This feature was originally published as part of, and thanks to, the RPS supporter program.
I don’t tend to watch very much sport, but as I’ve learned in recent years this isn’t because I’m adverse to the concept. It seems I was very much born in the wrong country. I find foot-to-ball achingly tedious to watch, cricket ludicrously slow and uneventful, rugby okay but far less fun than I think it could be. Tennis is the closest I get, but I’ve drifted away from that in recent years.
Baseball is my sport. That’s the one that clicked for me. But exclusively taking place at 1am-5am it’s a difficult one to keep up with. And then along comes the Olympics. It turns out the Olympics is packed with sports I’d love to be watching the rest of the four years, and best of all, sports that I can have running on one screen while playing a game on another.
I don’t think I’d much paid attention to the Olympics until 2012. Not because of some newly discovered local pride (I was desperately hoping they’d go to Paris to reduce the level of fuss), but because of the massive advancement in online streaming. Switch on BBC coverage of the event and you’d likely have only seen gymnastics (superb), swimming (weird – if I wanted to watch swimming, I could sit like some mad perv watching the local pool from the cafe window), or athletics (field: great, track: intensely boring). I guess I knew there were so many other sports, but between the two BBC channels of the era, they would determinedly only show the activities that they showed the rest of the year round.
In 2012, the BBC Sport site unveiled dozens and dozens of live feeds of every event, from archery to weightlifting, with fencing, shooting and table tennis between. Best of all, the quantity of footage was so high that they quickly ran out of brain-free bumbling idiots to commentate, meaning you could watch without a man telling you a slightly wrong version of what you’d just seen. And during that, I discovered water polo, handball and hockey. Sports I enjoyed watching!
They’ve always been there! They’re not played once every four years – they’re played all year round! It’s just either with no televised interest, or in other countries that do things much better. Handball, I think, was the sport that garnered the most surprised attention last time out, with lots of Brits amazed and delighted to discover this entertaining cross between five-a-side football, netball and cheating. The Dutch, Swedes, Danes and so on were all, “Well duh,” but it was completely new to this little island. And then the British teams promptly lost every match they were in, and all funding for the sport was withdrawn in the country, and it entirely went away.
It’s back now! Along with the almost identical-except-a-lot-wetter water polo, and both sports sit very happily on my left monitor while I work on my right. Admittedly with the sound off if I’m unlucky enough to have a man shouting slightly inaccurate descriptions of the visual media, because it makes it a little too tough to concentrate. But look, when I’m spending my time guiltily playing animated jigsaw puzzles it’s really the perfect accompaniment.
Not so great for more involving games, clearly – with NMS about to take up my every waking moment, I imagine I won’t get away with sneakily watching people beating the holy shit out of each other in order to throw a ball into a net. I shall have to figure out a way around this.
But you? Is there a sport you watch at the same time as you play? And Fifa doesn’t count.