I just got an email from the NFL advertising their packages for NFL GamePass (only available to fans outside the US). While my initial thought was to come here and GLOAT, it actually caused me to reflect on how far technology has taken the experience for the international fan.
I first visited the US, including Dallas, in December 1983 and became hooked on the NFL and the Cowboys in particular. (The Cowboys were 12-2 and riding high when I arrived in Dallas, only to be crushed 31-10 at home by Dave Butz and the Redskins. They then proceed to lose their final game to the 49'ers and the wildcard to the Rams. I figured I owed them my support after bringing them such bad luck.)
Returning home there was no access to NFL coverage so I got a friend of mine to mail me video-tapes from the UK of the Channel4 1-hour weekly show with a game of the week and a highlights package (US NTSC format was incompatible, so I needed UK PAL). The rest of my news came from week old USA Today's (international edition) or month-old Sports Illustrated or those little Football Digests [remember those?!] . Good thing it was slow as the news was mostly bad in those days....
By the early nineties we were getting a game of the week on local TV (a few days old - network tape couriered out from the US) and I was subscribing to Football Digest and the Cowboys Star Magazine (with international shipping tripling the cost of the subscription...).
Then I was fortunate enough to spend 1993-97 in the US and got to experience the Cowboys in all their SuperBowl glory. On my return to Oz, the internet and local cable had changed everything.
Dial-up Internet & Cable
By the time I returned, Australia had cable TV. Cable carried a few NFL games, so we were now up to 2-3 games a week. And the internet, albeit dial-up for a while, gave me the latest NFL news from sources like ESPN, Yahoo, CBS and Sports Illustrated, who could never seem to get their site moving faster than a snowcone melting in Alaska (note careful use of a US reference)
Broad-band and Blogs
The internet started to speed up, providing a multi-media experience. Cable TV realized sport was a key driver of the buying decision so the coverage started to ramp up to 5-6 games a week from competing providers. But the real step change was the blogging. I first came across Raf's Cowboys blog through a reference from KC Joyner who I had found through a reference from Paul Zimmerman (best wishes for a good recovery).
It was a great pleasure to leave the mediots behind and follow Raf through a couple of iterations to BTB! Now its my core source of quality Cowboys thinking and community.
NFL Gamepass & iPad
At this stage I thought life was pretty good, but little did I know Nirvana awaited with a serious upgrade of NFL Gamepass last year together with a reduction in price. For those who don't know, this is the NFL's video streaming service. It started a few years ago and was very expensive but with good albeit variable quality. Occasionally I would buy a key Cowboys game not on cable for $25 a pop - a pretty hefty whack to watch a single game. But a season was just too expensive to buy when around half the Cowboys games would be on cable anyway.
Last year pricing was dropped significantly, to under $10 a week for all games through the regular season and some great features, including HD, compressed games, ability to stream directly to my iPhone or iPad and, wait for it, all-22 views of key plays in the game. Additional features have been added this year.
So forgive me for gloating a little, but it has been a long journey....