Watching Sports Abroad
I’ve always loved watching sports – my parents still joke that I went right from Sesame Street to SportsCenter. As you’d imagine, watching sports has been one of my main hobbies all my life. Of course when Derek and I moved to Denmark, many friends asked me how I would handle watching sports abroad. I’ve had to adjust to life away from my beloved teams and the ESPN family of network. After two years in Copenhagen, I’ve completely adjusted the way that I enjoy sports and how I watch sports abroad!
No Sports Small Talk
In the US, small talk often turns to collegiate or professional sports, whether it’s about one of the local teams or some big game coming up. Beside Derek, I almost never talk to anyone in Denmark about my teams or any games at all. At lunch my colleagues may talk about their kids’ football team or their cycling training, but nearly no one talks about the game last night or how the local team is doing.
The closest exception to this rule is when it comes to certain Danish national teams. When the Danish Handball team was on its way to winning the 2019 World Championships, the team became part of the daily conversation – especially if coworkers from Germany or France were in earshot. We also heard about the women’s national soccer team as they did well in the 2017 European Championships and of course about Denmark during the World Cup. Still, none of these teams or their relevant games were close to daily conversations about sports in America.
People don’t wear or display logos
Whether on the street or in the office it is nearly impossible to know what teams a person may support. In the US it’s very common for people to wear clothing with sports logos or have some paraphernalia around their home or office. I myself would often have on a Red Sox or Villanova hat, but in Denmark, the only sports apparel anyone wears is a Yankees had (and that is more Jay-Z’s fault than Derek Jeter’s). Occasionally we’ll walk by an American tourist wearing team gear and give them a nod or a “Go Sox!” Once their surprise wears off we have a quick chat about division standings, where they’re from and their travels.
Access is Hard if Watching Sports Abroad
In Denmark we don’t have cable. That said, all the media we watch comes from Netflix, apps we cast to our TV, and watching via Slingbox. American TV apps don’t work unless you have a VPN and even then, they require a cable account to watch. Slingbox isn’t the easiest to use either, and the decade-old unit sitting at my parent’s house doesn’t have great resolution. Usually, the video look more 8-bit than Hi-Def.
Further, it is a lot harder to casually watch sports in Denmark. There is not a big bar culture here to begin with, and very few bars have any TV’s. In the US almost every bar and many restaurants have TV tuned to sports, so it is easy to stop in for a drink and watch part of a random game while scanning the bottom line for scores. In fact, it is a real challenge to find any place to watch sports in Copenhagen, with only a few Irish or British style pubs showing any sports.
| Tip: If you’re looking to watch an NFL game in Copenhagen, there is only ONE bar that shows American Football games – Southern Cross Pub
All Late Games if Watching Sports Abroad
Even when we do get access to games, we have to contend with the time difference. Basketball and hockey are non-existent as even weekend games are usually played in the American evening. I still have MLB Gamecast, but often only watch in the morning. If I’m lucky I get to see the last few innings of a west-coast game running long.
NFL Sundays are a completely different experience, since the early games now start at 7pm local time. As a Bills fan this has been very convenient (every game is a Sunday night game!), but with a 12:30am kickoff I have only watched one of the three Super Bowls since I moved here.
But the time difference also makes for some surreal experiences that I will never forget. I watched the Bills make the playoffs in the middle of our New Year’s Eve party. This was very confusing to our guests as I screamed in joy 30 minutes before midnight.
Villanova won the 2018 NCAA Championship at 4 in the morning while I watched on a laptop while laying in a hotel bed in Istanbul.
I woke up to use the bathroom in a London apartment, and watched the final five innings of an 18-inning Red Sox World Series loss. Then I got to watch them win the World Series on my phone two days later at 4am.
We watched the Eagles win the NFC Championship during pub quiz at an English pub in Tenerife. They had the game on mute and didn’t know what to make of a shouting Derek in his Carson Wentz jersey and non-stop string of expletives and emotional outbursts. Watching sports abroad is fun!
| Related post: Why I Flew Home For the Super Bowl
Somehow our teams win!
Did you notice how many of my teams won in that previous paragraph? Perhaps the most surreal thing about living abroad has been how successful our teams have been! Since we moved to Denmark the following things have happened:
- Villanova won the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. And three straight Big East Tournament Championships.
- Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series
- Philadelphia Eagles win Super Bowl LII
- Buffalo Bills make the playoffs for the first time since 1999
And on top of this, our hometown Sixers and Phillies have returned to success after “trusting the process” for years.
We Follow Teams Old School
Since I can’t watch many games, I have to follow my teams the new ways with online articles and YouTube highlights. Instead of watching games and following the natural ups and downs of a game or season, I start with the final score or standings and have to dig into the details. This is a very different experience. It means that I miss the opportunity to forge my own opinions and are reliant of beat writers and twitter.
Ironically, being so far removed from watching games has actually been an asset for my bank account! Since moving to Denmark we have enjoyed legal betting on the World Cup and NFL with pretty good success. I also won a NCAA Tournament pool, and I even won my Fantasy Football league for the first time!
But I Don’t Miss It!
With the late games, access issues, and winning teams I can’t watch, you might think I am frustrated to lose such an integral part of my life, but instead it has helped to change and reprioritize sports in our lives.
Surprisingly, I really don’t miss watching all my old teams and sports so religiously. If anything it might be a little liberating that I don’t feel obligated to carve out several nights a week to watch Villanova or to turn an entire Sunday into an NFL marathon.
I find myself rooting for Danish athletes and teams, and I have discovered how much fun it is to watch handball. We’ve enjoyed introducing American football to our friends. Especially after adopting an Aussie bar as our home for football Sundays. Plus the games come with 100 kr ($15) buckets of Carlsberg! This still makes for a different experience with the Game of the Week – we trade Jim Nantz and Tony Romo for two Danish commentators who we can’t fully understand. For example, the Danish words for “throws” (kaster) and “girlfriend/boyfriend” (kæreste) sound very similar to our non-native ears. This led to some confusion and laughs the first time we heard Danish-language commentary and had to ask a stranger what they were describing. “Why do they keep talking about Tom Brady’s girlfriend and Rob Gronkowski?”
What experiences do you have watching sports abroad?
Read more on Expat Life here: RobeTrotting - Expat Life