Another September, another NFL season begins. The NFL is one of the very few indulgences that I miss dearly from living in the U.S. It was an important part of my weekend routine: wake up Sunday, make coffee, turn on the 10 am game, relax on the couch, let the caffeine kick in, do some chores around the house as the games continued, etc. Football means nothing to the vast majority of Koreans, who are primarily interested in baseball, with progressively receding (can I say that?) interests in soccer and basketball. When I first got here I couldn’t find it anywhere and lived through nfl.com highlights.

The next season, last year, I found one place playing games over the internet, but only live. 10 am Sunday Pacific time is 2 am Korea time. That doesn’t work. But when the playoffs rolled around, a brand new foreigner bar in Haeundae got the NFL Sunday Ticket thingy. They broadcast them on a delay, showing Saturday and Sunday games the following night. An ethical code was born: If you know, don’t tell. Simple as that. And it worked. Either everyone averted their eyes from internet news for the whole day, or no one spilled the beans. I saw five playoff games in a crowded bar and didn’t know the outcomes until I watched them unfold on the screen.

As an indication of how quickly things change here, there are now three bars (at least) showing not just playoffs, but regular season games, using the same model. There’s the original in Haeundae (Sunset Lounge) and two in Kyungdae (HQ and Evas, which both opened only a few months ago). All three bars have the NFL Sunday Ticket, which is far from perfect, but for the most part it works.

Eva’s is a great bar with the best pub food in the city, so I went there for the season opener on Friday night (what was in the States the Thursday night game). There was a good crowd and the Steelers won, so I was happy. Monday night I went back at around 7 for the Sunday games. I was the only one there that early, so I got to pick the game: Chicago at Green Bay. At first, it was just me and a bartender girl, who had no clue what was going on. I taught her the best I could in simple English words. Keep the other team out of your area, move into the other team’s area. OK, now that there’s a safety. The quarterback got tackled in his goal. That’s two points. There’s a field goal, that’s three points. See that quarterback for Chicago? He keeps throwing the ball to the other team. That’s bad. What’s second and seven mean? Um… OK, they have to make 10 yards (you know yards? like a meter.) in four plays. Then they get another four chances to make another 10 yards. Oh, OK. I don’t think she got it. But she seemed mildly entertained. Every time there was a close up of a player showboating after a big defensive play she’d laugh and say “So cute,” which, in itself, was cute.

Eventually, toward the end of the game, regulars started flowing into the bar. After Aaron Rogers threw that beautiful bomb to Donald Driver to win the game, we tried to launch another one. But the site stopped working. It refused to load another game. HQ and Sunset have apparently had the same problem. From what I hear demand is higher than bandwidth supply and it’s created a logjam. Making matters worse, nfl.com doesn’t have any support, so there’s no way to get answers or solutions.

Hopefully things will get worked out, they’ll clear the tubes, and we’ll be able to see all the games we want. It’s still not the same as waking up to morning football. But what I lack in that regard, I gain in the communal aspect of enjoying it at the neighborhood pub with a few friends and regulars.

Go Steelers.


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