At the moment, there are two things I don’t have that every good sports fan should: cable TV and a lot of free time. Well, that’s not totally true. I have the free time, I just fill it with other things because I don’t have cable. So that one’s the real problem, I guess. The end effect is that over the last months, I’ve spent more time watching GameCasts than I have watching games.
GameCasts, for the uninitiated, are a great way to “watch” games on your computer or your phone. They don’t show the game’s video, and there are no commentators; they simply provide a running list of every event in the game. Every shot, every pitch, every handoff and every faceoff is shared by the mighty GameCast, with its unerring memory and its total ignorance of whether or not a play was any good. Next to the running “here’s what’s happening” window is an endless stream of statistics, fun facts about the game, scores from around the league, and all the links and information your little heart could desire.
The upside of GameCasts? They don’t get me in trouble at work, mostly. (Except for the ads that play every fifteen minutes or so on ESPN, but fortunately a Chevy ad is somewhat less obviously-not-work-related than John Sterling yelling “an A-Bomb from A-Rod!” or Joe Buck saying whatever he says that always makes me fall asleep.)
The downside? Every play is the same. Whether it’s Marshawn Lynch running 67 yards through every defender, fan, band member, brick wall and black hole in his way or Clinton Portis just being pretty fast, whether it’s Hill to Laettner for the win or just a tip-in layup, GameCast sees everything with its same unbiased, emotionless eye. There’s no Gus Johnson to yell at dog-friendly decibels when something important is happening, no Dick Vitale to scream himself halfway to a heart attack every time someone makes a 3. To watch the GameCast is to have the emotional part of your brain removed and keep only the levelest of heads, to stick to “just the facts, ma’am.” No emotion does, of course, make it easier to not get caught at work, but I miss the fist-pumping and at-the-TV yelling.
Believe me, I try to get emotional about it. Watching a GameCast is the only time in my life I’ve ever stared at two unchanging numbers on a screen for ten minutes before realizing the game was at commercial. It’s also the only time I’ve ever seen a zero change to a 1 on my computer and yelped out loud, another not-work-friendly activity. But maybe Deion is right:
I can tell you right now, or at least as soon as this Mazda commercial ends, that the Yankees are winning 6-0, that Grady Sizemore just struck out swinging after a five-pitch at bat, that the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs are all winning right now too, and that the Yankees have a 14.1% chance of scoring more than two runs this inning. I can tell you all of that because ESPN told me so, right from the GameCast. I’d only know the first two facts if I were at the game, or if I were watching it on TV.
I can’t tell you whether or not Sizemore struck out swinging for the fences, or just daintily poked at the ball and missed. I can’t tell you if CC Sabathia looks unflappable, as dominant as a 6-0 lead should make you look. I can’t tell you if the fans are into the game, or if Derek Jeter being 2-3 means he’s really healthy again and headed for a turnaround, or just got lucky twice in a row. I can’t tell you any of those things because the GameCast didn’t tell me. What the GameCast tells me is useful during after-game conversations or in bar bets, but knowing that Marshawn Lynch ran 67 yards on 2nd and 10 to score a touchdown is only half the battle. You don’t know the story without knowing how many tackles he broke, and just how unwilling he was to not score a touchdown.
I’m watching the GameCast right now, but I’d rather be watching the game. I’m not sure I am.