recommend that ISMO have a plan for this sooner rather than later. The incredible intimacy of the sport won't be lost if they figure out how to double or triple the size of the spectator area; however, removing that intimacy or making it available to only a select few would cause the loss of something that makes this sport special.