Time-shifting has its limits

I get a kick out of that Viagra commercial where the guy is sitting on the couch watching some show on TV. His wife walks by him and flashes a look that can only mean one thing and slinks off to the bedroom. The guy is torn because he wants to watch his show. But he suddenly has an epiphany and pops a tape into his VCR before heading off for a romp in the hay.

What is this, 1987? A VCR is used as his time-shifting medium of choice in the present era? What he SHOULD be doing is setting his Tivo/DVR to finish recording the program (and any subsequent showings) before heading off to enjoy some bedroom fun. Granted, Viagra's target audience is older and probably would be more likely to still use their VCR. But still . . .

Tivos and DVRs have proven themselves EXTREMELY valuable when it comes to time-shifting. I no longer worry about having to sit down to catch my favorite shows live anymore. I simply have it automatically record them and then I can watch them at my leisure.

But time-shifting does have its limits. The World Cup is just the latest scenario that has made this abundantly clear. Most of the games come on during the middle of the day on weekdays while I'm at work (unfortunately I no longer have cable in my office.) Recording them is no problem. Quickly surf/search through the program guide and it's all taken care of for the entire week in just a few seconds.

What IS the problem is trying to avoid finding out the results before you get a chance to watch the games. Virtually everywhere you can turn there's a chance to spoil the game by finding out the outcome before you watch it. The news, radio, co-workers, friends, public places (and the one that's REALLY tough to avoid as scores can literally pop-up anywhere) the Internet. I gave it a valiant effort. I didn't watch the news. I didn't listen to sports radio. I covered my ears and walked away if I ever heard a conversation discussing the World Cup. I even did an amazing job of avoiding the usual places online where you might find out the outcome - Yahoo, sports forums, ESPN.com, any sort of general news/headlines sites, etc.

But despite a deeply concerted effort I have been able to watch only 1 out of 6 games this week WITHOUT knowing the outcome beforehand - and that's only because I watched that one live. The other 5 games were all 'spoiled' for me before I had a chance to watch them. It definitely takes a lot of the fun out of an otherwise excellent game when you know Germany is going to knock off Argentina with penalty kicks.

Time-shifting definitely has its place when it comes to regular TV viewing of things like sitcoms, movies, dramas, etc. But when it comes to sports (and particularly international events where the games are played earlier in the day 'our' time) time-shifting isn't a very practical. You can maybe hit pause while you get up for a bathroom break or even to eat a meal; time-shifting on a short scale. But the newsworthy nature of sports makes it virtually impossible to pull off over the span of more than a few hours.

This will once again rear its ugly head in a big BIG way in a couple years when the Summer Olympics come to Beijing. We won't be able to enjoy a truly 'unspoiled' Olympics again until it comes back to the US or maybe some other Western hemisphere country like Mexico or Brazil.


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