Baseball at 2:00 a.m.: The postseason from the other side of the pond

{exp:list_maker}1. Wake up at 1:00 a.m.
2. Watch the game.
3. Have breakfast around the sixth or seventh inning.
4. If the game ends quickly, take a nap.
5. Go to work and try to look alert.
6. Back home, have dinner.
7. Go to bed early.
8. Repeat until the end of the World Series. {/exp:list_maker}
That’s what it takes to watch the postseason for someone living in Europe, six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

Actually it hasn’t always been that easy.

The ’70s: U.S. bases radio

Note: I was born at the very end of the decade, so this paragraph is more retelling than personal experience.

There was no way in Italy to watch MLB back in the ’70s, but there were baseball nuts who just kept turning their radio toggle until they found some station broadcasting the World Series for the benefit of U.S. soldiers serving in European bases. I personally know one guy who became a Red Sox fan after following the 1975 Fall Classic this way—and he didn’t even speak English!

The ’80s: VHS making the rounds

Video cassette players and recorders began to appear in Italian houses in the ’80s. Thus, the potential for a new and enhanced way to follow Major League Baseball was there. But you needed to find someone who actually possessed tapes of the World Series. I was kind of lucky. One of the best national baseball teams plays in my city, and back then it usually employed a couple of U.S.-born players as imports, and the imports had the tapes!

I was not too far behind in the queue for getting the cassettes as I played second base in the under-15-years-old team, and the U.S. players occasionally came to our practice to teach us a some baseball fundamentals. Trouble was, the first kid who got the tapes (on a promise of creating duplicates, because he owned two recorders) was the one taking forever watching the games. And when he finally passed along the yearned-for treasure, there was no trace of the promised duplicates.

It wasn’t that bad—I believe I even watched one World Series before the ensuing season began! Well, maybe memory is failing here, probably it was before the ensuing season ended.

The ’90s: enter Pay-TV

The 90s brought Pay-TV to Italy. In the beginning there were just two pay channels, one for movies and one for sports. You didn’t even need a dish to receive them. Also, without the decoder you would get a mute version of the broadcast with negative colors.

I perfectly remember a light-skinned Otis Nixon, wearing a black Braves uniform, laying down a two-out bunt with a runner on third and running on the green base paths. He did not reach the black first base bag in time, and the Yellow Jays celebrated their first World Championship.

I never got Pay-TV. In the beginning, I couldn’t get over the fact that I had to pay to watch TV. (Moreover, I wasn’t earning any money back then as I was in high school.) Then things became more complicated: You needed the dish, for one. Then each year it wasn’t clear whether the sport channels would broadcast MLB (the only reason for which I would remotely start thinking about paying to watch TV).

So the ’90s, like the ’80s, were a decade of VHS for me. And since the number of people subscribing to Pay-TV was growing, I was able to get the tapes first-hand, a big improvement over the wait-for-the-kid-who-promised-the-duplicates times. In the ’90s, I watched the games no later than a week after they were played, and very often, a few hours after they had been completed.

There was a little problem in the 90s: Tape measure. No, I’m not talking about moon shots by the biggest sluggers. The videocassettes had a capacity of four hours at most, and with the extended postseason commercial breaks, sometimes the game would not fit onto the tape. That did not occur every time, just in game going to extra innings.

Can anybody tell me what happened when Luis Gonzalez went to the plate to face Mariano Rivera? And what about Charles Nagy versus Edgar Renteria?

Third millennium: MLB.tv

I got my first MLB.tv subscription just in time to witness the Red Sox sweep the Cardinals and end their eight decades long World Series drought. MLB.tv was the deal I was looking for: Pay to watching baseball and nothing else. (Pay-tv offered a limited number of games plus a lot of other stuff, not baseball or sports related, I didn’t care for.)

Thus, for the last few years, I’ve been able to watch the postseason live (and the regular season’s day games, too).
And that’s why you don’t get any article from Max Marchi in October (look back at the eight points listed at the beginning of this article, which I wrote back in June).

Why not the following day?

You might ask why can’t I watch the game the following day after work. Well, I tried that in the past. Theoretically, I would just need to stay away from the internet and e-mail to avoid knowing the result before watching the game. Though that’s increasingly challenging in the third millennium, it can be done.

TV is not a problem. There is so little interest in baseball here in Italy that the chances you hear the World Series result on air are slim to none. (Exception: When the Red Sox broke The Curse, it made the news). For the same reason, you’ll hardly run into a baseball nut who can’t wait to tell you about the game. And the few baseball nuts, as soon as they meet you, they first ask you if you have already watched the game, to avoid playing the spoiler.

So, why not? Because every time you plan to watch the game the following day after work, you run into somebody (either at work or during the commuting), who couldn’t care less about baseball. He will tell you the outcome of the game. He is not armed with bad intentions; on the contrary, he wants to please you, letting you know he knows about that strange game you like.

Because of that, it’s been three years since the last time I tried to watch games on a 12-hours delay. And because of that, as you read this, my boss is trying to figure why I look like a zombie.

Poll

What’s the most annoying character / event in this story?
{exp:list_maker}a. The kid not doing the duplicates
b. Running out of tape on the deciding at-bat
c. The guy who doesn’t give a damn about baseball for 364 days a year telling you the outcome of the Series. {/exp:list_maker}

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Comments

  1. cktai said...

    Definitely c. I’ve had that myself too often. You try to make yourself oblivious to the results by not checking out the regular baseball websites, only to have it all ruined by someone who couldn’t care less about the game. For me that usually is the Dutch television. They never actually air the MLB but sometimes they decide to randomly give out results, especially during the postseason.

  2. Will said...

    As a Phillies fan living in London I was almost relieved when they lost to the Cards.  The psychological benefits of a long playoff run are far outweighed by the quality of life trade-off of going to bed safe in the knowledge that you don’t care who wins that night and not feeling stressed about going to bed at 2am with a tenuous 1 run lead.  I don’t worry about c. because I’ve never been able to watch a game that I know has already been played even if I don’t know the result.  b. would be far more annoying to me (except for the fact that I don’t watch tape delayed games).  Ciao.

  3. Ron said...

    I’m an American living in the UK. My boss keeps asking me why I’m so tired all the time. If I had know the Cardinals would make it this far, I would have taken all of my holiday time.

    I was in Europe in the 60’s as a kid. Armed Forces Radio was the only way to get the game, but I was too young to stay up and wasn’t really aware of the game.

    In the 80’s, we did get it on Armed Forces television, but it was the same schedule you listed.

    In Korea, it was impossible, except for the weekends. The games started in the middle of the duty day.

  4. Phil J said...

    Born and raised in the UK, so I’ve had similar issues – there was sporadic televising of the playoffs in the mid 80s (though the 1988 season had a superb weekly magazine show that condensed a game into an hour, which was always commentated by Vin Scully….) and maybe 2 or 3 live games as part some “foreign sports” overnight show in the 90s before it began being televised live twice a week by a new channel that was looking to fill airtime overnight – it was very successful for them too, building a cult following.

    As for these days, I have tried getting up at 4:30 or 5am for Angel playoff games over the last 10 years, but that’s never been pleasant – these days, I would try and record it and watch it on x6 speed the next morning if I was short of time. But the WS is tough to avoid – it means you can’t go on Facebook or Twitter or watch Sky Sports News or go to the BBC website. The big pain is often that recording it doesn’t get the end of the game – with WS games often running a lot longer than normal with ad breaks.

    NASN and now ESPN America have changed my whole experience of baseball though, there’s so much I don’t actually worry about missing games, as there’s so much that I know another game is around the corner. I had MLB.tv last season which was superb as I could watch games on Saturday/Sunday morning every weekend, but I have a baby now, so that’s largely gone wink

  5. Bojan Koprivica said...

    Max, I feel your pain.

    Being an A’s fan in Europe, I love their East coast trips, as even the day games in Coliseum don’t end before 1 AM here.

    I went the similar way. VHS cassettes, Pay TV, MLB.tv. With the MLB.tv it was always the problem watching it on the next day, because you had to go to the scoreboard page of mlb.com and then click the TV icon without seeing the score. Often, a list with the titles of the game highlights would appear as I was watching, like “Wagner closes it out in the ninth”, or “Gardenhire on miraculous comeback”, so that took some suspense out of watching it.

    Now I record the games on Pay TV and watch them later. Actually, right now, on a Saturday morning I am in the middle of the negotiations with my wife whether I will first watch the Brewers game or fix the garden…

  6. Bob Sanchez said...

    C for sure.  I’m in Japan, which leaves me firing up the grill and eating hot dogs for breakfast while I watch on the computer.

    We couldn’t get live games through MLB.com until partway through the 2009 season, so we had to hope that teams had Japanese players and that Japanese satellite TV would carry some playoff games live.

    I remember purposely saving the end of the 2009 WS for the 7 p.m. broadcast, and I made it through the entire day at work and around town without hearing anything…

    …then, some yahoo left their copy of the evening newspaper in plain sight by the mailboxes in the lobby of my apartment building.  Hideki Matsui had been named Series MVP, so that was splashed all over the front page.

    Come on, an evening newspaper? In 2009?  And THAT is what’s going to ruin it?  Not a problem now with games live on MLB.com.

  7. TFD said...

    I know exactly what it is like.

    Here in Southern Germany we used to have AFN / AFRTS coming out the American bases, and now MLB.TV is a godsend.

    However, when the Cubs finally make it to the World Series, then I will fly to the States.

  8. corpsa said...

    Hi, sounds sooo familiar. I am a big Brewers fan in Munich, Germany. It really made a big difference to my next day when the rescheduled game six against the Cards last week from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. CT (because the Tigers and Rangers did not go to a game seven) … Two additional problems with the 2:00 a.m. local schedule in Europe: (i) it is not a good time of the day for having beers if your first activity after the game is having breakfast and (ii) my wife will not watch with me (someone has to be rested up for the kids). Therefore, I really cherish every day game the Brewers play during the regular season …

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