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The Apps That Make Keeping Up With Soccer Easier

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Rory Smith using his Apple iPad outside Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, in London. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Rory Smith, chief soccer correspondent for The Times, who is based in Manchester, England, discussed the tech he’s using.

As a soccer reporter, you must be savvy about video-streaming apps and gear like antennas. What are your favorite tools for staying on the ball, so to speak?

The ones I use the most are Virgin Anywhere and Sky Sports Mobile TV, the two official apps from the two major cable networks in the U.K. Sky holds the rights to most Premier League games; subscribing to Virgin means I can watch the rest of the major European leagues, too.

I have friends, more technologically minded than me, who prefer streaming matches through a Kodi box (a set-top device that runs an open-source media app that can be used to stream pirated content, including illegal sports streams). I can see why they’re tempted: The cost of subscriptions is considerable. I can justify it — to my wife, and to myself — as a professional necessity, but many can’t.

Rory Smith using the Sky Sports App on his Apple iPad. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

It is worthwhile only because of the apps, though: I use them not only when I travel, but increasingly often at home, too. My wife, Kate, would rightly regard herself as something of a soccer (well, a soccer journalism) widow; being able to watch a game on an iPad while she reads or watches something else has soothed a regular source of low-key domestic disharmony.

What do you like about the tools, and what could be better?

The Virgin app, certainly, needs work to iron out various bugs.

In the early days of streaming — before these apps were commonplace — I’d quite often have to find matches on websites of dubious provenance and even more uncertain reliability. It was always kind of a crapshoot as to how much of the game you’d actually see in between all of the buffering and pop-ups and losses of connection.

Virgin has not yet quite escaped at least two of those problems; Sky is better, but not perfect. I would imagine that’s a problem that applies to whatever the United States equivalents of those apps are, too.

Rory Smith using his Apple iPad outside Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC, in London. Credit Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

Do you think it’s feasible for avid sports fans to cut the cable cord or is cable still the way to go?

It’s feasible, but it depends on how avid you are and how patient you are prepared to be. I know Kodi and its equivalents are becoming ever more popular, and there are plenty of people I know who consume as much soccer as they want without paying very much, if anything at all, for the privilege.

I can’t condone doing things that aren’t entirely legal, of course, but at the same time the cost of watching sport is rising all the time, and if there comes a point where that is out of reach for a substantial number of people, you almost have to accept that they will try to find ways around it.

That said, the Premier League — like the N.F.L. and others — are doing all they can to combat streaming, so it remains, by all accounts, somewhat time-consuming and not entirely reliable. It is definitely easier to have cable, but I’m not sure, especially to a younger, digital native generation, that it is still an absolute necessity.

What tech product are you currently obsessed with using in your daily life?

In my mid-30s, I’ve found that I’ve pared down the tech I use to what I’m comfortable with. Twitter and Instagram, but not Snapchat. An iPhone and iPad, but only occasionally Apple TV (we still watch DVDs in our house, on a PlayStation 3, like cave men). Lots of my friends use Strava or wear a Fitbit, but I lack the competitive instinct for the former and the inflated sense of self-worth for the latter.

The last thing to be added to my little tech bubble was Spotify; that’s the one that may have made the biggest difference. About 10 years ago, I found that discovering new music had become almost impossible. Music stores were becoming rarer and rarer, and ever harder to navigate, because they were full of achingly hip teenagers; the radio offered nothing but indecipherable millennial pop. This sounds extreme, but Spotify has stopped — well, delayed — my journey into middle age. I’ve not decreed that all music nowadays is terrible yet; without Spotify, I’m pretty sure I was on course to do so by 2014.

What do you and your family do with Spotify?

Together with a welter of podcasts, it provides the soundtrack to our lives. I drive a lot — to and from games, interviews, stories — and fly a lot, too. It keeps me awake and sends me to sleep (respectively). It sounds a little excessive, but it’s helped both me and my wife do something we had forgotten how — or been disenfranchised from being able — to do. I would never have found the Rural Alberta Advantage without it, or been able to relearn the words to “Regulate,” and what sort of world would that be?

What could be better about it?

I’m not sure I’d be able to pinpoint any one thing. I’m sure it’s not perfect. And there are times when the recommendations list makes me think someone in some uber-trendy West Coast lair is judging me. Oh, you liked this? Well, maybe you should be listening to Mansun then, you recidivist throwback.

Apart from soccer, what is your favorite sport and what tech do you use to stay on top of it?

Twitter keeps me across my other fleeting passions — cycling, cricket and rugby — though to be honest, they fade in and out. I’ll read anything on any subject, though, and some of the stuff that the likes of Vice do on sports is fascinating.

source https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/technology/personaltech/the-apps-that-make-keeping-up-with-soccer-easier.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fpersonaltech&_r=0

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