The Roar
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Sporting globalisation has Australian fans in dreamland and local administrators on notice

LeBron James and Kevin Durant. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Roar Guru
1st June, 2018
9

Raised on this country’s meat and potatoes summer-winter sports diet, Australians are now feasting on an increasingly offshore-infused sporting buffet.

While a boon for fans, the growing popularity of certain overseas-based sports at home must have domestic administrators in a lather.

Of course, Australians following one-off sporting events on foreign soil – particularly involving home-grown stars or national sides – is not a new phenomenon, with golf and tennis majors prime examples.

While this interest has undoubtedly grown, the real kicker is overseas sports league-focused fandom – enabled by a combination of pay TV and unprecedented online access – which is sweetening this country’s mainstream sporting pot.

Entering June, the Australian sporting public would historically be wholly invested in its traditional winter codes.

Nowadays, if the office water cooler could talk, it would tell you that LeBron James is rivalling Buddy Franklin and Cameron Smith for airplay.

Last weekend provides a perfect snapshot.

That the likes of a resurgent South Sydney and an eye-catching Demons performance were forced to share local headlines with the fallout from the Champions League final in Kiev speaks to an increasingly cosmopolitan Australian sporting fan-base.

Now State of Origin will have to compete for our attention with an epic fourth straight Warriors – Cavaliers NBA Finals instalment and a fast approaching FIFA World Cup.

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Local sports fans will then hungrily devour the remainder of the domestic winter sports season with sides of Le Tour, EPL, NFL, MBL and the list goes on.

Yet, be warned this contemporary sporting nirvana is not without its side effects.

While a diversified portfolio of supported teams can certainly ease the pain of a particular crashing stock, it also increases a fan’s exposure early-season sporting disappointment.

My myriad of foreign sporting investments certainly provided a welcome distraction from the Bombers’ early-season woes, previously detailed in this column.

And yet I remain an emotional wreck having endured, in quick succession, the replacement of forever Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger (which I wrote about in this column) and a heartbreaking Game 7 NBA Eastern Conference Finals exit for my beloved Boston Celtics.

My mental condition not helped by spending the last six weeks of the Celtics’ Cinderella playoff run in a state of ‘spoiler alert’ induced paranoia.

Common to Australian fans of northern hemisphere sports, this affliction involves avoiding all forms of human contact – for fear of the faintest hint of a score – until credits roll on the post-work replay.

There is also the impact of this foreign sporting invasion on the already crowded domestic sporting scene.

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Underperforming rugby union and receding Test cricket must feel particularly vulnerable.

That two of their up-and-coming local rivals, in the A-League and NBL stand to benefit from the ever-increasing popularity of the EPL and – Ben Simmons inspired – NBA respectively an added blow.

And yet even healthy codes, such as the high flying AFL, are not immune from this offshore threat.

Increasing exposure of Australian fans to slick foreign sports coverage – the NBA playoff broadcasts a particular highlight – will mean far less patience for clumsy local commentary and greater expectations for this country’s sports media more generally.

All of which is, of course, no bad thing for the local sports fan.

A captive sporting audience no more, Australians now have a window to the wide world of sports.