Broadband: True friend to Vermont sports fans

I am an avid baseball fan and, even more so, a die hard Boston Red Sox fan. I can remember growing up in Vermont during the 1970s; trying to follow the Sox and other major league baseball teams here wasnt easy. For starters, you got to watch exactly two baseball games a week. NBC-TV carried a game every Saturday afternoon, and then there was Monday Night Baseball on ABC-TV. If my beloved Red Sox didnt make the playoffs, which was most of the time, I would be lucky to see them play four times a year. That meant I had to listen to there games on the radio, which was fine for day games, and I could tune into a local AM-radio station such as WSYB or WFAD. But during the week, when the Sox played at night, those stations wouldnt come in; I had to rely on radio station WTIC out of Hartford. Sometimes the reception was great, at other times it was not so hot. I dont know how many times I lost the signal at a critical point in a game and had to wait until the next day to find out what had happened. Thankfully, those days of spoty broadcasting are gone forever. First came cable television and the NESN network which covers most of the Red Sox games live. If NESN doesnt cover the Sox its because its being carried by another major network; I just need to find out what channel its on and turn to it. Now, instead of four games a year, I can watch all 162 games the Sox play. How cool is that? But wait, it gets even better. Aafter cable came the high-speed Internet. This opened up new access to the world of professional and college sports. My first lovebaseballwas served by going to MLB.com; for a reasonable fee, I can watch up to 12 major league games a day live on my computer. This past year MLB unveiled a new feature, the Mosaic, which allowed me to watch up to eight games at once, again, live on my computer. I could control which game I had the sound on for. I could even track up to 20 players. When these 20 players were on deckat bat, on base, pitching, or warming upthe system would alert me. By simply clicking on the alert I was transferred to that game. The MLB.com web site also offers an option, for a lower price, that enables you to listen to the radio broadcast of every major league game. Always crystal clear, no more being at the mercy of the Earths fickle atmosphere. But it gets even better. In the doldrums of winter, I can access the MLB library and watch or listen to classic games from years past. They have radio calls from games as far back as the 1930s or video coverage as old as the 1950s. Then there is the minor league web site MILB.com which offers the same options as the big league sites. Now I watch the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Portland Sea Dogs play. I can scout up and coming rookies, as well as watch injured players making minor league rehab starts. MILB.com, much like MLB.com, offers a game-day audio option where you can listen to all the radio calls of minor league games at a reasonable price. Maybe baseball isnt your cup of tea. It doesnt matter because both the National Hockey League (NHL.com) and the National Basketball Association (NBA.com) offer features that rival those found on MLB.com. On NHL.com you can subscribe to the NHL Center Ice package and watch up to 40 out-of-market games per week, including up to four at a time in their mosaic mode. The cost for this feature is $170 for the season, or $15 for the day. The site also provides what is the best professional sports deal on the internet, free radio coverage of every National Hockey League game. All you need is to have the Windows Media Player application and the site even provides you with a link to download itall for free. The National Basketball Association is right there, too, with the NHL and MLB. They offer either video coverage or audio coverage of numerous out of market games. As a fan of the San Antonio Spurs, I listen to many of the games when the team isnt being covered on television. The site also offers options that cover the European league, the D-League and the WNBA. For more information, visit NBA.com and explore all the options available. With all the good news about sports and the Internet, its now the National Football League thats being the stick in the mud. The NFL has yet to offer live video coverage of games over the Internet, but it does offer radio coverage of every preseason and regular season game for $29.95 a year. As a fan of the NFLs Oakland Raiders, a west-coast team that isnt very good lately, I found this more than reasonable. I listened to every Raider game so far in 2007; I plan on listening to the teams final two games as well. To a true fan who doesnt live in the market area of as favorite team, this type of access is priceless. So what about your old college team? Do you know how the alma maters sports teams are doing? Access to the coverage of lower level (as well as nationally ranked ) teams on the Internet is expanding and most of it is free. A good place to start would be CSTV.com; use the simple search engine there to find the school and sport you are interested in. If you cant find your alma mater, then your next best bet is to go directly to the schools web site,and click on its athletics link. Look around and chances are you will discover some live coverage, either video or audio, of some of their upcoming events. Yes, I am thrilled to be a sports fan in the 21st century; its only going to be getting better in the future. No more frustrating nights trying to adjust the radio tuning dial and being left at the mercy of a passing thunderstorm 150 miles away. No, now I simply boot-up my computer, make a few clicks with a mouse, and bingoI am watching (or listening to) the game of my choice. Man, its great to be alive.

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