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I recently returned from a 10-day trip to France and Belgium. It was my first time visiting the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I spent the weeks prior wondering if I’d be able to keep up with the fast-moving sports world while there.
I was walking past Notre Dame for the third time that week when someone yelled those words at me. It took a second for me to process. It was the first time that I had worn the orange-and-brown Padres hat that I brought along on the trip. Apparently, fandom and tourism do mix. Luckily, that was not the only experience I had with baseball in France.
Knowing that it was a crucial time in the season for the Padres, I brought along a laptop and an iPad, hoping to access my MLB.TV account. I was a little concerned when attempts to watch Hulu on the first night were thwarted with a message about not being able to watch outside of the USA. I also didn’t figure the time difference into my endeavor until I got to Paris, which is when I realized why professional baseball has yet to capture Europeans’ hearts. Most MLB games are played between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. on that side of the world. I set my alarm for 4 a.m. and crossed my fingers that MLB.TV didn’t mind European viewers.
The good news: I was able to watch as much Padres baseball as I wanted, and that the iPad MLB At Bat app makes it incredibly easy to dig through the box score or look at pitch tracker while viewing the game. The bad news: besides the feed being about a full minute behind the live broadcast (and, therefore, Twitter), is that I now had a reason to set an alarm for 4 a.m. for nearly every day of my trip.
For someone who has never attended a double-header, and loved Ernie Banks’ motto “Let’s play two!” I did find joy in the fact that scheduling creates one day each week in which there are two Padres games in a single day in France. Games air in San Diego on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, but they air in France at 4 a.m. Sunday and again Sunday night. You’ve never truly experienced baseball the right way until you’ve started and ended your day with Padres games.
Trying to keep up with the NBA Finals, which were also airing in the wee hours of the morning in Paris, proved a bit more difficult.
The NBA Game Time app wouldn’t allow live-streaming because the games were being aired on a national network in the U.S. I checked all of the channels in the hotel room, hoping that Tony Parker’s home country would be interested in airing his quest for another championship with the San Antonio Spurs, but found nothing. I ended up following as best I could with Twitter and the live box score but ultimately missed out on what many are calling the two best NBA Finals games in the last decade.
Perhaps the biggest difference, as a sports fan in Europe, is how few references there were to sports.
Billboards mostly advertise food and drink, with a few pushing for proper manners on the subway, and they’re relying on the product to speak for itself instead of having an athlete do the work. The only celebrities I saw in advertisements were Cameron Diaz and Leonardo Dicaprio, in ads for watches, and even those were rare. If you didn’t see soccer fields littered throughout the country, you might believe that Europe was a world without sports because of the way they prevent it from bleeding into the rest of their lives.
I’m usually up early in the morning, so being a Padres fan in France wasn’t that bad.
But it’d be nice if technology reached a point where it’s easy to watch all American professional sports abroad.