Spoiler Alert Central - The Pitfalls in Online Viewing of Live Sports

To all of those who have abandoned the traditional television set or allegedly “cut the cord” from the cable company (still using their internet, though), here’s a conundrum you have probably have been unable to solve for the rest of us. If you want to truly understand the pitfalls of online viewing of live sports, look no further than last night.

In a bizarre, yet entertaining Game 3 of the NHL’s Eastern Conference Final, both the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning played as if the goaltenders were only on the ice for mere amusement. Up 2-0 thanks to Derick Brassard and Jesper Fast (what a name!), the Rangers decided that they didn’t want to play any defense for the rest of the night. Tyler Johnson, who has been ridiculous over the last two games, added to a three-goal flurry in the second period and four straight for the hometown Lightning. In the third, New York twice responded to the Bolts' leads and brought the game into a destined overtime.

Personal social media feeds went into a collective frenzy. The “#LGR” from the Rangers faithful and the virtual fist pumps from Tampa’s fans kept Twitter, Facebook and other platforms buzzing alongside trending topics from Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals.

And then, while watching the action on NBC Sports’ Live Extra app, the same social media feeds went into a collective frenzy again with variations of a different phrase.

“G**dammit, Rangers!”

Knowing that the Blueshirts just lost in crushing fashion, the only reaction yours truly had involved cuss words towards both the team and those very friends that unintentionally “spoiled” the ending.

For the most part, the major networks that have broadcasting deals with top-level sports leagues have increased their offerings for their websites and mobile applications. This will only grow, as previously discussed with Awful Announcing scribe Ken Fang last fall.

However, though they’ve made live sports available on multiple platforms, streams on those devices actually lag behind traditional/linear television for at least one minute. It may not seem like a big deal if you don’t engage in the virtual sports bar called social media or strongly prefer watching television on an actual television (I salute you, by the way.) However, the unsolved consequence of online live viewing – legal and illegal means – is that social media becomes Spoiler Alert Central.

Of course, this isn’t anyone’s fault, per se. In this wonderful sporting chaos of the spring, we are largely gravitating from a NBA playoff game to a NHL playoff game to a Major League Baseball game to some European soccer to whatever stupidity the NFL gives us as of late. It’s a great time of year where we get to enjoy a bountiful feast. However, because of all of the activity – keep in mind that Cleveland Cavaliers were just minutes from taking Game 1 in Atlanta on TNT and TNT Overtime – our heads are on a swivel because we’re afraid of missing the next big moment live.

As I saw Facebook Messenger rage and tweets of glee when Nikita Kucherov’s shot sped past Henrik Lundqvist to give the Lightning take the series lead, all I could think to do was to count how many seconds elapsed between when the goal was scored and when I actually got to see it on Live Extra.

I was probably more upset that I didn’t see the end of overtime as it happened than the fact that the Rangers – the presumptive Stanley Cup favorites – found themselves in another hole in the playoffs. Someday, both online streaming and traditional television viewing will be in perfect harmony. We will be able to flip from the tube to the tablet without missing a single touchdown toss, 3-point dagger or monster home run to win the game in the 9th inning.

But until then, for the sports fans who are watching online, do them a favor and put a #SpoilerAlert in front of the next time someone nets the game-winner in overtime.

(Kidding, of course.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *