There was a time — back in the early 90s perhaps when there was virtually no internet and TV wasn’t international — there was a time I would be getting excited about now for March Madness. College hoops: a made-in-America TV extravaganza if ever there was one. Even back then I thought the first 38 minutes of any game was a waste of time; all the energy and excitement being carried by the last two minutes, which usually took about fifteen minutes to complete, what with time-outs and stoppages and ads.
But I knew my interest in basketball was only temporary. The problem was, I had lost touch with the sports that I really loved and grew up with: rugby, cricket, bicycle road racing. There was almost no coverage available from Vancouver. However, as the years past and the new millennium dawned and grew old, both TV and internet coverage gradually appeared, and I was able to rekindle my excitement.
Much as I hate the thought of Lance Armstrong having done anything useful, the fact that an American kept “winning” the Tour de France spurred coverage of cycling in North America more quickly than it might otherwise have done. NBC does a creditable job of showing many of the big races, but the TV side of the internet is key to following cycle road races in depth. European TV stations from the UK, France, Italy, and Spain cover every race — from the spring classics through the grand tours and onto the world championships in the late fall — and almost all are available online.
In cricket’s case, the availability of games all year round to me in Vancouver in 2016 is virtually limitless. This has mainly been brought about by a combination of status and diaspora. The rich of India have sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into cricket, primarily in the new form of the game known as T20, a game of which takes only about 4 hours and is designed to be exciting throughout. The wealth and success of the privately owned teams are status symbols of mythical proportions, The vastness of India’s TV population, and thus the available revenues, has allowed India’s cricket bureaucrats to control the international game for years.
The tens of millions of Indians who have moved and settled around the world did not want to give up their favourite sport, and thus an international TV and internet broadcast world has been created for them. I just hitch-hike on their highways and watch as much cricket as I want.
Rugby, again, has been favoured by being followed by TV stations around Europe, in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Many games at every professional level are available via the internet, all for free and a heavy dose of ad-blocker.
The reason I am rabbiting on about all this is because this March I have no time to even think about March Madness — I am living it. This month sees the beginnings of the cycling classics, along with several of the 7-day stage races that are preparation for the grand tours later in the year. It also sees the conclusion of the Six-Nations tournament — the senior northern hemisphere rugby trophy. England and Wales play this weekend in a game that will probably decide the Six Nations champion. Also this month we have the Cricket T20 World Cup; the premiere tournament for that form of the game, and a chance to see teams that are difficult to see otherwise. For example, this morning I watched Scotland lose to Afghanistan in an interesting match.
Fortunately or unfortunately, as they take place in Europe or India, many of these events crowd into a space that starts around 4am and finishes at 10 or 11am. Tomorrow’s schedule, for example, starts at 5:15 with the start of the Tirreno-Adriatico bike race, followed at 6am when Ireland plays a T20- match against Oman, and at 7am when the third stage of the Paris-Nice bike race shows up. It’ll all be over by about 10am. Thank goodness — perhaps then I’ll have the strength to crawl off for a nap.