American in Spain


January 22, 2010
Corner Flag

The other day I noticed an interesting article in Spain's sports newspaper, MARCA. The article starts something like this like this:

Yeste walks towards the corner flag for a corner kick after two attacks on goal by Athletic Bilbao. He hasn't yet set the ball down when a shout is heard from the far end of the bar: Gooooooal!!! Seconds afterwards, Yeste kicks the ball, which deflects off Lass in the first row, and Llorente scores the goal.

All the excitement of watching a soccer match has been ruined. What just happened? The article is about a growing problem among bar-going soccer fans in Spain, specifically the lag time between sports radio broadcasts and the digital television signals displaying the events. Due to the nature of digital television, the analog signal has to be encoded on one end, and then decoded on the other, resulting in a lag time of up to 30 seconds. Where as old analog radio signals are just as fast as they've always been. Not to mention that once Spain gets off its ass and starts broadcasting television in HD, the added information might double the lag time up to a minute. So you're at the bar watching the game with the boys and the old pensioner in the corner with ye olde transistor radio is experiencing the excitement well before you are.

And you'll never guess what the proposed solution is... is selling radios with a retardador, an audio buffer like anti-skip CD players have so that you can add delay to the radio until it synchronizes with the television! How crazy is that?

Such are the problems of the digital age.

Strangely, the same day I read this article, I saw an episode of Leverage where a mark is conned into betting on a basketball game on a pub television where the signal has been delayed so someone can feed the conman information about what's about to happen in the game through an ear piece.