Online Sports Culture: Finding the Sacred in New Media Environments
Recent trends in the development of online sports websites have signaled professional sports leagues awareness of the growing interest fans have in the online medium and the technologies it provides. But, because of the nature of the Internet, online sports sites do not exist solely as information exchange gateways; they also take on a commercial function. As visitors to these sites are bombarded with images, technology, and information they become consumers in the online marketplace. This transition calls into question the ability of certain sports site features to help these fans-cum-consumers access sacred elements and thus the transcendent experiences often associated with sports culture and hedonic consumption responses. These ideas lead the reader to question whether or not fans-cum-consumers continue to visit these sites because they offer access to the sacred. This study seeks to answer the following: first, if sports-related websites benefit commercially from a consumer s ability to the find sacred in these environments and second, if the increasing popularity of these sites signals the ability of consumers to find sacred elements online. By conducting interviews with sports league executives and participating in roundtable discussions, this study sought to answer these questions. Interview and discussion results indicate that the websites provide the means, such as community-building features, which can help the fans-cum-consumers access the sacred. The sports league executives, however, do not identify specific site elements as helping them do so. Ultimately, the study revealed that because the sites rely heavily on user feedback as a way to determine their site design and content, they will continue to be successful in helping fans access the sacred, even if they do so unconsciously.
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