Thursday, 4 February 2010

Watching Sport in a Different Time Zone

As a fan of sport throughout the world, I have travelled to a lot of different locations to watch some top quality live action. The problem is, you cant get to all of the events you want to. With so many sporting events happening worldwide, time and financial restraints mean that you have to settle for watching some on TV.

This can be the cause of a lot of sleepless nights, however, as events can happen at any time of night or day and as a result can throw your regular pattern into chaos.

This past week I subjected myself to some late nights while watching the business end of the 2010 Australian Open culminating in the mens final which saw Roger Federer take Andy Murray in straight sets. As the Australian Open is in Melbourne - my home town - it’s an event I go to every year, so it felt kind of weird having to stay up to all hours to watch it.

As an Australian, I’m used to having to watch some of my favourite sport at odd times. With so much top level sport happening in Europe or North America, its common for Australians to have to stay up late and night, or get up early in the morning to watch their favourite team play.

My earliest memory of this was getting up ridiculously early in the morning to watch the Australian cricket team play in matches throughout the Caribbean against the West Indies. As a youngster, it would always make me tired and grumpy for the rest of the day, but it was worth it to see some quality action.

With the Six Nations Rugby set to kick off in Europe on the weekend, expect to see some of the many Irish pubs in the world open past their usual times so that ex-pats throughout the world can watch Ireland, England, France, Scotland, Wales and Italy battle it out in Rugby’s best annual event.

I’ve found that sports fans in the US and Canada are less used to inflicting this sort of punishment on themselves. Not because they are less dedicated fans, but largely because the major sports here – Football, Baseball, Basketball and Hockey – are all sports where the best leagues in the world are based in North America, so there’s simply no reason to.

And even when there is a sporting event of interest to North Americans outside of prime, the money here seems to be able to change that. Many people will remember the controversy of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where a US broadcaster paid to have the swimming finals in the morning sessions rather than the evening, so that Michael Phelps’ record breaking eight gold medals could be shown during prime time in the US.

Lack of sleep isn’t the only issue when watching sport in a different time zone, however. Quite often the sporting event you want to watch is on while you’re supposed to be at work. While DVD and hard drive recorders these days means you wont miss any action when you get home, trying to avoid knowing the result can be torture.

This becomes an issue every year when its time for the Super Bowl, as it is this week. While in the US, the Super Bowl is on a Sunday evening, in Australia it is on a Monday morning. Though American football is not terribly popular in Australia, the Super Bowl always gets plenty of coverage, and it’s the one time of the year most Australians take notice of the sport many have dubbed “throw ball”.

Last year – in what turned out to be one of the most exciting Super Bowl games ever – I had a very hard time trying to not find out the result. All of the TVs in the bristro upstairs had the game on, while others were following the game online. It became like an episode of How I Met Your Mother as I ran out of the room any time anyone would start to talk about it and walked around with my head down any time I was in the same room as a television. Luckily for me, I managed to avoid the result, was treated to a great game.

This year I’m looking forward to watching the game live from a bar in Whistler Village where I’ll be based for the next few weeks during the Winter Olympics – another event I normally have to watch at all hours of the morning.

For the record, I’m hoping to see a win for the New Orleans Saints, as I think they’re city needs this after everything they’ve been through in the last five years.

On the whole though, I’m just looking forward to a good game – and one I can enjoy as it happens.


  1. Yeah, the timezone thing is a killer as a dedicated sports fan. Unfortunately the vast majority of stuff is geared to the US market, as you say.

    Through twitter I hear complaints of a lot of US sports fans when they have to say, stay up late on the rare occasion for the Australian Open, or when the World Cup is in Japan for example. I try to remind them of how hard it is in Oz, or how watching the NBA in London (as I do) means staying up through midnight til 6am... right.

    Continue the dream over there on your tour!

  2. The worst is when you try and go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the night for a 3am epl match...and after it trying to get back to sleep.

    But really if you want to see the best you have to sacrifice a little, it's always worth it though. Although there are times where it's a 0-0 draw and you're cursing yourself for getting up to watch a dud game!

    I'll be in Europe during the NRL/AFL season so it'll be great chilling in the morning with a few beers watching my favourite team play!