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No game? No way.
To a stubborn band of Chargers fans, the television blackout of Sunday’s home game is no time for surrender. They will watch the game, they will watch it live, and the NFL can suck on a pigskin.
But how? It turns out that road trips computers and smart phones all offer potential solutions to the I-must-watch-this-now conundrum. Here’s a quick rundown of how you can spend your Sunday afternoon with the Bolts without a radio (or a ticket).
Get Outta Town
TV blackouts exist because the NFL wants people to buy tickets to football games until there aren’t any more and not sit at home on the couch. If a game isn’t sold out, the thinking goes, the threat of a blackout will convince diehard fans to pony up for tickets.
So the NFL requires teams to sell out games within 72 hours of game time or risk a blackout. Last month, the Chargers home opener was blacked out. As Time Magazine reports, this was unusual for both the team (its first blackout since 2004) and the NFL (where blackouts for top teams with playoff prospects are rare).
Now Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals is blacked out too. That means TV stations can’t broadcast the game live if their signal reaches within 75 miles of Qualcomm Stadium. That knocks out stations in San Diego, Los Angeles, Tijuana and Palm Springs, no matter whether you use satellite, cable or an antenna to watch them.
But you can take a road trip, like reader Debbie Ramos who emailed this: “We’ll be heading to our trailer on the Colorado River in the Imperial Valley to catch the game!”
Indeed, drive a couple hours east and you should be able to find a bar showing the game in El Centro, since the Yuma TV stations are exempt from the blackout. The same goes up the coast in Santa Barbara, which has TV stations of its own, and Las Vegas.
Fire Up Your Laptop
If you feel like contributing to the delinquency of a lawbreaking football fan elsewhere in the country, you can go online and watch an illegal live stream of the game.
Chargers fan John Crean explained via email how he finds a stream:
Usually I’ll begin by Googling for live NFL streams, and I’ll get one of the more prominent video-sharing websites. Invariably, someone will have a video playing that is nothing more than a graphic with a URL for another video sharing site. Sometimes I have to follow links four or five levels deep before I get the stream I want, but I’m able to get the game I want to get about 95 percent of the time.
The people streaming the games will likely have some sort of video-capture device on their computers, whether it’s an actual TV tuner on the computer that turns the computer into a TV, or they can plug their external cable/satellite box into their computer and broadcast that over the internet.
The nice thing about the streaming from a fan’s point of view is that no matter how much the NFL tries to knock someone down, another stream will pop up elsewhere.
The Union-Tribune says sites offering live streams of games include atdhe.net, justin.tv, channelsurfing.net and my2p2.eu: “Some are more reliable than others, depending on bandwidth and demand for a particular game. Some disappear from cyberspace, only for others to magically appear — making policing them akin to the whack-a-mole carnival game.”
Keep in mind that these sites are, as Chargers fan Brent Bernasconi put it in an email, “less than reputable” (not that it’s going to stop him). Live-streaming a football game is illegal, and the NFL has been cracking down: “We have sent take-down and cease-and-desist letters to the sites that host unauthorized streams of NFL games,” said spokesman Dan Masonson via email. “We are diligent in our enforcement. These sites are on notice that we are prepared to take further legal action if they continue.”
Is it legal to watch games through an illegal stream? It’s unclear. But offering a live stream to a crowd may be legally dicey: the U-T says the NFL sent stop-that letters to bars and restaurants in the Tampa area that showed a blacked-out game and warned them about copyright violations. “This week we are stepping up our monitoring of San Diego-area establishments and internet streaming,” Masonson told the U-T.
Ethics is another matter. Is it morally right to watch an illegal stream? “The way I see it, and can justify it, the NFL is not losing any money off of me streaming the video,” Crean said. “I can’t afford to go to the game in the first place, so it’s not even an option for me to go buy a ticket.”
Phone It In
Got a smart phone? Then listen to what Valerie Due does:
We watched the season home opener on our HDTV at home in Pacific Beach simply by connecting our Verizon smartphone — with free NFL games live — to the TV input. Verizon streams all games live on smartphones with data packages, and they sell the cable connector.
The HTC Incredible, some full-screen Blackberries, and the Droid X all allow video to TV via “TV Out” cables (it’s USB-to-TV composite video on the Incredible; the Droid X & Sprint’s Evo offer true HDMI output but Sprint doesn’t have live streaming games). Other smartphones may do so as well; check your smartphone’s specs or manual.
What is required is a special micro USB-to-composite-video cable that includes a power adapter (in other words, the cable itself splits, so that you can have the phone plugged in while you’re streaming video to the TV, which hogs battery power). Verizon sells the cable, but it’s available at electronics stores and on Amazon. Buy the TV Out cable for your Verizon smartphone, hook it to your TV, and invite your friends over to watch the blacked-out game.
I’m not exactly sure what she just said. But just showing up at her door with popcorn should be pretty simple.
Correction: This story initially quoted NFL spokesman Dan Masonson as saying this about the legality of watching illegal feeds of football games: “I’m assuming it’s not, but I don’t know for sure.” He didn’t make that statement.
Masonson responded to my questions via email. I assumed the words after my question about the illegal feeds were his answer. In fact, he didn’t answer the question. The words were mine, from my initial query. The story has been corrected. I regret the error.
Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.