Channel 198: Watching Footy From San Francisco


by Damien Holloway

 

What do Al Jazeera, Taiwan Outlook, France 24 News and Dwayne Russell have in common? Channel KCSMD 198.

More on that later.

 

I moved over to the USA in December of 2005 to marry an American girl. On previous visits I had regularly watched a weekly footy wrap on one of the major channels, (ESPN if memory serves) it was a slightly dumbed down version for non-AFL markets like California and Queensland. But hey, it was regular and free to air so no complaints from me.

 

As the 2006 season rolled around and I prepared for my first footy season outside of Australia I was looking forward to this weekly fix from home. To supplement the excitement of the upcoming season I had even organized a footy tipping contest between my wife and I. (She won the first three seasons before order was restored.) Scrolling through the hundreds of channels I casually asked my wife if she remembered which channel it was on. “Oh, that program hasn’t been on for a while” was the slightly flippant, or so I thought, response. I’ll leave it to Almanakcers with a legal background to ponder the issues of withholding key pieces of information and breech of (matrimonial) contract.

 

So, far from home and no footy on the telly: internet to the rescue? While far removed from its infancy, the internet at that time possessed nowhere near the content it does today and there was the small matter of paying for it. My brother, who had returned to the US in a similar time frame, was a far earlier and more ready adopter of the pay per view model, me not so. While admitting to being a bit of a technological Luddite, I grew up in an era with more than enough free to air footy and footy related programming (Monday night we’re talking footy) to vaguely resent the idea of having to pay for it. Besides, footy is for going too or watching on the telly. The idea of watching it on a small computer screen with all that freezing and buffering going on while paying for the privilege, no thanks.

 

Needless to say, the next few years were pretty barren in the football-watching department. Frustratingly, ESPN would randomly broadcast a live match for no apparent rhyme or reason. However, these glorious occasions were annoyingly inconsistent and few and far between. In one instance I stumbled across a live match while at work. (Hotel hospitality) There on the large screen TV in the bar in a downtown hotel in San Francisco was what I had been craving, you beauty! I instructed the bartender to turn the volume up a little and parked myself discreetly in the corner to watch. But not discreetly enough. After constantly being interrupted with work issues, damn it, and a never ending steam of questions relating to the rules, the ball shape, the guernsey colours, the lack of helmets/padding, the metric system, kangaroos, Australian culture, the climate, the exchange rate etc etc, I finally told the bartender to turn it over to the bloody college basketball to get a little peace. Not exactly the international football ambassador the AFL had in mind. Meanwhile, my brother kept updating me on the ever-expanding pay per view/streaming options available on the net. But that inner tight arse, socialist, Luddite in me kept resisting. Besides, his views have since become irrelevant after moving back to Melbourne, a mere 10 k’s from the G if you don’t mind umpire!

 

In 2009 we joined up with the Aussie expat community and trooped along to the San Francisco/Australian Chamber of Commerce presentation of the Grand Final. The event was staged in a very flash ballroom at a four-star hotel complete with Boag’s beer, two giant projection screens and an American attempt at a meat pie. Aside from the game, the highlight was the President of the Chamber of Commerce winning the raffle. Not a mere chook, no, but a return ticket for two to Oz courtesy of the major sponsor. Imagine the delight of the crowd when his ticket was drawn. We attended again the following year, twice, but this once a year caper and ESPN’s inconsistencies where not doing it for me. With the 2011 season about to begin would I finally have to pay?

 

Then, serendipity. I discovered The Roosters, The Footy Almanac and Channel 198 all within the first month of the season. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg sort of argument, in my excitement of discovery I don’t remember which came first, but here was the answer to all my prayers. Finally, a footy website that’s almost as good as talking footy with your mates over a couple of cold ones at your local and regular, free to air footy. Interspersed with news and current affairs from France and Vietnam, Channel 198 devoted every Monday at 6pm (replayed at 7pm) to Dwayne Russell and the AFL winner’s wrap AND every Friday at 6pm (replayed at 9pm) to Bruce, Denis and the boys at Friday night footy. Every week for the first month I held my breath to see if this was going to be regular programming or a one off, but there it was, week after week. My free to air footy fix lasted the whole season, and into November if you count repeats. Watching footy from San Francisco had never been better.

 

With the start of the 2012 season almost upon us the nerves of anticipation have begun. At this stage I’m unable to say whether last years glorious situation will be maintained or if news and current affairs from Burma or Belarus will bump the footy back into programming oblivion. At least I’ll have the Almanac and who knows, maybe this is the year I’ll even pay for it?

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    I hope you get he coverage you are expecting Damien. Enjoy the season .

  2. The ex-pat life. Never quite sure if the advertised times are correct. Nothing worse than recording a game according to the times announced and finding the game starting with 5 minutes to go and tight. (Very tricky to build up the requisite tension without the preceding acts).

    Fortunately, here the mst likely to miss out is the rugby and even more fortunately it is the 6 Nations which is sacrificed. Strange as iit has a large population of expas from those countries and is by far the highest profile expat sport along with cricket. The AFL seems pretty secure.

    Good luck finding consistent and rewarding viewing!

  3. Damien, I hope you keep Channel 198 all this year. But if not, one place to look for updates is http://www.afana.com, the website of the Australian Football Association of North America (AFANA), the primary lobbying group for TV coverage of footy in the States. They also have a Facebook presence — the AFANA Footy Portal.
    Now that the international internet subscription service (liveAFL.tv) finally works on my Mac, that’s the way I’ve gone, and the quality is dramatically improved from even a couple of years ago. But a lot of website videos also play in the States, including the Herald Sun’s and the Age’s, and Channel Nine’s.
    And then you’ve got all of us. Nothing better, IMO. Good luck!

  4. Damien Holloway says:

    Thanks for the comments and suggestions. A recent purchase of an i-mac may make the internet viewing a little more tolerable if channel 198 doesn’t deliver the goods this year.
    Cheers.

  5. OMG, Damien.

    There u rt in Frisco and not ONE mention of the San Francisco 49ers. Have you even ventured down to Candlestick Park to see the mighty 49ers in action?

    They went through the regular NFL season 13 wins-3 losses. And in an absolute classic lost the National Football Conference championship 17-20 to eventual SuperBowl winners, the New York Giants,.

    Hopefully next NFL season — pre-eeason August; regular season starts September — you can get along. I know tix are usually at a premium but, hey, u r in the Bay area.

    I always make it a point, religiously, to see live a game in the country where we are visiting, either long or short-term. So on that basis have seen EPL matches in the UK, Serie A in Italy .and even Galatasaray (Harry Kewell’s old side) in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Best of luck !

  6. Jesse Dunne says:

    Hi Damien, I live in melbourne and have an MCC membership. It makes for excellent and convinenvt viewing all year round. I hope this jelps.

    Regards, Jesse “Chris Judd” Dunne

  7. Hi Damien, I remember you as a little boy playing footy for the Oakleigh Chargers, glad to see your passion is still there as much as every. You were a great little footballer. Go the Blues!! Best wishes for a great viewing season. Kelly.

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