By In Stuff

Exhilaration Gap

Not too long ago, on Twitter, I suggested that the “reality gap” between NBA basketball on television and NBA basketball live might be the biggest out of all of our favorite sports. Because Twitter only allows 140 characters, I never did get around to explaining what I meant by “reality gap.” But the great thing is: The argument began raging pretty much right away.

“I still vote for hockey,” my buddy and SI wunderkind Michael Rosenberg said.

“You know, really high end tennis, in person, is probably on that list,” the excellent Bruce Arthur added.

“NHL by a mile,” said WagerMinds.

“Gotta vote hockey (if ‘reality gap’ means what I think it means),” co-habitant of Sports on Earth Emma Span responded.

And so on. I have to say: I love it. It is fun to argue about stuff when nobody even knows what we’re arguing about.

It seems that many people thought — not without good reason — that I was referring to the gap between the EXPERIENCE OF WATCHING a sport live and watching a sport on TV. That, actually, was not what I meant. I’ll explain in some detail what I mean by reality gap in the next couple of days, when I write about one of my favorite NBA players. Basically I’m referring to the gap between what a player THINKS the games would be like and what the games are ACTUALLY like.

But the gap people were talking about — let’s call it the “Exhilaration Gap” between watching a sport live and watching it on TV — is almost certainly a more interesting topic. Here, then, are the Top 10 sports by Exhilaration Gap. I even put a little score by each sport: +100 means the sport is boundlessly better live, -100 means the sport is boundlessly better on TV. And, you should know, these numbers were carefully calculated and recalculated in the time when I wasn’t checking to see if any baseball news was breaking at the winter meetings.

1. Hockey (+77 EG)

The obvious choice. The thing is, live hockey is not just a better sport to watch and consume, it’s really a DIFFERENT sport. Hockey on television has actually gotten much better (this would have been 100 EG before high-def and better camera work made hockey on TV an improved viewing experience). But there seems no way for hockey on TV to capture the speed and force and openness of the game. Especially the openness. The rink is much bigger than television can capture, and the players are skating much faster, and while television (for obvious reasons) must follow the puck, when you are a live participant the eye scans the entire landscape, seeing the open man before the puck gets there, anticipating the breakaway before it happens, observing just how fast these players are moving BEFORE the collision.* Television, for all its wonders, can’t quite get at the stuff that makes hockey so much fun to watch.

A general formula: The volume of how much someone does not like hockey corresponds precisely to how few times that person has seen a live hockey game.

*I do not know nearly enough about hockey to throw out a theory — I would ask Bruce Arthur or Chris Jones or Tom Tango or one of the many real hockey people out there — but I’ll throw one out there anyway: It occurs to me that one thing television DOES DO well with hockey is celebrate goaltending. I am not suggesting that television overemphasizes goaltending … I don’t know enough about it. But I do think that one thing television does do well is zero in on the goalie and amplify the incredible saves he can make with different angles and slow motion technology. This makes television sense to me — goalies are relatively stationary, so the camera does not have to follow them around the rink. The goalie’s main job is stark and sharply defined — KEEP PUCK OUT OF GOAL — and television does its best work in blacks and whites, rights and wrongs, ins and outs. Television isn’t as good (none of us are, really) with subtlety, shades and open space.

2. High-level soccer (+63 EG)

Let’s just call it World Cup-level soccer. On television, the sport can often look slow, plodding and somewhat claustrophobic. You really cannot get a sense of just how big the pitch is, how fast the players and ball are moving, how coordinated the efforts are. I was stunned when I went to the World Cup. I had watched a lot of soccer and been to many matches through the years. But this really was an entirely different thing.

The Hockey General Formula is at least as true for high-level soccer.

3. NBA basketball (+49 EG)

It is only live that you understand just how big the players really are, how violent their collisions, how skilled they are. I’ve said this before to friends (and this is another good pointless-argument starter): I think NBA basketball players might be the best at what they do in all of sports. NBA basketball is good on television — especially the fourth quarter — because television is great at capturing tension and facial emotion and can take us inside the huddle. But it can just cannot quite transmit how huge Dwight Howard really is or how quickly Tony Parker gets up the court.

4. High-level tennis (+37 EG)

Tennis is amazing live … but in some ways it’s for the opposite reason hockey is. In tennis, you cannot believe how SMALL the court is. The players hit the ball with such ferocity, and to keep it on the court they have to put on violent spins — the television camera simply cannot pick that up. And television flattens out the scene so you can’t quite see the dimensions, can’t quite see how impossible it is to chase down a drop shot or just how miraculous the geometry of some of the angled shots. That said, if you watch a game live you probably don’t get to hear John McEnroe or some of the other excellent tennis announcers, who I think might add more to the experience than color commentators in any other sport.

5. Championship boxing (+26 EG)

If you like boxing, you already know: Television cannot quite capture the chilling violence of it all. I’ve never been to an MMA event, but I imagine it is doubly or triply true there.

6. College basketball (+24 EG)

I think — let’s face it, this is all just what I think — television does a better job with college basketball than pro basketball. I think that’s because college basketball is less about extraordinary athleticism and skill and more about emotion and pageantry and spirit … and I think television does better with these things. I have watched the Final Four from inside the arena and from my rec room chair. There are great parts of both. If I’m a passionate fan of a team, I’d probably rather be in the arena. But if I just want to watch a good game — that’s a really tough choice.

7. Baseball (+19 EG)

I tend to disagree with a lot of people on this — I think baseball is a terrific television sport. I might even argue that television has baseball so down that the pure viewing experiences are pretty close to equal. There are unquestionably things that you can see live that you can’t see on TV — how far an outfielder runs for a ball, how impossible it really looks to hit a 100-mph fastball, how cool a triple really is. If you are sitting right behind home plate, you can definitely get a better feel for the players — scouts could not do as well with television.

On the other hand, I think television I does a better job of spotlighting the hitter-pitcher confrontation, and baseball still doesn’t want to show up the umpires by showing infuriating replays in the stadiums.

The reason I have baseball as a plus-EG isn’t so much about watching the game itself but the fun of being at the ballpark on a summer day, the food and drink, the easy pace, the family connections, the memories and all that.

8. College football (+4 EG)

Football, I think, is just better on television. But college football is still enough of a fan experience that I rate going to the game as slightly more exhilarating than watching it on TV. But only slightly and only because of the college passion. As you will see, I don’t feel the same way about pro football …

9. Pro football (minus-16 EG)

In my mind, pro football is superior on television in almost every way. No, television cannot quite convey how loud the stadium gets, the passion (or anger) of the fans, the dimensions of the field. But to me, it more than makes up for these things with amazing replays, numerous angles, in-game updates, interesting announcing (when you can get it) and cameras that almost put you on the field. I’ve also heard from many, many people that the pro football live experience is becoming less and less fun, there’s so much rage, so many fights or near fights, it’s no place to bring your kids. I used to be an NFL season-ticket holder, and I thought it was getting awfully chippy even four or five years ago. People tell me it’s even worse now. For all this and more, I’d much rather watch the games on television.

10. Golf (minus-26 EG)

And here — it’s no contest. Television crushes Live. Yes, it’s fun to go to a golf tournament because you walk around outside, the scenery is nice. You can wear your golf shoes and imagine how you would play a certain hole. For hardcore golfers, yes, I can absolutely see the appeal. And for people who just want to be out in the sun all day, I can appreciate that too. Also, television cannot quite give you the topography of the course — how steep the hills are and so on.

But if you go to a golf tournament, you don’t see much of anything, and you have to stay quiet, and you will get ordered around by power-mad caddies or particularly animated volunteers. Yes, you might (might being the key word) see Tiger Woods hit a ball, but you don’t see where the ball lands. You might see Tiger Woods putt out, but you only have to guess how he got there. Television can not only show you every shot, it can tell you which way a putt might break, Johnny Miller can chastise better than any announcer on TV, and TV can slow down a golfer’s swing with the Konica Minolta John Travolta Usain Bolta Churchill at Yolta 12 volta It’s nobody’s folta biz-viz-whiz hub swing vision quest camera. Which is awesome.

Also receiving votes: Gymnastics (minus-74); Horse Racing (plus-58); Track and Field (minus-3); The Biggest Loser (minus-87), Swimming (minus-37); Auto racing (0 — equally good on television and live for different reasons).

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72 Responses to Exhilaration Gap

  1. Mark Coale says:

    If you want to count it, wrestling would be in the +30 range.

    I mean, old school, pre mega arena shows. When you can sit close enough to hear verbal sparring between the crowd and the heel, and the heel and the ref. You also can see the workers showcading both their athleticism and performing skills.

  2. Sean OLeary says:

    Baseball is a million times better in person. Neck & neck with hockey for top sport that improves with attendance.

    Pro football should be -100. An atrocious experience, due in large part to timeouts. Nothing can compare to how terrible this scenario is while sitting in a stadium:

    Team scores touchdown.
    3-minute TV break.
    Team kicks off, usually a touchback.
    Another 3-minute TV break.

    Absolutely no reason to go to an NFL game anymore. Which is sad because the college football experience is AMAZING.

    • Scott says:

      I agree 100%, except the part about the 3 minute time outs. Live the time outs feel like 10-15 minute dead spots. And unlike college games, where at least you have bands playing over the dead space in an NFL stadium it’s….just….dead… I love my Saints, make live games as often as I can, and still, I do so knowing the game is a better watch on TV. The NFL has hit the tipping point between too much commercial interruption to still be worth watching and sailed right on past long since. Football beat baseball out for top sport because baseball is so slow and boring compared to the NFL, and now the NFL has allowed itself to become the slowest most boring sporting event on the planet. Watching it is like waiting for that nimrod skydiver to finally get perfect conditions for his balloon to go up. Everyone is there, wearing their gear, on camera but nothing is actually happening.

    • Ben Wildner says:

      I am so confused by all these people hating on going to pro football games. It’s a less intense but much nicer cleaner atmosphere than college. Which granted I also love. Is the fact my only point of comparison is Lambeau Field throwing me off?

    • Rob Smith says:

      I enjoyed Pro Football live when I had season tickets and a good spot to tailgate. I knew all the fans near my seats, was a rabid fan (yelled and screamed & really cared) and had an overall great time. Just going to random game, just to see a live game is not really that great. But overall, watching the NFL on TV without a rooting interest isn’t that great either.

  3. s1rweeze says:

    “Konica Minolta John Travolta Usain Bolta Churchill at Yolta 12 volta It’s nobody’s folta biz-viz-whiz hub swing vision quest camera. “

    You gotta love Peter Kostis’ determined devotion to the sponsor. He really does say the entire product name every single time they go to that camera. No small feat.

  4. 11. Springsteen concert (+ # of atoms in universe, squared)

  5. s1rweeze says:

    “Team scores touchdown.
    3-minute TV break.
    Team kicks off, usually a touchback.
    Another 3-minute TV break.”

    Meanwhile, while you’re sitting there twiddling your thumbs, all you can think is “I wonder what’s happening in the other 8 games going on right now…”

    • nightfly says:

      Exactly – THE key factor why NFL is much greater at home. With a full slate and a skilled remote jockey, you go wall-to-wall awesome, no dead spots, and you have to be unlucky to miss a big moment.

    • Rob Smith says:

      DVR’d sports is a lot better. Fast Forward through the commercials, half time and the dead spots in the game. You can watch an NFL game in an hour to an hour and a half. With Baseball, if it’s a snoozer, you can watch it in less than 30 minutes.

  6. Hal says:

    This is an interesting read, and I agree with Sean OLeary that NFL games should be -100, but I am far more intrigued by what you actually meant with your ‘Reality Gap’ statement. I will be looking forward to that post immensely.

  7. You somehow missed my favorite part of watching football at home: the first-down line.

  8. Bill Reh says:

    Have to ask, is “Konica Minolta John Travolta Usain Bolta Churchill at Yolta 12 volta It’s nobody’s folta biz-viz-whiz hub swing vision quest camera” a Ginsberg reference? (Sunflower Sutra – mad locomotive riverbank sunset Frisco hilly tincan evening sitdown vision). If so, you rule even more than I’d previously thought (if not, don’t sweat it, you still rule Joe).

    Would love to read a sports on radio article like this. Although that might just turn into baseball, huge gap, everything else.

  9. Matty says:

    In my experience, NBA basketball is way worse in person. When my brother and I went to see the Cavs-Nuggets game almost three years ago in Cleveland, it was a marquee game with LeBron, Melo, and Shaq. What we got was about 45 minutes of boredom, followed by an exciting final 3 minutes and overtime. Even when the Cavs staged a comeback in the 3rd quarter, you could hear a pin drop. Just an underwhelming experience. Hockey, soccer, & tennis are the clear top 3 to me.

    • prophet says:

      Huh. That wasn’t my experience, and my most recent trips are to Warriors games (about 7 years ago, when they were really bad). There’s nothing like seeing the “short” forward standing next to the referee live and getting the visceral impact of how huge these guys are. Then you get to watch them run like deer and jump out of the building … television doesn’t really convey what kind of athletes these players are.

      Another example: a while ago I had seats about 10 rows back and behind the baseline in one end. Watching the fast break thunder upcourt towards us was awe-inspiring and literally earthshaking. The leader missed a shot badly enough that it bounced out of the backboard frame … and Antonio McDyess, who had started the break on the other end and sprinted all the way up, flew in from outside the lane, grabbed the ball with one hand when it was fully outside the backboard (and higher than the rim) and jammed it without coming down. Just a ridiculous dunk … and it was just another play for him.

      The NBA is nearly another species from the people you meet every day, and TV doesn’t capture that.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Most NBA games that I’ve seen live in the last 10, or so, years are snoozers. The game is generally slow and not much interesting happens until the end of the game when everyone suddenly wakes up and plays hard. Playoff basketball is quite different. Players bring their A games and A intensity levels. You can see the difference.

  10. Scott says:

    First off, I love the concept of this post, talking about the gap between what you think a sport will be like from seeing it on TV and what it’s actually like. I’ve had these conversations myself, about how sports are so different live and you really have to be there to find out. To me golf is definitely the most extreme example of that. I have always thought golf on tv is a pretty boring sport to watch, and assumed only hard core golfers were interested in it. When I was in high school I went to a PGa tournament and it was a complete shock. A golf course is just to big for TV cameras to catch, so they do close ups of everything and you have no perspective. You have to see it in person to really understand the incredible level of difficulty of a typical golf shot. PGA golfers are aiming at a target the size of a postage stamp hundreds of yards away and they not only stay on target, they usually place the ball correctly in relation to the target. And those funny looking little bunkers and water obstacles from TV are much more daunting live, where they basically surround the green and make it look like any shot more than 1 degree off center will turn into a disaster. Golf on TV just doesn’t have any fear factor at all, live it’s an intense game and you are clearly aware that the golfer is performing at a near superhuman level.

    Another sport that you have to see in person to “get it” is dirt track racing. If you’ve seen it on tv people drive cheap knock off race cars around a dinky little dirt track with what looks like a few dozen fans in the stands. Not much there. But in person you not only hear the engines, you feel them. The awareness of power is intense and in your face. And the tracks are dinky little affairs, about the size of a small high school football stadium, but the cars are generally just a few feet from the grandstand, earth shatteringly loud, you can literally feel the vibration as they go by, and there’s a sense of danger because you are standing closer to really fast cars than you ever would unless you are broken down on the side of the interstate, and these cars are racing, jockeying for position, and spin out and crash frequently. It’s a lot different live than you would ever expect.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The good thing about golf in person is the observations you can make about the course that you just can’t see on TV. For example, the “body bags” that Gary McCord spoke about at Augusta are quite evident on at least one green. It was really cartoonish, almost miniature golf like. Apparently the stiffs at Augusta didn’t want to get too close to the truth.

  11. Hockey on TV would be better if broadcasters used fixed cameras more often. A moving camera following the puck causes blurry shots and can’t keep up, and then the replays still don’t show how a goal was scored. They need more cameras that DON’T move to improve the TV experience.

  12. nycgeoff says:

    One thing that I would add is that any preseason/exhibition game is +100: at the event, one can wander around, buy a beer, take in the atmosphere, notice things that would typically not register due to focusing on the game action. Watching an exhibition game on TV is an occasion to evaluate life choices.

  13. Chad says:

    Hockey, by a mile. I can hardly watch it on TV, but always enjoy taking in a game in person.

  14. Robert says:

    Ryder Cup Golf (-100 EG): 50,000 fans jammed around just a couple groups. Go once to say you did and spend the rest of your life watching on TV.

    I think UFC live adds less than boxing does for two reasons. 1) UFC on TV tends to capture the violence better than boxing. I’m not sure if it’s that the guys are more often stationary or that they’re more often bleeding but live boxing was much more of an “ah ha” moment for me and 2) a UFC card has so many fights and so many early knockouts that it’s a lot of sitting around.

    On NFL football, I’m torn. I greatly prefer the television version of it, especially now that they’re putting 10 games at noon, but there is something to watching Ed Reed (or somebody) be in on every play on a field that size.

  15. Robert says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. El Person says:

    Given the amount of different stuff going on at once, watching gymnastics live seems like an exercise in futility.

  17. El Person says:

    Given the amount of different stuff going on at once, watching gymnastics live seems like an exercise in futility.

  18. El Person says:

    Given the amount of different stuff going on at once, watching gymnastics live seems like an exercise in futility.

  19. Unknown says:

    Baseball’s a tough one to pin down. It can be tough to truly appreciate quality pitching live unless you’re in a good seat at the park. So T.V. help immensely there.

    But, I find it challenging to sit down and watch a ballgame that can run 3+ hours. It just doesn’t hold my attention the way other sports do. Baseball is an awesome run around the house doing chores while the game is on sport.

    • Peach says:

      That’s just you not being a baseball guy, if you really appreciate baseball you can be riveted for those 3 plus hours, and as a baseball guy I feel the way you do about other sports, like for me there is nothing more pointless to watch than the first 3 quarters of a basketball game

    • Peach says:

      That’s just you not being a baseball guy, if you really appreciate baseball you can be riveted for those 3 plus hours, and as a baseball guy I feel the way you do about other sports, like for me there is nothing more pointless to watch than the first 3 quarters of a basketball game

  20. Mark A says:

    The football ones are tricky. If you are going to bump baseball into the positives based on the intangibles of going to a game, football should get a similar bump, even if pro game atmosphere is going downhill.

    I love the way TV covers football (absent some bad announcing), but the games being on weekends, there being only 8 home games per team/year, and the tailgating culture is just something you can’t duplicate at home.

  21. Nemo says:

    Thanks for this – great thoughts.

    As I was reading your analysis of hockey, I was thinking *exactly* the same point you came to later about tennis: that the TV angle seems to broaden the tennis court way out of proportion, and in reality the scale is so much smaller in person – which only makes what they do more impressive. They have far less room to work with than it seems, far less time, and hit the ball way, way harder. For those reasons I’d actually rank tennis #1. At a recent second tier tournament with a bunch of top 50 players most people have never heard of I was absolutely stunned at how incredibly good these people are. The fitness, coordination, anticipation – and yet the best ones make it seem effortless.

    Recommended reading for anyone who hasn’t seen it is David Foster Wallace’s String Theory – google it, it’s an article available online. Great stuff.

    Agreed also, Joe, about the commentators in baseball: McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale are terrific.

    And like others I disagree about baseball. To me there’s just nothing like a summer day at a great ballpark like Wrigley Field. TV just can’t capture it.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post!

  22. Matt says:

    Great discussion.

    Horse racing is a true mix of good/bad when comparing the live and TV experiences. There is no way that TV can capture the power and the speed of top class thoroughbreds in a race like the Kentucky Derby or the Breeders’ Cup, or the intensity of the crowd. But at the same time, a race track is so big that it is very hard to watch the entire race in person and know where all the horses are (which is why so many fans have binoculars or glance at the big screen in the early stages.)

    “Viewing” a horse race is much better on TV. “Experiencing” one is much better live.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Live horseracing includes, for many, a picnic on the infield, beers, racing forms, girls in bikini tops and a wager on every race. The TV version is 2 minutes of racing and a lot of jabbering by the commentators, plus commercials.

    • Matt says:

      Depends on the day; Breeders Cup is 15 races over two days; Triple Crown undercards. Racing on TV certainly has issues (most notable being poor production), but you can bet, drink and read the form at home and the sight lines are much, much better. I’ve been on Millionaires Row at Chuchill and that’s still not a great view. The experience is great but not the viewing.

  23. KHAZAD says:

    I think Baseball depends on how well you know the game and how good your seats are. As I get older I go to less games but sit in great seats. I like to watch the positioning of the fielders between batters and even between pitches, which is something you only get live. I remember being right up front for Pedro in his prime, trying to spot when the change up was coming. (Like the hitters, I mostly failed in this) Seeing a young Verlander throwing 100mph and mixing in sick movement up close in his rookie year and knowing he was going to be special. TV can’t beat close seats and seeing the whole field.

    Speaking of seeing the whole field, while I understand what people are saying about the NFL, I still like seeing a game in person. TV and replay do provide seemingly interminable dead spots in the game live, and you don’t have the same sense of what is happening in the other games, but TV focuses on the ball.

    When I am at a game, I like to sit high enough to see the entire field, while still low enough that the players are not small. I NEVER watch the QB until the replay, focusing on the lines.

    The blocking tells me where the play is going. If it is a pass, I can watch the receiver’s routes, and see one break open-or a defender in prime position to jump the route. You can see the lanes opening on a good special teams return. You know the play action isn’t working because the line is leaping back directly into pass coverage, and if you know it will be a pass, so do the linebackers. You notice the opponent lining their speedy receiver sneakily at tight end, and that the defense doesn’t see it, and that they are in man coverage, and you already know he is going to burn the linebacker for a TD. (It was Greg Jennings, in Favre’s last year as Packer QB, and he did. The TV people did not notice, only mentioning that you don’t want to cover Jennings with a linebacker)

    Yes, if it’s a blowout you can’t change the channel, but a close game with the crowd into it is 100 times better in person.

  24. If you’re going to break football down to college and pro, how about breaking down baseball to the majors and the minors?

    Major league baseball at the stadium has many many things going for it, but almost all of the things wrong with it are not seen at the minor league level. And for various reasons, any broadcasts you’re likely to see of MiLB won’t transmit the experience. Maybe a +50?

  25. Kenny says:

    Hockey and football need to take a cue from soccer and pull the camera back a bit. With HD cameras, it makes no sense to start zoomed in on the line of scrimmage so far that the camera has to actually move just to follow the QB dropping back 8 yards. I agree that football is far better on t.v. but the one thing it’s lacking is any ability to see what the receivers or defensive backs are doing. In hockey this seems so obvious that I have to think the only reason it hasn’t been done yet is status quo.

    • nightfly says:

      There’s another reason – in many ways, hockey has yet to really catch up to the HD technology now available to it. Even as recently as last season, some local games were in standard here in the northeast. You’ve got a bunch of production crews and camera operators used to having to keep a tight focus just to be able to find the puck… all their innate habits are out-of-date.

      Some of the newer things they are doing are incredible, with ice-level cameras showing developing counterattacks and some of the ultra-slow-motion capturing what happens on scrambles or deflections. There was one amazing clip last season where they were able to go frame-by-frame to show that a puck hadn’t entirely crossed the line before the end of the period – literally a few hundredths-second difference and the goal would have counted – there’s no way that wouldn’t have been a good goal even a couple of years ago. So it is getting better.

  26. Great post. Anyone could quibble with your points a little here and there. But it’s a clever idea, well-executed, and you’re generally on the right side on all of them.

  27. GregTamblyn says:

    Spoken by a man who has press-row seats to anything he wants. For the rest of us (ordinary working-class non-sportswriters, anyway), sitting in the cheap seats and paying 8 bucks for a beer (plus God knows how much for parking), everything about 1 through 8 changes.

    Paying $250 to sit in the top row of the upper deck at the 2012 MLB All Star Game? Bring your binocs.

    Paying that much (or more) to sit in the far reaches of the dome for the Final Four? Might as well be watching from the moon.

    Relaxing in your recliner in front of your 50-inch hi-def with Tivo, a cold one, and total control of the mute when Dickie V lapses into “I Love Duke! I love the ACC!” every five minutes?


    • Frank says:

      @Greg – That was exactly my thought regarding the seats. Where the seat is can make all the difference in the world as far as the experience is concerned.

      Also, the live experience can vary greatly depending on (a) how close the score is and (b) the fortunes of the home team.

    • If you have a 50-inch High-def TV, you don’t seem too much like a working class guy to me.

  28. AJ Califano says:

    RED ZONE!!!!!!!!!
    no need to go to a football game anymore

  29. Dan England says:

    I wonder how much the arena plays a part in how much better it is to see a game live. Allen Fieldhouse, for instance, is WAY better than TV. TV can’t capture the energy of that building and how the rafters actually shake under your feet just from the noise. In a normal arena, it’s only marginally better to see a game live, but in a special place….

  30. AdamE says:

    Supercross wasn’t mentioned but it is absoutly amazing to watch in person. On tv you can just can’t get the size of the jumps involved or the speed of the riders. In person, now that all the riders are on 4 strokes, you can feel the power as they go around the track. Motocross/Supercross fans are a pationate bunch so there is tons of energy in the stadium.

  31. Ed McDonald says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Ed McDonald says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  33. Ed McDonald says:

    NASCAR racing. 100+ EG. No contest.

    I went to Darlington this last May and the first 1 1/2 hours of racing was caution free. There were cars on every inch of the track. My eyes were bouncing between the top five cars and my select favorite drivers. Watching cars dive onto and tear off pit road while cars going thrice there speed whipped by them. I could smell burning rubber and gasoline and feel the cars in my chest. +100 EG. Nothing beats the pure exhilaration and occasional terror of a big time race.

  34. rdcobb says:

    My most memorable live sporting event was following Tiger Woods and Bob May for the last 14 holes (including playoff) at the 2000 PGA Championship. I saw every shot Tiger hit except for the putt at 18 that forced extra holes – was caught behind the scoreboard due to the mass of bodies surrounding the 18th and had to watch it on a jumbo tron. I was not more than 15-20 feet away from Tiger on a few of his shots.

    Where else can you get that close to the action without getting tasered and thrown into jail?

  35. I think the relative thrill of seeing the sport live is impacted by ones knowledge of the sport. I played hockey growing up which allows me to fill in the gaps that tv misses. Thus going live, while better, isn’t mind blowing better. I wonder if Joe short changed tennis due to his background playing?

    For me, the one I always recommend is NBA basketball. I am not a huge fan, but as Joe states, you just can’t believe how big they are and how physical it is unless you are there in person.

    I will say the NBA thrill diminishes a bit over time. I don’t live in a NBA city (or country really), but I am probably at about 7 or 8 games and I enjoy it less every game I attend.

  36. TomHynes says:

    I like the -87 rating for The Biggest Loser.

  37. The Sitter says:

    If you HAVE to use all-caps words to PUNCH UP your writing, then your writing is probably a LITTLE WEAK. It also comes across as TALKING DOWN to your reader, because it assumes the reader CAN’T FIGURE OUT which words in the story are THE MOST IMPORTANT. Please TRY to avoid this practice as it can turn an INTERESTING STORY into an ANNOYING READING EXPERIENCE.

  38. Track and field benefits greatly from replays, slow motion, etc. And the venue is large enough so that TV coverage can get in close and show the athletes in a way the spectator could never see. In the last few years a camera has been mounted on the inside rail and actually follows the runners, which is amazing. American networks coverage of track is getting better, but European and Canadian coverage is really good.

    I was watching CBC when Donovan Bailey won Olympic gold at 100 meters. They must have shown 100 re-runs, forgetting everything else that was going on. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing….. but you can’t blame them.

  39. My lone NFL experience was over pretty fast, filled with a bunch of dead spots of waiting in a long line for food, getting into the stadium and all the timeouts of course. Then you’re like “that was it? Glad i didn’t pay for the ticket”. A boring Clippers game with decent seats and a Laker game in the last row of the arena, thanks to the Spurs for making it interesting! But overall pretty boring, hockey is definitely #1. Motorcycle racing was definitely awesome in person!
    Disagree on the whole “how much bigger it is” generally places are smaller in person than they are on TV….

  40. Unknown says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. Jake says:

    I just have to say sitting in the nose bleeds at a NBA game is a -100 compared to my 48″ HDTV but sitting in the fourth row court-side is a +100. Unfortunately, my cable bill is 90 bucks a month and court-side seats are over $20k a year.

  42. SumisuYoshi says:

    I’d have to go with pretty close to -100 for long stage cycling races. You’ve got say 100+kms that they’re going to be riding on that day, and you can park yourself in one spot? Maybe if you’re near one of the sprints or the top of a climb you’ll have a great few minutes, but for the overall race I think TV is incomparable.

  43. Nelly says:

    Golf might be -26 to a non-golfer or high handicap golfer, but to a low handicap golfer, it’s definitely a +50. For example, a few years back 3 of us are waiting on a tee box for Tiger Woods to arrive. He does. I’d seem him live several times, but the other two, both scratch golfers, never had (they were of course surprised at how tall and muscular he is, which tv loses slightly for some reason).

    Woods hits a 3 iron off the tee, a low screamer that could have taken someone’s hat off 150 yards away, before rising for the next 75 yards and then dropping out of the sky like a butterfly landing on a flower pedal. My two friends started laughing hysterically…. in 20+ years of golfing at a high level, they had never seen a ball sail with that particular trajectory.

    In other words, TV doesn’t capture ball flight, one of the key differences between the world’s best players and amateurs.

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  47. This is an interesting read, and I agree with Sean OLeary that NFL games should be -100, but I am far more intrigued by what you actually meant with your ‘Reality Gap’ statement. I will be looking forward to that post immensely.


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