You may or may not know this (by now you probably should), but I am a huge soccer fan. My love for the Lakers will always keep basketball at the top of my sports pyramid, but if I had to choose one sport to watch two of the best teams play each other where I had no rooting interest, soccer is my choice hands down (Well, curling is my first choice, but there's an availability issue there). A full time job (not to mention a part time hobby-job, hello World Cup thread) did not prevent me from watching about 85% of the World Cup this past summer.
My love of soccer is pretty unusual, even for an American. Most Americans don't particularly care for the game, as is their right, and the soccer-lovers have usually been brought to the game through a combination of factors. Some played the game quite a bit as a child, some are immigrants (or else their parents are) who brought their love of the world's game with them, and some were brought in by a friend. Me? I played soccer for one year (I was seven), my family tree has been in this country since the 1800s on both sides, and it took me 5 years to find a decent group of friends who love soccer (ironically, they were already my friends, and we all co-existed without knowing that we all enjoyed the game).
So how did one lone American fall in love with a distinctly non-American game? Because technology allowed me to.
It all started back in 2005. In the summer before my final year of college, I was living in on-campus housing in a room by myself. My friends were all gone for the summer, I was taking one class, and had no job. In short, I was bored out of my mind. I filled my days with video games, but even the most ardent gamer has to take breaks every now and then. Normally, I'd go play basketball, or hang out with friends, but neither were available to me. So I interspersed mindlessly playing video games with mindlessly watching TV.
During one of these sessions, I found a broadcast of my local Major League Soccer team, the LA Galaxy, and thought sure ... why not? Over the course of the broadcast, I learned that the Galaxy were pretty bad, in last place and likely to miss the playoffs despite only needing to out-distance two teams to get there. But I enjoyed watching, and they won. A week later, I was making myself dinner and flipping channels, and lo and behold, there was the Galaxy playing again. I watched, and they won again. So began a two month process in which, without attempting to find out when the games were or planning on watching them, I found Galaxy games every week, and every week was available to watch. In that time, the Galaxy won almost all their games, made the playoffs as the last team in, and took their momentum all the way to win the MLS Cup.
So I decided I liked soccer, but was certainly not a full fledged fan. It was a sport of convenience more than anything else, a way to bridge the gap between basketball and football. I found a few English league (EPL) games on tape delay, and thought it was cool, but that's about it. And then the '06 World Cup happened. I think I missed two matches out the entire thing. Pardon my mixing sports metaphors, but it was game, set, match, Soccer.
So far, this story, though personable, isn't doing a whole lot to communicate just how much influence modern technological improvements have had on my sporting journey. Televised broadcasts of your local team? We've had that since cable's introduction in the 80s. A televised world sporting event? Olympic TV coverage dates back to 1960. These were all amazing technological achievements in their time, but I don't think Samsung is interested in my extolling the virtues of VCR or the Commodore 64. "Technology is great guys, these games I've been watching have even been in COLOR". Come back next week, where I talk about how technology enhances sports because the invention of the wheel is pivotal to NASCAR.
So how has technology, modern technology, allowed for me to enjoy soccer more thoroughly? It starts with streaming online video, mainly of awesome goals. I maintain that a great goal is the best moment in all of sports. Think of it as like a great dunk, only if the dunk were worth 50 points. Go on the internet and search for Ronaldinho's top 10 goals and prepare to be massively entertained for the next 5 minutes. Or Messi, Gerrard, or Ronaldo. Then, look for former greats like Beckham and Henry and Roberto Carlos. After that, you can get really historical and search for Pele, Cruyff and Maradona. Or 1970 Brazil World Cup team.
Almost the entire history of soccer is right there on the internet. Basketball, too. Many of the best sporting moments in history are available to be re-lived at any time. Check that, not re-lived. Lived, for the first time. Would I be as much of a soccer fan if I wasn't able to experience the magic of soccer's past? Would I be unwilling to slog through 85 minutes of boredom for 5 minutes of magic (because yes, a great deal of soccer can be boring) if I didn't have access to just how magical a moment it can be? I don't get replays of the "Hand of God" in this country, there is no classic soccer channel which would show famous games like the 1950 final between Brazil and Uruguay, which was attended by a hair under 200 thousand people. As an American, soccer is not a part of my history, but thanks to modern technology, I can make it's history my own.
A couple years ago, I found cable's soccer channels, and suddenly had access to many more games a week. I decided to pick a team to root for, and after extensive research, I chose Arsenal from England's EPL because I could watch them the most and they were the most entertaining. It was never meant to be serious, just that when an Arsenal game came on, I'd want them to win instead of merely wanting to be entertained. Now, I'm a full fledged Gooner. Between increased soccer coverage in the states, and online availability of matches both live and after the fact, I haven't missed a single match of theirs all season.
Maybe soccer isn't your cup of tea, but this story is not sport specific. Technology has globalized sports, all sports, so that no matter what it is that you enjoy, you don't have search particularly hard to find it. As Americans, we've got a ton of choices right here in the states, but maybe you are into rugby, or cricket. Or maybe you aren't an American, and you want to see the best basketball or baseball in the world. Even within our own country, we are now allowed to follow our team from anywhere. Every sport has some sort of way for you to watch your team from anywhere in the country. Now, displaced Laker fans aren't limited to a few nationally televised games and a box score. We write a blog about a basketball team in Los Angeles, and one of our primary contributors is on the East Coast. Another one is in freakin' Austrailia. All through the globalization of sports, a phenomenon driven entirely by the awesomeness of technology.
A good sports fan-team relationship is like a plant. No matter how strong the roots, a plant needs a little water and some sunshine to survive. If my story happened 10 years ago, my soccer plant never would have blossomed. Now, no matter which sport you care about, no matter where life takes you, your hunger for the team or sport of your choice will never go unsatisfied.