Now I'm a cycling fan and not only on the bike but also on the couch watching the professionals perform. The biggest race of them all is the Tour de France. Now I don't want to talk here about what happened in the race. This posting is the challenges I had watching it. And watching it taught me a lot about culture. And especially it showed me the difference between the European and American culture. When I was in San Francisco in 2000 the Tour de France was on television. There were only two problems in watching it. One it was broadcasted 6 weeks later and secondly it was horrible trying to watch it. It would show 3 minutes of cycling, commercial break, a 2-minute interview with Armstrong, another commercial break.
This year in that sense it was much better. It was live on Versus and apart from the commercial breaks they broadcasted it from start to finish. But watching it in itself is not enough. Cycling is a complicated sport. On the surface it looks like 180 guys just sitting on a bike for 4-5 hours and in the end of the day the best one wins. But that's not quite how it works. It's all about saving your energy for that defining moment. That's why you have team mates who get water, catch other riders and set tempo. In the end it all boils down to who's doing what, when, where and why. So you need commentators who explain the motivations behind what the cyclists do. In my opinion the Belgians are the best. They come from a long tradition of cycling (longer then the Dutch). They are closer to the French and the Italians then the Dutch (both in kms and in their life-style). And they still speak Dutch! But how to get them?
In this time and age of internet there are lots of ways to get information about Tour de France. On cyclingnews.com (an australian cycling website) I can follow it live by text updates. On sporza.be and nos.nl/nosstudiosport/ I can get all kinds of overviews and also text updates. Now in theory I could watch at the live broadcast on these websites. But unfortunately there's something like geocoding which stops that. It's all rights based. The French television sells the exclusive rights to the national associations in Europe. The NOS in Holland and VRT in Belgium etc. and unfortunately they can block me based on my location (my IP address). One solution I employed was that I would watch the cycling on Versus and then either listen to the Dutch Radio or the Belgian Radio. The big problem with the radio was that it plays music in between commentary. Very annoying.
And then one day I found this Widget for Mac OSX which allowed me to watch it and listen to the Dutch commentary. Someone had forgotten turn on the geocoding off this widget. The problem was that the image was so small that you almost couldn't see anything. So I tunred on the TV, muted it and then listenend to the Dutch TV commentary. Great solution except that there was a time delay of about 30 seconds between the TV and the Dutch commentary. Doable. Not easy, but do-able. In a way that created a kind of time warp. Almost a power game. There I am knowing before the 'Dutch' what's happening. So I am trying to anticipate what the reaction of the 'Dutch' will be. Will they see it. Will they call it correctly?
In a way it's the ultimate experience. TV, 4-6 websites, 2 internet radio channels. Using them all to get the most. The good thing was how it showed how each country/culture look at cycling completely different. Cause while the imagery was the same the commentaries were all determined by each of the countries cultures.