The phenomenon of Facebook continues to amaze.
Its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was even named Time's "Person of the Year" for 2010, and it's no wonder. The online community links a half-a-billion people with up-to-the-minute, word-of-mouth information.
What does Facebook have to do with sports?
You can watch a football game, for example, with fans from around the world, and actually discuss it with them. I now make it a point to check my computer or BlackBerry during Penn State and Steelers games. My Facebook friends complain about bad calls, give kudos to star players and express their opinions about the job that the coaches are doing.
It's almost like watching a game with a hundred color commentators, who then feed off each other. One person's observation leads to another; sometimes people agree, other times a spirited debate ensues. Lucky for me, I have very funny friends whose posts are often as entertaining as the game itself. It can make a win more fun and a loss more bearable. Sometimes the Facebook conversations even rival the Super Bowl commercials.
And that's not the only sports connection to Facebook. Entire teams have their own Facebook pages where they can speak directly to their fans - no middleman. For example, the Steelers official Facebook page gives fans in-game updates, asks them to sign up for contests and even features occasional interview snippets with players. Troy Polamalu has his own fan Facebook page, through which you can learn about his charitable foundation, buy merchandise and link to his official website.
Even Joe Paterno apparently has multiple Facebook pages, including one for his glasses, though something tells me he's not logging onto the computer to update his status on a regular basis. Penn State boasts a variety of Facebook pages, including sports teams, the All-Sports museum and the Nittany Lion himself, posting updates and reaching out to the "Nation."
You can also find the Altoona Mirror on Facebook!
The social networking engine is entertaining for sports fans, but it's also an increasingly valuable marketing and sales tool. Companies are using social media more and more to connect with consumers, hoping to capitalize on the idea that people act on recommendations from friends.
Technology is being used to recruit athletes to colleges, from text messages to Facebook pages. The time is coming when coaches will actually campaign for open positions, and players will make their case for contract extensions, all by updating their status.
Perhaps that time is already here.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.