I recently returned from a long trip. As I went through my piled-up emails, and clicked around ESPN.com and my sports sections, I realized something: you're almost completely out of touch with your familiar sports world when you travel. I currently have somewhere between the faintest and not a single clue what's going on right now. Did the Blackhawks squeak into the playoffs? Is there still an NFL lockout? Who the fuck is Michael Pineda?
It's a strange feeling, to be so utterly removed from the sports minutiae that normally dominates your day. Perhaps because I associate it with work, it's not totally unpleasant. But it still manifests as an odd combination of bewilderment and outrage: how dare life continue as normal without me around?
At first, you fight it. You seek out every snippet of information you can find from back home, some of which filter through no matter where you are. But if I have to watch the 30-minute loop of satellite news one more time, I'm going to scream. You're never as well versed in international affairs than you are after staying in a hotel room, where the news is usually the only worthwhile thing on. But you're also subject to the whims and tastes of a different culture. While I can tell you everything about the second legs of the Champions League quarterfinals, I can only tell you two things about American sports: Rory McIlroy imploded at the Masters, and Manny Ramirez got busted for doping, and retired. While you lived and died with your teams, trying to make the playoffs, trying to get a good start to their spring, some news director in a foreign country decided that none of that matters, that Sebastian Vettel's Formula 1 victories mean more than your favorite team. Humbling, and in the grand scheme, probably correct.
You get desperate. I found the expat hangout in town, found out they were airing a meaningless Monday afternoon Detroit/Texas game, seriously considered watching it there. I contemplated making small talk with a 10-year-old child at the airport and his burqa-clad mother, because the kid had a Yankees backpack.
While touring one of the world's grandest mosques, I overheard a fellow tourist mention something about New York. Were they from there? Should I ask them if the Rangers made the playoffs on the final day of the season? Even if they were from New York, would they even follow hockey? How angry was I making god right then by even thinking about this?
You'll go to great lengths to stay informed. When I was 12, my family vacationed in London. The only option for sports scores was to read them in the paper, more than 24 hours after the game occurred. With my team in one of their first pennant races of my young life, this was unacceptable. So my father would call the local Associated Press bureau each morning and ask what our team did the night before.
You're probably picturing wartime London now, felt hats, peasoup fog, Edward R. Murrow. But this was in 1996. That's recent memory, and it seems like the dark ages compared to today.
I had my phone with me, turned off to avoid data charges. But when I could find a WiFi hotspot, the wonders of technology were mine again. This is a screengrab of the MLB.com At Bat application, bringing me Bartolo Colon in all his sweaty, chubby glory, nearly real-time, from 5000 miles away. Sure, the picture wasn't perfect, and the video could be jumpy. But Louis C.K. had it right: it's coming from fucking outer space, and I need to quit my bitching.
So you're no longer completely out of touch if you don't wish to be. But you'd still miss out on perhaps the most important part of the sports experience. What if Troy Tulowitzki had hit seven home runs in a game, or Alex Ovechkin recorded a playoff Ovechtrick, or Blake Griffin had ripped the stanchion out of the Staples Center floor? I would have had no one to discuss it with, been unable to watch the Around the Horn panel get bent out of shape, missed the newspaper back pages. The world isn't flat, Thomas Friedman, though it is flatter. But even on a flat earth, sometimes you're still too far away to see things clearly. I look forward to watching my crappy little RSN this weekend, and getting far too worked up over a children's game, played well.