Way back in July of 2013 after we first arrived in Shanghai I was able to catch the first 2.5 innings of the MLB All-Star Game prior to going to work in the morning. Oddly, in the wee hours of the morning prior to my last day of work for the year I went to a restaurant across the street to watch the United States play Germany in the World Cup.
Between those two days there have been many sporting events across the four major sports in America, additionally, there have been other popular events including the Winter Olympics and other World Cup matches.
Prior to moving to Shanghai, I knew that I would be committing to not seeing or keeping up with a lot of sports from home. I was content with this, which is why I took a 24-hour vacation last June to see the Blackhawks play Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago.
However, I have found that there are creative and interesting methods I use to follow sports in China. I figured the best way was to break it down by sport.
Following MLB, or not following it for that matter, was not a big deal for me. When we departed for China the Cubs were in dead last and never made a threatening move to allocate that position. One of the interesting catches about following MLB is the unscheduled doubleheader. This occurs when teams play a day game following a night game, always fun to check the Cubs score twice in a day. Gives them two chances to win once. Overall the advantage of the baseball season is that you can normally catch a couple innings of a random game prior to work. Biggest pro though is that the game is televised in Chinese. Often on a channel that says ESPN in one corner but shows TBS or FOX in another, I’m sure there are some copyright laws being broken. But what truly makes watching the games pleasant is I can’t understand a thing being said, at least not until my Mandarin improves. Basically I hear a lot of Chinese followed by, “David Wright”, and then a bunch more Mandarin. Though the best is when a player strikes out. Much like their American counterparts the Chinese broadcasters also aim to have their own call. On our channel the only other English used other than a player or team name is when someone strikes out the announcer takes a break from Mandarin to use his catch phrase, “See you later” before immediately returning back to Chinese.
Catching the NFL is a bit more interesting. Everyone here still plays fantasy football, however, fantasy football is not as fun when 90% of the games are played in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping early on a Monday morning. After all the one of the biggest reasons for playing is to keep an interest in a game you would otherwise not watch, or in this case sleep through. Due to the NFL schedule, games in China air at 1:00am and 4:25am until daylight savings, then they air at 2:00am and 5:25am. Additionally, the games do NOT air on television. The only way to catch them is to purchase the NFL package. One perk of purchasing the package is that you can wait until after work to catch the game, we call it going off the grid. However, doing so means you can’t check fantasy scores, scores from other games and you must inform almost the entire staff and most of the students that you don’t want to know anything. It equates to a long day of keeping your head down, walking past people you normally say hello to and maintain brief conversations. The nice part is being able to watch with a group after work, if you all go off the grid, or catching the fourth quarter of a game before work (in a classroom of someone who has bought the package.) Biggest pro was the refreshing freedom of the Super Bowl. There are all sorts of events people can attend to catch the big game but this year A and I were in Vietnam when the game was played. Not only were we traveling we were in a remote area that had no idea about the game. I kept my phone off and we spent the day hiking through Sapa, Vietnam. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, normally an event that my day is planned around. However, it was nice to cut ties, sure it helped the Bears weren’t in the game, but I enjoy sports regardless and I must say it was nice to not know and to not care. It was nice to appreciate the beauty of a fantastic place in the world instead of a spectacle.
By the time the NCAA tournament came around everyone here still found time to complete brackets. One of the nice things about the tournament is that it’s a weekend event and on the first weekend it is always on for 12 hours minimum. Thus we were able to catch many of the games here, especially since CBS allows you to view the games through the Internet. One of the best features though is that the Friday and Saturday night games are on during Saturday and Sunday mornings in China. There is something fantastic about waking up at 8:00am, having breakfast delivered and being able to drink a cappuccino on your couch while watching the game with friends. When the games end at 10:00am there is still plenty of uninterrupted day left. We were in Thailand during the Sweet 16, which allowed many people the chance to gather in the hotel and watch prior to attending the conference. Pro of the NCAA tournament is definitely being able to watch during the morning on the weekend.
The NHL is something I’ve become more interested in over the last five year, yes it helps that the Chicago Blackhawks have won the Stanley Cup twice in that time period. Halfway through the season I bought the NHL package, I really wanted to see the Stadium Series games and they all aired during the weekend. Much like the NCAA tournament many hockey games are played early in the morning during the weekend, so you can see them live. Additionally, like the NFL package, you can replay games without commercials and watch them later. Though the additional perk here is that there are not many people who I interact with that will spoil the outcome during the day. Therefore, by not checking I can watch the games after dinner, with no commercials and all the excitement and anxiety that comes with watching the game live. During the playoffs I was much more interested in seeing the games live. I spent many morning waking up at 3:30am to catch the Blackhawks play. Thankfully, short of three OTs, the games ended in time for me to shower and arrive on time for work. Biggest pro of the NHL season, the NHL App. It worked on my phone, iPad, Computer or through our Apple TV. All in HD and allowing me to catch games live or commercial free replay, even during our vacation in Hong Kong.
There are pros and cons to watching sports abroad. I remember growing up there was a specific soft drink company that ran a commercial featuring a young man getting ready to go out in the middle of the night. Eventually he wound up in a small local restaurant, early in the morning, in an Asian city watching a football game. Ironically, for me this commercial captures what it’s like for me to watch sports these days. During the World Cup a bunch of us went to a restaurant at 6:00am to watch the USA play. Afterwards a fwife of one of us in attendance stated, “Only in China would a bunch of quasi soccer fans get up at 6:00am before work to watch the game and all of them wearing jerseys.” That about sums up the fun of watching sports in China.