Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Watching Races … It Ain’t What It Used to Be

Computers, wireless communication, and the Internet have changed our lives, no doubt about it. A case in point that I find interesting is how we fans now experience racing.

Once upon a time, certainly, the only chance you had to be a race spectator was to attend a race in person. The first big change was when races started being televised—at least the big races. Then qualifying was televised. And practice. And other less-known forms of racing. And as much from-the-paddock commentating as possible, if you’re covering or following NASCAR. Much of this coverage comes from the second big change: the proliferation of specialty cable stations. Even when I was growing up, all we had was the basic broadcast channels—yes, I’m older than “cable TV."

But today we have IndyCar and other sports on Versus, lots of types of racing and other sports via two broadcast channels of ESPN, and all-motorsports-all-the-time on the SPEED Channel. Plus major races carried by the major broadcast channels: ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. And I understand—though I haven’t yet succumbed to this level of following or fandom—that one can subscribe to specific cable channels to follow NASCAR drivers’ in-car cameras and radio communications continuously throughout their races.

Of course, the advent of the DVR (TiVo and the like) is the third big change. Now I don’t have to schedule my day around the race schedule—or I don’t have to miss my favorite racing if I have another commitment I can’t break.

And this year, my experience has changed even further. For one thing, I’ve gotten up to speed (forgive the pun) on Twitter (@tkaehler), and I’ve made new friends through it who are also big fans of racing. So first of all, when I’m able to watch a race live, I keep Twitter (or TweetDeck) open and I chat with other fans around the country who are as crazy for racing as I am.

In addition, now that the ALMS broadcast this year is live online (streaming on with a broadcast summary some hours later, I can do even more. For instance, I’m writing this blog with three windows open: Microsoft Word, for writing; a browser with the race streaming live; and TweetDeck, where I’m chatting with race fans. In the #ALMS feed I caught a photo of another fan’s setup: a laptop open to the ALMS race and a TV on for the IndyCar race. That’s multi-tasking I approve of!

There’s nothing like being at a race, to be sure. But if you can’t be there, at least you can be sure you don’t miss a minute of the action, the commentary, or the fan reaction. I’m certainly a fan of that.

How do you all typically do your race watching, and how has it changed over the years?

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