It’s finally here! College football begins next weekend and the NFL a week after. But, when you live overseas certain sacrifices/adjustments have to be made to stay on top of your game. My apartment in Mongolia has satellite TV and it’s even in HD! I was surprised to find HBO and more excited to hear the ‘dum dum dum dum dah duhhh, dum dum dum dum dah duhhh” of Fox Sports as I flipped through the channels.
Could it be, the NFL in HD in English without trying to find a choppy stream on the Internet?
No, it could not be. Fox uses the same jingle to broadcast soccer games and one of the other sports channels has the audacity to use the slogan ‘Monday Night Football’ for a game of rugby. While the sports channels do show a lot of baseball, the chances of an NFL game let alone a college football game being broadcast are very slim. Furthermore, add in a twelve hour time difference, and it may be easier to become an Aussie rules football fan and forget American sports all together.
Luckily for me, years ago, I purchased a Slingbox and have seen the evolution and devolution of this technology as time has passed. It used to be that the Slingbox was not in HD but I could still watch it on my Blackberry with my unlimited international data plan. Before, I could be out at midnight and not miss a Umich football game. Now, the quasi HD stream has improved but the availability on smartphones because of the high data usage has made it more difficult for it to be enjoyed on the go. Furthermore, I’ve noticed more choppiness if I seek higher picture quality.
But instead of continuing to complain and give up completely, I’ve learned to adjust. To save you the headache of missing sports whether you are on the road for a few days or whether you are moving away for good, I am publishing this guide so you don’t have to watch the Atari-esque ESPN Gamecast.
Step 1: Purchase a Sling box.
For those of you who don’t know, a sling box is an adapter that plugs into your existing cable/satellite receiver and allows you to watch TV,and your DVR from anywhere you have broadband/fast mobile data. It’s just like watching for home and it’s a one time cost of buying the box. It’s quick to setup and by far the best solution for anyone who travels.
If you have Dish you can get a box for $30 but the features are limited compared to purchasing one from Sling directly.
Step 2: Sign up for a VPN.
Sometimes the Sling box fails me. Either the picture is crap making the players look like popcorn from the original Tecmo Bowl or the dumb Dish receiver says, “Receiver not responding. Power it off from the source and try again.” Thanks, but I’m 7000 miles away.
When Sling does not work, the natural inclination is to go on ESPN and watch the live stream. Great strategy until you receive another blue screen of death that says, “Content not available in your area.” The way around this is to sign up for a VPN (virtual private network) which allows you to change the location of your IP from your current location of Ulaanbaatar to, San Francisco, for example. After logging into your VPN, you can now watch ESPN and even HBO GO!
A VPN was necessary when I lived in China to access sites like Facebook which is routinely blocked. Personally, I paid for a premium VPN called WiTopia which was fast, private, and reliable.
Step 3: Shut Off Communication with the Outside World
Now, you have access to your favorite sports but keep in mind the time difference may be extreme. Michigan games usually start at noon which is Saturday at midnight in Asia. Do you sacrifice your Saturday nights throughout college football season to stay in and watch sports? Obviously yes, if it is Umich versus the loathsome team from Ohio. Probably not, if we are playing Rutgers.
At the same time, if you have to work on Monday, it will be difficult to watch the late NFL game and be in any shape to get stuff done in the office the following day.
The only work around of living in the future is to cut off communications with everyone. The annoying people who give play-by-play updates on social media, the people who like to mock you when your favorite team loses will ruin all your efforts to enjoy sports abroad if you do not do so.
Shut them off, come home, and watch football on your own terms.
Perhaps the reason to cut off all social media should extend beyond sports buts that’s an entirely different post.
Step 4: Pick a Football Team
Do you love the agony of the Wolverines losing or the frustration of another Lions defeat? Isn’t it especially crushing when you watch it at a sports bar live with that token Ohio State hater somehow always there even though it’s Michigan vs. Iowa. That camaraderie won’t be the same if you are talking trash twelve hours after watching a recording of your football game.
So to keep your reputation as a loud mouth at the sports bar, I recommend picking a new football team, a European one. Soccer is the universal sport and if you thought those USC fans were annoying, wait till you encounter some from Man U.
Also, picking a soccer club allows you to watch the game at home without dealing with steps 1-3.
Step 5: Watch It Live
Take note of where you live and get out of the house! Sure the Big House isn’t moving to Mongolia but there are plenty of local sports here with fierce competition and tradition. Mongolia’s wrestling, horse-racing, and archery dates back thousands of years making the oldest football trophy in college sports, the Little Brown Jug, a modern marvel.
Another advantage of watching an event live is that you don’t have to hear the annoying commentary of Joe Buck, Chris Collinsworth, or Doris Burke, by far the worst sportscasters in my opinion.
So there you have it, whether you are on the road for the weekend or out of the country for awhile, fear not, the orchestra of ESPN’s Monday Night football is as audible as ever.
Are you ready for some football!