The Wired Fan Can Stay Local but Dream Global

International Herald Tribune sports reporter, Christopher Clarey, illustrates how it’s now possible to be a fan of any sport, practically anywhere.

Handball is certainly making inroads in this direction, particularly with the EHF’s broadcast of Champions League games last year, but the technology isn’t quite there yet. Sooner than you might think, however, the day will come when you will be able to view handball matches from around the world, anywhere in the world, any time you want to.

[b]The wired fan can stay local but dream global[/b]

Christopher Clarey / International Herald Tribune
Published: October 26, 2006

BOSTON: It was a Tuesday in Massachusetts, but it could just as easily have been a Tuesday in Paris or Dubai.
On the television screen in my home office, Liverpool was playing Bordeaux in Europe's Champions League, with Barcelona-Chelsea and Madrid's Masters Series tennis tournament already on the digital video recorder's hard drive and set for later viewing.
On the laptop screen, in leisurely succession, were Web sites that are the quotidian touchstones of my business: for Chinese sports; for Spain; for Japan; for France and beyond.
Then there were the Web windows into single sports:; skiracing,com;,, for track and field and for tennis.
It is the bubble in which I live when I am not on the road this time of year, and though there was a period, far from sepia-hued, when immersing myself in the international sports scene to this degree would have been impossible in any time zone, it is now possible in just about any time zone.
Globalization has its downsides, from homogenization to west Nile virus in cold climates to the difficulty of keeping a great, low-key beach resort in Asia a secret for long. But one of the upsides is that it allows you to order a la carte from the vast menu of life.
As usual, this is more expensive than the prix fixe menu. Broadband Internet and the right cable or satellite television package can take a bite out of the budget – well over $100 a month in my case. But the bubble is as much a hallmark of modern life among the border- crossing, culture-snacking class as a triband cellphone or frequent-flier points.
Food set the tone long ago, with cosmopolitan cities allowing their inhabitants the buzz of choosing between Chinese, Thai, Mongolian, Provençal, Tuscan, Japanese and more, sometimes all in the same neighborhood.
But it took until now for the technology to allow you to dislocate yourself thoroughly in your own home, giving you the possibility to surround yourself not only with those paintings you bought in Spain but with those radio stations you listened to in Spain when you were trying to keep track of Real Madrid or Real Betis before driving the kids to dance class.
That you are outside the culture now is beside the point. Of course you can't duplicate the feeling of community that comes with watching Spanish sports in Spain, immersed in the collective groans and cheers and next-day analysis. But what you can do is create your own personalized sports culture, and the truly remarkable part is that you can do it whether you live in the woods well out of day-tripping distance of a major sports stadium or whether you're just a short stroll from the Parc des Princes.
You can't quite have it all yet. Though the Internet continues to build virtual real estate, it is still not filling some of the niches and needs that sports television is ignoring.
My brother-in-law, an American in London, would like to watch his beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers play college football live every week in the autumn but has to settle for listening to their games on Internet radio unless the North American Sports Network happens to showcase Nebraska as one of its two or three college games a week.
Even when the Web is filling niches and low-level demand by putting any Champions League game on your computer screen for a price in North America or NFL games on your computer screen for a price in Europe, the picture often remains too fickle and small to qualify as true value for money.
But there is no question that you can still inflate your own bubble, filling it with the sights and sites, the cheers and jeers of your choosing.
When I first moved to France in the early 1990s, your best hope for following Major League Baseball from afar was the line score in a daily newspaper. Now you have a fine chance of being able to watch the regular-season game of your choosing on the Internet or even on television, now that North American Sports Network has started up its channel as part of a satellite service in France.
"I can now live here," e-mailed my friend Ron Halpern, a New Yorker turned longtime Paris resident, after North American's announcement this month.
The question for the sports fan with international tastes is fast becoming, "Where can't you live?"