Major kudos to the EHF for providing this free live broadcast last night. That’s the type of promotion this sport needs more of. Here's some of my thoughts on watching Handball live on the web for the first time:
Well on a 1-10 scale, with a 1 being a 1970ish over air reception on a small Black and White TV and a 10 being an HDTV transmission on a big screen plasma set, I would give last night’s viewing experience a 3. The low score is simply the result of having to watch either a slightly blurred full screen or a smaller, eye straining picture. The problem is simply the fast paced action of a handball match- there’s just not quite enough bits being passed through to give a clear, crisp picture. During the pre-game interviews, close-ups, or slow motion replays the viewing experience was much better. The audio was pretty good, but not knowing any German the commentary didn’t mean anything to me. Still, you could certainly tell that it was a great atmosphere with 10,000+ spectators.
Improving the Viewing Experience
The simple way to improve the picture quality is to get more data bits into the picture. For live video that means increasing the bandwidth being provided and I would guess this has some practical limitations. An alternative solution, however, would also be to provide the match as a download for later viewing. It wouldn’t be live, but more bits/second could be crammed into the picture, so that the picture would be more sharp. Of course, English language commentary would be nice too, but let’s take one thing at a time.
The Match Itself (Flensburg 32 – Kiel 28)
Flensburg winning at Kiel was certainly a huge upset as they were 4.5 goal underdogs and Kiel had not lost at home all season. The first half was a back and forth defensive affair with Kiel holding on for a narrow 13-12 half-time lead. Flensburg, however, controlled the second half, converted several fast break opportunities and outscored Kiel 20-15 in the second half. With a +4 aggregate lead this now puts them into a commanding position to advance to the semi-finals.
Just in Case You Were Wondering
– The match was not an intra-squad match for Club Provinzial. Provinzial, in fact, is an insurance company and apparently the main sponsor for both teams. In principal, European sports have a totally different philosophy when it comes to advertising. Because sports like Handball and Soccer have fewer breaks and opportunities for commercials, advertising on the uniforms is more prominent. More prominent to the point, where you will usually have difficulty finding anything on the uniform which highlights what club they actually are. The only comparison to this in the US market, I think, is NASCAR. But, if the choice is silly looking uniforms or more commercials, I guess I’ll take the silly uniforms.
– Even, though the final outcome of the match wasn’t in doubt, every minute was contested to the end due to the importance of the overall aggregate score. The same two teams will meet in Flensburg on Saturday and the total combined score of the two matches will determine who advances to the semi-finals. At this level, the teams usually take turns winning at home with the team winning by the most overall goals advancing. Kiel has a big mountain to climb if they are going to win at Flensburg and win by 5 goals. It’s pretty rare that two teams split with both victories being taken by the away teams.
– Flensburg-Handewitt is located right on the Germany-Denmark border and for all practical purposes is the Bundesliga’s equivalent of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Bluejays. The roster is more Danish than German and their website is featured in both languages.
– To a slightly lesser extent Kiel can be considered the Swedish entrant as they have a long tradition of the top Swedish players playing for them. http://www.thw-provinzial.de/thw/ethw.htm