PVRing the playoffs

(Jeff Vinnick, Getty Images)

(Jeff Vinnick, Getty Images)

I had no choice. My soccer team had a game scheduled for 9:00 pm, an ungodly hour for physical activity. I couldn’t skip the game: I’m the captain of the team and, since our regular goaltender is recovering from an injury, I’m also our goalie right now. Also, we were already going to be short a number of players.

I’m not sure why our spring soccer league starts the season during the NHL playoffs (probably something to do with the start of spring), but it was unavoidable: we had a game scheduled and I wasn’t going to be able to watch the Vancouver Canucks play the San Jose Sharks in game one of their series.

I was going to have to record it and watch it later. There’s something that just doesn’t feel right about watching a playoff game out of sync with everyone else. It’s an odd feeling watching a playoff game hours after it’s already been completed.

One of the joys of being a sports fan is being part of something bigger than yourself. You’re not just a fan of a team: you’re a member of “Leafs Nation” or you exhibit “Rider Pride.” The Canucks rope you into it with “We are all Canucks.” Fans all wear the same colours and will high-five total strangers when a goal is scored.

Even when you’re watching a game on TV from home, you still somehow feel that connection. A goal is scored, you jump to your feet, and know that thousands of other people also jumped to their feet at that exact same moment.

I had to watch the Canucks lose 3-1 to the Sharks at home, by myself. When I saw the Canucks score the opening goal, every other Canuck fan had already celebrated. When I watched Zack Kassian took an unnecessary penalty, every other Canuck fan had already shaken their heads in dismay. By the time I saw the Sharks scored three unanswered goals to win the game, every other Canucks fan had already sighed and turned off their TVs or streamed out of Rogers Arena.

Watching a game on PVR also robs you of a more direct connection with the hockey community: Twitter. The social media network has become a constant companion when I watch hockey, getting instant reaction from other hockey fans, bloggers, and media types to what is happening on the ice.

Instead, I was left pondering throughout the game what others might have thought about what happened. Were other Canucks fans wondering why Ryan Kesler wasn’t skating as smoothly as normal? Was anyone wondering why incidental goaltender interference wasn’t called on the Sharks’ second goal? Were there any knuckleheads blaming Roberto Luongo for a loss in which the only goal the Canucks scored was an own goal by Raffi Torres? Was everyone else also tempted to scream at the Sedins through the TV to shoot the puck? I couldn’t tell you as I couldn’t check Twitter without immediately finding out what happened.

Avoiding spoilers is one of the biggest difficulties in PVRing the playoffs. Fortunately, more and more people are wary of announcing scores in groups of people, recognizing that a lot of people record games. But I could see after my soccer game that a couple people checked their cell phones, then muttered to each other about something. I immediately thought it might be the Canucks game and tried hard not to read anything into their facial expressions. And yet, I still had that uneasy feeling that something bad was going to happen all game. And, sure enough…

There there are the fans who still hold onto the belief that they can somehow affect the course of the game as it is played, whether through wearing a luck piece of clothing, sitting in a special chair, or completing some sort of ritual before opening faceoff. I don’t begrudge these fans their traditions – they make them feel more directly connected to the team.

When you’re watching a recorded game, however, you lose that connection. While those superstitions didn’t affect the results in the first place, you lose even the possibility of it occurring when you watch a recorded game. For some fans, that takes a lot of the fun out of it.

A game with commercials has a certain rhythm to it, as well. You have time to take a breath between the action, run to the fridge for a drink or a snack, or take a quick bathroom break. Of course, when you’re watching a recorded game, you can pause at any time to do the same, but who wants to do that, especially when it’s late at night and you want to get to sleep sooner rather than later?

Instead, I get into the rhythm of skipping the commercials: three presses of the 30-second-jump button. The pace of the game feels quicker and you lose out on opportunities to sit back and analyse what has occurred. The game seems to fly by and it feels harder to pick up on trends throughout the game.

It’s a minor problem, to be sure. I’m fortunate enough to have a PVR (I consider it a work expense) and be able to bemoan the lack of metaphysical connection with other hockey fans rather than worry about some other legitimate problem, but still, there’s something about it that bothers me.

I don’t mind it during the regular season. When the games are less important, having a shared experience with a larger group of people also feels less important. There’s not as much invested in those games. But in the playoffs, you want to have the full experience. You want to know that you’re sharing that experience with thousands of others.