Initial thoughts on Greatland

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First, the overwhelming feeling I have when reading Greatland is jealously. How I would love to write about pop culture and sports for 1,000 words or more per day and 1) get paid and 2) have people love it and beg me for more.

But the second feeling I have is how sports have become less awesome. The two stories that really struck a nerve with me over the past two weeks have been:

What does this mean for the age of watching sports?

  1. Watching sports doesn’t work in the post-TiVo world. Truly the only way to watch sports is live, on a flat screen LCD, with friends and beer, and in HD
  2. If you didn’t see the game live, it’s like it never occurred

After watching my first game in widescreen HD, it’s basically ruined all other experiences. The most vivid game I can remember in HD was the 2007 Virginia Tech game versus LSU in 2007. I was at Ross Catrow’s parent’s house, and they had a ginormous HD screen. This was new technology to me. The game looked like nothing I’d ever seen before. I remember laughing to myself, only fools attended the game in person. We helped ourselves to grocery store beers and homemade salsa, while watching the game in higher-def than the fans at Tiger Stadium. I could see the linebacker and cornerback coverage all on the same screen as the typical line coverage. I was in heaven.

Why would anyone attend a game in person, or watch a game in standard-def, after that experience? I could see the blades of grass blow in the wind.

The sad thing is, attending sports in person used to be the pinnacle of life’s experiences. My friend Sam Miller saw the New York Yankees win the World Series in 2000. I was probably the most jealous person in the world. He told tales of the huge rivalry of the subway series, cursing out Met’s fans, and the jubilant atmosphere of Yankee Stadium, where he was the savior of the day by hitting an inflatable cow and keeping it aloft in the air.

Now, I would laugh in his face. He paid $500 to attend the game? Come on. I was in Boston last week for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. My brother and I hit a bar right outside the TD Gardens and experienced the game in real style, watching the game (in HD) with 500 Boston Bruins fans screaming their heads off. With $3 beers. Life is good.

This is not a good development. Going to the actual game should be better than watching the game in a crappy bar across the street. But the truth is it’s not. Watching the game in HD with friends (or acquaintances) with cheap beer and food has suddenly become better than watching the game in person. Watching it at home with all of the above is even better. The in-person experience now sucks compared to the alternatives, and that’s bad for sports.

Secondly, there’s increasingly less point in trying to watch the game on tape-delay.

One of my favorite Seinfeld’s was when Jerry was trying to watch the tape delay of a baseball game, and when told the score before he could watch the game, his experience is ruined. There was no point in watching the game.

Now it’s harder than ever to try to watch a tape-delayed game. Between Facebook and Twitter status updates of every aspect of the game, added with apps, TV shows, and tickers constantly recounting game stats, it’s a magnificent accomplishment to time-shift a game.

I’ve only successfully accomplished the feat several times. Often, I think I’ve successfully navigated all obstacles, only to be disappointed. The OSU-USC game two years ago was a tragic example. I had the game recorded on TiVo. All friends were notified to cease communications. I had removed myself from technology to ensure I did not see the score.

But during an Ethiopian dinner (without TVs) with another couple, I mistakenly looked across the street to see a TV at a different restaurant showing an empty Ohio Stadium. I knew Ohio State was defeated. I did not bother watching the game.

And that’s the tragedy. I could not enjoy the tape-delayed game because I knew the outcome. This didn’t used to be a problem – I would consistently time-shift TV, especially sports, to the cadence that suited me. But with technology advanced to the stage it is today, it’s a losing battle. I give up.

What does this mean for future sports fans? The sad thing is, a game that was not watched live basically did not occur. It’s live or nothing. I find myself discounting games that I did not watch live and favor the plays/games that I watched first hand. People will be able to recall the SportsCenter highlights, but anything that did not make the reel will be ignored. Which is a tragedy.

Secondly, watching sports in-person will be discounted. Sure, Super Bowl tickets will still cost $2,000. But most sports fans will kick back and just watch television. For me, I’m going to do my best to watch games in person the way they were meant to be, whether that means watching high school football and basketball live, or scalping a rare seat to a championship game.

Finally, I will always respect other sports fans wishes. If they say they’re TiVo-ing the game, I’m going to give them their space. I’m not even going to say “You’re going to love the game.” Not cool. I promise to give others the space to enjoy the game in the method that they choose. I hope you do too.

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