Welcome to the second day of our experiment. Here are the rules: No live sports, no news wrap-ups, no talk shows, no documentaries, no pregame or postgame cacklefests. Nothing but a computer and a phone to get through the week.
Day Two: NHL
The NHL has some of the most obsessively loyal fans of any sport, and yet it's the only sport that cancelled an entire season because of labor disputes. Both of those factors contribute to the NHL of today, which does its level best to please the puckheads who have remained loyal through all the downs and, uh, lower downs of the sport's recent history.
Take, for instance, NHL GameCenter. It's hockey's online HD streaming service, and for a mere $119 a year or $23.95 a month, you get access to up to 40 games a week. You can watch them one at a time, or you can totally overstimulate yourself with up to four games at once in a mosaic format. Each game has stop/rewind capability, onscreen stats spool out continuously throughout the game, and if your team is in penalty-killing mode, an alert tips you to which teams might be on the power play so you can switch over.
One slick NHL move is the condensed-game functionality. Provided you can avoid spoilers, you can watch a 10-minute version of last night's games at 8 a.m. ET every morning. Perfect for breakfast accompaniment, the train ride in to work, or an early-morning coffee break. Those sports honchos think of everything!
You can stream the games through a whole range of devices, from PS3 to Boxee to Roku to iPad. While the HD quality may vary depending on your device and connection, the bottom line is this: it's an all-you-can-eat hockey buffet. Belly up!
Now, there are some drawbacks, most significantly the blackout rules. You don't get to watch games on the national networks (Versus, NBC, NHL Network) live; you have to wait 48 hours for their replays. And local broadcasts are also blacked out.
Of course, if your team gets eliminated from the playoffs, why not harken back to some classic moments of the near and distant past? GameCenter also features the NHL Vault, which, for $4.95 a month, gives you access to classic hockey games.
So here's a head-scratcher for you: NASCAR might just have the most plugged-in fans of any sport. Why? Because NASCAR is the only sport which has every single competitor on the playing field at the exact same moment, which makes it exhilarating for fans but an absolute nightmare to telecast. After all, when you've got 43 cars all drivin' fast and turnin' left, how can just one camera view possibly catch all the action?
Answer: It can't. That's why even casual NASCAR fans tap into unending streams of data on every single driver -- lap speeds, pit road times, even driver conversations. NASCAR fans are accustomed to watching every race with a television on and a computer running, so you'd think NASCAR would take advantage of this online-savvy market by presenting races in every format imaginable.
NASCAR already has a curious strategy for broadcasting its races; the entire series picks up and switches networks three times during the season. (Four, if you count switches between ABC and ESPN.) From Fox to TNT to ESPN, the sport dilutes its influence and loses fans with every switchover.
Which would be fine if fans could keep up online. But because of a tangled thicket of rights and some curious decisions by the sport's higher-ups, only six races -- those broadcast by TNT in the middle of the summer --are simulcast online. And there's no indication this will change anytime soon, despite the fact that those TNT online broadcasts draw near-universal acclaim. TNT's “RaceBuddy” gives viewers the chance to choose their own camera to watch the race, along with stats, updates and social connections.
NASCAR fans already sift through piles of online information like they root through coolers looking for that last beer. They'd love it if they could watch a race at the same time.