Why you should care
Because ball-playing times … they are a-changing.
Any way you slice it, 2017 was a massive year in sports. From nine-figure circuses masquerading as prizefights and breakout performances on sport’s biggest stage to record-breaking MLB rookies and a comeback for the ages, last year thrilled anyone who was paying attention and set the stage for 2018 to rip full steam ahead. As such, now’s not the time to look back. Rather, we thought that New Year’s Day was the perfect moment to spot some rising trends. Here’s what OZY is watching out for in the year ahead in sports.
2018: Year of the … Fitness Podcast?
If you haven’t tried it yet, chances are high that someone you know uses a virtual fitness app like Daily Burn, FitBit Coach or FitFusion to stay in shape. What do these programs, which provide various degrees of personalized “coaching” by a trainer anywhere in the world, have in common? Video. That can distract users who don’t feel like staring at a screen during a workout.
That’s why the folks at Aaptiv have launched an audio-based fitness app that delivers personalized training sessions via podcast only. According to decathlete Bryan Clay, winner of the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics, it’s an idea that could capture a specific demographic. “So much of fitness is about instruction and personal preference,” says Clay. “People want to find a method that works for them while still being pushed.” Aaptiv may be the first fitness app of its kind, but we’d be shocked if this concept doesn’t start a trend in 2018.
It’s Time for Big Tech to Crash the NFL’s Old-Money Conclave
The decision by Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to sell the team, following numerous allegations and an impending NFL investigation into the billionaire’s workplace misconduct, has sparked speculation over likely candidates to purchase the team. With the exception of Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen and Baltimore part-owner Steve Bisciotti, technology moguls have largely avoided the NFL, choosing instead to invest in leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLS.
We think that 2018 is the year that changes. Purchasing an NFL organization today is a risk. Safety concerns have called into question football’s longevity, and political protests and boycotts have bruised the league’s once spotless shield. And, hey, building a winning team is difficult. But the potential for monstrous profit still exists.
The #MeToo Movement Will Storm a Court Near You
Speaking of workplace misconduct … it’s a bit peculiar that allegations of harassment and misconduct have swallowed Hollywood and the news industry whole while barely grazing sports or finance. Are men in professional sports simply model citizens? It would be nice to think so. The #MeToo movement took the latter half of 2017 by storm and shows no signs of slowing down. As more and more stories break, expect the sports industry to face a major PR debacle.
One point of interest, according to former Tampa Bay linebacker Ryan Nece, is the relatively limited number of women employed in sports front offices, which could prove to be a unique dynamic. “I do expect to hear more stories come out,” Nece says. “But there’s a limited number of positions and roles in front offices. There may not be the same scope as in Silicon Valley or Hollywood.” Does that mean less harassment takes place in sports? Or, like the fallout we’ve seen in comedy, does more “locker room talk” translate into even worse behavior? Wait and see.
Amid Roster Shuffling, the NBA Remains the Same
Sure, some rosters have shifted, and teams like the Thunder, Rockets and Pistons look different, but their punch is about the same. Even the Boston Celtics, off to an incredibly hot start behind the leadership of former Cavalier point guard Kyrie Irving, are similarly structured to last year’s top-seeded roster.
The start of this NBA season has been the most entertaining in recent memory, but when the dust settles, Boston will meet Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals and (barring a healthy Kawhi Leonard) San Antonio will see Golden State in the West. Substitute Chicago with New York, Atlanta with Detroit and the Clippers with Minnesota, and this year’s playoff picture could be almost identical to 2017.
Yankee Fans, Prepare for Disappointment
Is it already time to crown the Bronx Bombers the World Series favorites? While some media members and Pinstripes fans believe so, I’m happy to suggest otherwise. Sure, this offseason has been an exciting one for the Yanks. General manager Brian Cashman signed former Yankee hero Aaron Boone to manage the club, then traded for one of baseball’s most feared sluggers, Giancarlo Stanton. The combination of Stanton, last season’s breakout star Aaron Judge, a healthy Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez and the official arrival of now-star Didi Gregorius gives New York City’s American League club the most dangerous lineup in baseball. But World Series titles never come easy. The Bombers still have no pitching, Aaron Boone has never coached and last year was Stanton’s first full healthy season since 2011.
Disagree? Let us know in the comments section what we missed.