This is a time of year when lazy sportswriters, TV/radio hosts and bloggers all do year-end retrospectives, basically regurgitating cliff's notes versions of the year's biggest stories to fill space when they don't feel like actually working. In a year like 2009, though, it's every worse, because now it's all "[BLANK] of the Decade!"
However, I was listening to the radio this morning and heard some of the guys on the DP show discussing what had the biggest impact on sports in the decade of the 2000s. They talked about steroids, Internet, ESPN, money and fantasy sports. I might argue you could lump ESPN and fantasy sports as subsection of "Internet," but that's neither here nor there.
It got me to thinking about what has truly impacted how we enjoy sports over the past decade and, for my money, there's nothing like HDTV.
Do you remember the first time you saw a game in HD? I know for some of you rich bitches, it's hard to remember back that far, but hooo-leeee-sheet. I mean, it felt like football players were running into your living room. I remember talking to Boilerdowd and saying, "I can see the expressions on the faces... of the people in the crowd!"
You could see the blades of grass. The stitches on a baseball in a slow-motion replay of a 98 MPH pitch. The millimeter of space between the puck and the goal line. Erin Andrews' dimples. It was downright incredible, and it remains so.
I was reminded of this last night as I tried to watch the Purdue-SIUE game on Low-Def ESPNU. Awesome thinking, by the way, by whoever is responsible for ESPNU not being available to almost anybody in HD (Boilerdowd got it from a source that it IS possible to get it, but few providers offer it -- smart). I mean, you're only trying to show college athletics on that channel -- why would anyone want that in HD?
When you're watching in LD, you almost want a smaller television. Like smaller than 15 inches. I have two large TVs in my house and, no joke, it's hard to follow the ball if it's not HD. It looks like I'm watching with one contact lens in or something. The score panel is all fuzzy, the players look out of focus, the court looks stretched (because, again, it's not widescreen HD). My wife said I was spoiled. And while this may be true, watching sports in HD is not something you can go back from. Once you've experienced it, you've learned how to watch sports differently. You can look for nuances. You can see where guys eyes are looking. You can catch all sorts of details you never good before. So when you go back to Low-Def, you find yourself feeling almost blind.
I've also always said that HDTV is great for TV shows, too, but there's absolutely nothing like sports in HD. Even if you don't like golf, seeing a panning view of Augusta in HD is just breathtaking. Even if you don't like hockey, being able to actually follow the puck (long the criticism of hockey on TV), you have to admit, makes it more exciting.
So yeah, my vote for best advancement of this past decade (and yes, I know it hit the market in about 1998, but it wasn't widespread until this decade) is the impact HD has had on watching sports. (Just wait for Ultra HDTV, coming soon.)
Although, I have to admit, the TV pictured above seems to do things mine can't. I'll have to look into that.