WEST JORDAN — They only have one car. Their kids wear hand-me downs. They don't eat out as often as they used to. Instead of Disneyland, they visit local attractions for family vacations. And in an attempt to cut costs in their budget, they are cutting out the cable.
"It's been tough" says Lindsey Swensen of West Jordan,the wife and mother of a family of Jazz fans. "We love sports and it's hard not being able to watch the Jazz in our home, but we make it work."
The Swensens make it work by spending a lot of time with their extended family during the Jazz season. That's because Swensen's parents and siblings all have cable or satellite subscriptions. "They don't mind that we come over all the time," Swensen says. "They're all big Jazz fans too and it's nice to just get together and root for our team."
The Swensens aren't alone.
Many sports fans throughout the state are trying to make ends meet while living in tough economic times, and with heavy cable and satellite costs weighing them down, some have decided to cut their subscriptions and turn to alternative methods to be able to watch their favorite teams.
On one hand, services like Hulu and Netflix have made it easier for folks to cut ties with expensive cable and satellite subscriptions because they allow users to stream many of their favorite TV programs and movies online. Live sporting events, however, are often a different story.
Many of them are only found on subscription-specific programming through a local cable or satellite provider. The days are gone when games for the Jazz, Utes or Cougars were mostly broadcast free and over-the-air. Most Jazz games are now broadcast on FSN and the others are on TNT or ESPN. Meanwhile, the Utah Utes and BYU Cougars are found on The mtn. network or VS. or CBS College Sports. Utah and BYU will both leave the Mountain West Conference after this year, but while their games will be available through different outlets, they will continue to mostly not be available for free.
Real Salt Lake, Utah Blaze and Salt Lake Bees are a few of the local professional sports teams that continue to offer a few over-the-air broadcasts for free. However, as their respective sports gain in popularity, expect to see exclusive TV deals with the likes of ESPN or other cable sports networks.
All of which means that if you want to watch your favorite teams play live, cutting out cable or satellite is a hard choice especially for sports fans that love their teams almost as much as their own kids. They buy their team's jerseys, listen to sports talk radio, check the box score after every game and follow their favorite players on Twitter. They eat, drink and breathe sports, so it's no wonder that sports are one of the last things they're willing to cut out of their budgets.
But with a little creativity, you can follow your favorite teams and still save some money. As the Internet continues to expand, more and more content can be found online. ESPN3.com will allow you to stream select sporting events for free if you have a participating Internet provider such as Comcast. If you have an Xbox 360, the latest system update released Nov. 1, 2010 includes ESPN3.com and allows you to stream those events on your big screen TV in High Definition. Purchasing NBA league pass and MLB.tv allows you to stream any NBATV or MLB games on your computer. However, you won't be able to watch your local teams due to blackout rules.
An alternative option is to stream live games from sites like Justin.tv. The legality of streaming content from such sites is still up for debate. Much like downloading music or movies infringes on copyright law, streaming live TV may infringe on similar laws. As sites like Justin.tv continue to push the envelope on what is right and what is wrong online, it may be up to the user to decide if they want to participate in those activities.
"During the World Cup, if I was at a place that didn't have ESPN, I would watch the matches on Justin.tv and it actually looked pretty good," said Ryan Bullock of Herriman. "I wouldn't use it as my first source of watching sports, but if you don't have any other alternatives, it works pretty well."
Another option for catching your favorite team live is to network with people that have access to game tickets. During a long season, some season tickets may go unused, and if the owner of those season tickets knows how big of a fan you are, you may get an opportunity or two to see a game for free or at a discounted price. The more gracious you are, the more likely you'll get additional opportunities at scoring more tickets.
"My uncle works for BYU, so he's a great source. I also have a lot of friends. Basically, if you're an extrovert and network with like-minded sports fans, free tickets always seem to come your way," says Blake Snow, BYU fan and father of three.
Streaming content Online or scoring tickets to the live event are not the only options you have when wanting to watch your favorite sports teams play. "I 'borrow' friends cable plans, since I don't have one," says Snow. "I'll also go to sports bars, a great and free place to watch games."
When invited over to a friends house to watch a game, Snow stresses that it's important to offer to bring something such as drinks or snacks in exchange for your friend allowing you to "borrow" their cable plan. "But that's only because I married a thoughtful, grateful, and considerate wife who has taught me well," says Snow.
Mark Ormond is a freelance writer and avid sports fan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.