One of the most attractive aspects of sport is the fact that every event is unique and unpredictable. While other forms of entertainment are pre-determined, it is sports unscripted nature that attracts spectators, viewers and fans in their millions. While there is always a place in the sporting landscape for highlights programmes such as Match of the Day or trips down memory lane on ESPN Classic, the live element of sport is so important to it that if it is removed it can diminish the enjoyment that fans take from it. It was always possible to record games using a video recorder, but the advent of Personal Video Recorders (PVRs) and Video On Demand services such as BBC iPlayer now mean that watching sport “as live” is easier than ever but it leaves you at the mercy of technology.
The live aspect of sport is so important to me that if I know the result or a major incident in a match, my interest wanes. It is the unpredictability that gives me the strength to sit through sometimes excruciatingly boring passages of play in the hope that something exciting is just around the corner. The live aspect is also important to me because I cannot cope with just seeing a result afterwards. Watching a football match for ninety minutes gives you time to accept the 5-0 thrashing, something that looking up the score on the internet does not afford you.
Formula One and American Football are but two sports that can take place at unsociable hours for British fans and watching them live requires serious discipline or being nocturnal. Before I acquired a PVR I would either have to watch a repeat, which would leave me in danger of finding out the result before I viewed the event. Although video recorders were an apt solution, I found it a complicated and occasionally fruitless procedure whereas now I can push a button and watch the match at my leisure without fear of finding out the result.
I did this last weekend for the inaugural Korean GP which was broadcast on the BBC and woke up eager to view the latest instalment in a thrilling climax to the 2010 Formula One season. Sky+ has the useful feature of being able to detect when a programme has been extended and adjusts the recording accordingly. Sadly, as good as Sky+ is, it is unable to account for torrential rain and the decision of the BBC to switch channels as the race overran its original timeslot. As it became apparent that the recording was too short, I was furious and I was not alone. I checked BBC iPlayer and although Part 1 of the race had been uploaded (the part that had been shown on BBC One), but part 2 (the part shown on BBC Two) had not been. In the end, since I am incapable of insulating myself from the internet and sporting media for longer than a few hours, I blinked and checked the result and discovered that I had missed out an eventful end to the race.
Another example of my new found dependence on technology thwarting me was when I recorded Monday Night Football on ESPN a few weeks ago. Green Bay travelled to Soldier Field to take on Chicago and a tense game was approaching a crescendo. Almost exactly at the two minute warning, my recording ended. This time there was no other way to view the final two minutes so I looked up the score and saw that the Packers had lost 20-17. The time invested in watching an event only to miss the end feels all the more wasted when the ending does not have a happy outcome.
The spread of PVR technology now means that sports fans can enjoy far more of the action ‘as live’ and has certainly changed the way we consume sport. The technology means that the live and spontaneous nature of sport isn’t removed and results in much of the attraction is retained. I can imagine that many baseball fans are grateful for that this week, given that much of the World Series will be broadcast while they are asleep.