Following the post I made about IIHF pulling the plug on the live YouTube broadcasts, I’ve had a couple of interesting tweets about it, one of which was sent by Steve Morrell (https://twitter.com/#!/rafanapa). Steve’s tweet got me thinking about why watching games live as they happen is so important.
Right off the bat I must admit that the best way to enjoy a sports event is to watch it where it happens. Obviously with the hockey world champs it is impossible for me to watch it in Helsinki (read the previous posts and you’ll see why). As the games are not broadcast on UK TV, or on any other channel that I receive, the Internet has become such an important medium for me to follow sports from back home. But why is watching it live so important? For me it is all about the passion, the heat of the moment and knowing that I am watching the action as it happens, each stride, hit, pass and shot at a time. I have tried watching recorded or deferred NHL games and I just cannot get into those broadcasts as I know that the game has taken place already.
For example, throughout the year, I have not watched a single deferred NHL broadcast from Premier Sports, even if I don’t know the score of the game. It might be a personal thing, but I just can’t get into the feeling of the game, knowing that it has been played already. It’s the same with any sport I follow, be it F1, cross country skiing, ski jumping etc. If the event has been and gone and there is a repeat broadcast I will not watch it. In the past when the NHL was with ESPN America, I watched a couple of the “As Live” broadcasts and it was like I was watching a TV soap. The TV was on but I wasn’t really watching it.
Hockey, to me, is about passion, feelings, love, knowledge and sharing the event with likeminded fans. To me following hockey live is about shouting at the top of my lungs either in Finnish or English, literally living and breathing every moment as if I was at the arena watching the game with my own two eyes. For the live broadcasts of games I tend to live with the commentators of the game and get immersed into how they view the game and how they live the game, like Antti Makinen from the Finnish NelonenPro when he called the game between New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7RwBk6ZgrU
Another thing that has become to play a huge part in the way we watch sports is social media. We are increasingly commenting on the games we are watching through Twitter and engaging with like-minded people. We comment on the games on blogs, Facebook groups, we follow our favourite teams and associated fan groups to get more updates and information from the events.
The only concern I have for sports fans and social media is that we will turn into a horde of people who go to a game and sit there staring at our phones, updating our various social networks, rather than focus on the events them selves.
I guess the best experience of watching a live game on TV I can remember was from last years’ World Championship finals. Me and three other Finns trekked from our homes in the South-East to London to watch the final at the Pipeline Bar. It was the atmosphere at the bar and the anticipation of watching the event live in a bar, which felt like you were watching it on home soil.
The other fond memories that I have of watching live games is with my friend Christian while we both lived in Southampton. It was like a regular Saturday thing to have a bunch of guys at his place to have a few beers to watch the games live from NASN (now ESPN America). We never got together to watch the “As Live Broadcasts”. There simply wasn’t the same kind of feel, or anticipation for the games to start and to wait for the events to unfold, knowing that the games had been played.
There is a lot more that goes into watching a live broadcast of a game, but it would be difficult to explain, and to every person the experience is different. I guess I’m trying to explain what watching live games, whether on scene or on TV means to me and why repeats, 30 minute delays or re-runs don’t appeal to me.