The perils of watching time-shifted tennis

The perils of watching time-shifted tennis

First world problem.

I record a lot of tennis on TiVo partly because it’s usually inconvenient to watch it live (time zone differences) and if I time-shift it, I can zap the commercials or skim matches I don’t have time to watch all of.

It’s gotten increasingly difficult to not have the outcomes of matches I’ve queued up be spoiled before I’ve gotten a chance to see them. I almost need to cut myself off from the outside world during a tournament I’m watching. Here are the various ways matches can be easily spoiled:

  • I follow tennis players on social media and they obviously are going to announce the outcomes of their matches.
  • I play tennis often and players love to chatter about matches and will spoil ones I haven’t watched. Even if I tell them not to spoil it, they’ll do it in some subtle way (e.g. If they say a match was “shocking”, then it’s probably the underdog that won).
  • Some places I go, like a tennis retailer or the club where I play, have a big TV blaring, showing a live broadcast of something I’m recording, so I have to avert my gaze and plug my ears.
  • I have a bunch of friends that are tennis buffs, and if I’m on my computer, there’s always a risk of getting a spoiler instant message.
  • Even though I’ve removed sports from my Google News feed, sometimes a tennis-related story will show up in the headlines either because it was super-dramatic or is the final match of one of the big 4 tournaments.
  • If I want to check the schedule of matches for a day, the schedules on-line are always updated to show live scores of in-progress matches.
  • Visiting a website that shows live tennis streaming is also a minefield. Typically, live scores will be somewhere on every page and when you click on a stream, you don’t know if it’ll start at the beginning or be live, spoiling what’s happened so far.
  • Watching archived matches can be easily spoiled by the mere fact that it always shows how much time is remaining. If it’s a best of 5 set match and one players is up 2 sets to none and there’s 45 minutes left, you already know the outcome of the match.
  • Archived matches sometimes show an image from the match where it’s usually not that hard to tell who won.
  • For the big 4 tournaments, coverage typically spans multiple channels and sometimes simultaneously. Watching one channel will typically spoil what you’re taping on the other channel, even if it’s just the score ticker at the bottom of the screen.
  • Some of the tournaments have iPhone apps that send push alerts that you need to remember to turn off. Otherwise, they love to send messages with match results, especially for upsets.
  • TiVo has this retarded “feature” (to avoid screen burn-in) where it will start playing live TV if you leave it alone for 30 minutes or so. When you turn the TV back on, suddenly it’s showing the live feed of something you haven’t yet watched from the beginning!
  • If I’m days behind on a tournament, just seeing the schedule of matches or a draw can spoil a match I haven’t yet seen (i.e. if I see someone is still in the tournament, I know they won the match I’ve yet to watch).
  • The silliest one that’s burned me is that, while watching a time-shifted match, I’ll look up one of the players on Google or in Wikipedia. Sometimes pages are updated so quickly that a match result may appear at the top especially if it’s significant.

And that’s just what came to mind just now, without thinking about it. Along with all these possible ways to spoil something, I think people have changed in general. I think people care more about the result rather than the drama of a match, so I think it’s kind of hard to get people to understand that you don’t want it to be spoiled. Also, I think everyone likes to be a publisher nowadays–Facebook, Twitter, blogs–so it can be irrestible to “break the news” to the world.