Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch
cbertsch

Old News About New Media

When Comcast upgraded our local cable network this summer, I followed the company's instructions on where and how to get converter boxes for our televisions, all of which are pre-HD and 23" or less. But the third-party operation they had chosen to distribute these boxes was no longer in business. Although I could have driven out to Comcast's offices by the freeway, perhaps on the way to or from Costco, I somehow never managed to make it out there.

For this reason, we've been without all but the most basic traditional channels since June. I have missed being able to turn on the television late at night when I am too tired to read and too wound up to sleep. And I have been mad at myself when the Giants were playing the Diamondbacks and I couldn't watch the games because Fox Sports Net is one of the channels we've lost.

Had you told me in May that I'd be able to get by without any sports channels for months, I would have vehemently disagreed. What I didn't realize is that Comcast's upgrade to a fiber-optic network would finally make it possible to stream live events to our computers with enough consistency and resolution to make it seem as though our television had merely been ported over to new screens.

I know that most of you probably had this "A-ha!" moment long ago. For us, though, living in a household that was late to get a DVD player, still hasn't seriously considered a Blu-Ray machine, and never had -- or even desired -- a DVR, such revelations about the changing media landscape are usually deferred to the point where the novelty is that we still find novelty in other people's old news.

Having made that confession, though, I have to say how delighted I have been to be able to watch the television I do care about watching -- sports, primarily, and a little political comedy -- on my laptop in a variety of settings. Indeed, the absence of sports channels on our regular cable has actually strengthened my investment in sports by converting what used to be a read-the-match-report kind of approach to one where I actually watch a good number of things live and also sample the highlights from archived programming.

Baseball was my first sports love but one from which I'd grown increasingly estranged in recent years. Part of that had to do with my disappointment at the way the whole steroids scandal played out and, more specifically, what that meant for my de facto favorite player Barry Bonds. But not being able to watch my team very often had gradually made me forget how much I love the sounds of a baseball broadcast, how they remind me of my evenings with my father back in elementary school.

Once I'd signed up for MLB.com's internet radio service and, a little later, their video service as well, I was suddenly able to watch the Giants all the time. And I could also check in with the important match-ups in which I didn't have a strong rooting interest. In short, being able to watch games on my laptop significantly altered the way I spend my limited free time. Now I can rely on having something to relax with at any time of day or night. In addition, because I can carry my "television" wherever I go and use it as a radio, I can pay attention to games while doing other things as well.

As dated as this may sound to those of you with more sophisticated perspectives on new media, I am finding the sudden portability of my viewing options to be a great source of comfort while I struggle to make my way through a very difficult period in my life. Assuming Comcast shows up Sunday, we'll once again have a full complement of channels on our conventional televisions as well as a host of new features. But I sort of feel like the restoration of all those choices will seem superfluous in light of how I've come to watch "television" over the past few months.
Tags: autobiography, new media, sports, television
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