Alongside banking and worrying about the food, one of my chief concerns before coming to Korea was how I’d watch NFL games. While I really don’t care much about other sports, I’m a huge fan of the NFL. Not only do I hate missing my favorite team, I run pick ’em pools, play in fantasy leagues, and throw down the odd wager when I see a point spread I like. I reserve Sundays from September through January for going to a bar, getting drunk and gorging myself on wings while surrounded by TVs.
For an American in Korea, the challenges to maintaining a commitment to NFL fandom are three-fold. Overcoming any one of them means you’ll have to sacrifice time, money, convenience or employment status.
The first problem is time zones. Games begin at 2a.m. in Korea (3a.m. once clocks are switched in the US) and pretty much all ESL teachers have to work on Mondays. Staying awake all night long isn’t really an option if you care about your job.
Supposing you’re willing and able to stay awake all night watching football, you are presented with the problem of finding a live broadcast. While bars close at varying hours in Korea, I doubt you’ll find many who broadcast live NFL games. While I’m told a bar like this exists, I’ve never seen it and it’s certainly not in my city, Bundang.
Another option for the night owl is streaming games live online. This is realistic for Sunday and Monday night games, which usually start at 9:30a.m.(10:30 after the clock switch). You can have beer for breakfast and get your live football fix. For this I suggest doing a Google search and downloading Sopcast Player. The only downside is you’ll be watching a Chinese broadcast — better brush up on your Mandarin.
Okay, so maybe you prefer watching games in the evening, over beers, with English commentary and other human beings. You’re willing to make some sacrifices. Where do you view NFL games from the previous day? Expat bars are the obvious place to check. Traveler’s Bar & Grill in Seohyeon shows six games a week, three on Monday night and three on Tuesday night. I go for wing night every Tuesday. Pub 210, also in Seohyeon, has shown games for me when I asked ahead of time. It’s worth shooting ’em a Facebook message.
Still, this isn’t always reliable. What if your local expat-oriented watering hole isn’t showing the game you want to see? What if you just don’t wanna drop 30,000 won weekly? What if you don’t live near an expat bar? The cheap, mostly convenient solution is downloading videos with your bit torrent client. I’ve done this most of the season. I won’t share the exact URL but you should be able to find a tracker if you Google search for “NFL torrents” or something similar.
Of course, if you are serious about live football games, or reliable access to taped games, you can pay for NFL GamePass. To me this is a little expensive (~US$300) but you could find some buddies to split it with. The downside to splitting is that access is limited to one IP address at a time. No problem. You’ve got an excuse for a weekly NFL party. This is what I’m doing for the playoffs and I think it might be as close to the ideal as we can get. The playoff package costs ~US$70. I can now watch all post-season games on demand without commercial interruption.
Even when you pay a premium, there’s one last problem: Spoilers. One week, I waited two days to see what was the biggest game of the season to that point, Patriots-Jets, for the inside track on the division championship. I avoided all NFL-related blogs and news, Facebook and even my fantasy team’s results. All my friends and family had been instructed to keep it the result to themselves. Amazingly, I went to the bar completely ignorant of the game’s outcome.
As I sat down with my beer and my knock-off Tedy Bruschi jersey at Pub 210, a drunk girl at another table asked if I was there to see the big game. “Don’t bother,” she said. “The Patriots win in a blow-out.”