How iPad Takes Me Out To The Ballgame

Musings on the second screen
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For this New York baseball fan there is nothing quite like both the Yankees and the Mets in pennant races during September.

What I like to do, no matter how warm and humid, is to go out on our second floor deck and watch the game, and forgo the air conditioning and HDTV downstairs. It almost makes you feel like you’re at the game — without paying a couple of hundred dollars or more for the privilege.

On a recent evening I went to the deck with my iPad, a portable speaker and a beverage, sat down and put on my cable company’s app. I felt like I was at the ballpark. Well, literally two ballparks, because with the touch of a finger I was able to go back and forth between the Yankee and Met games with the touch of a screen in crystal clear HD.

As I sat back watching the game, an old HDTV antenna attached to a pole on my deck caught my eye. And I laughed to myself about how difficult it used to be to do this simple act in the analog TV days and with a traditional HDTV.

Years ago, before we had a deck and before the HD era, I used to go into the old shed we had in the yard and get out my old portable black-and-white GE TV — a type that probably many of you have had in your garages over the years. I’d hope that I’d maneuver the rabbit ears and get a signal of either the Yankees or Mets from our local broadcasters. (This before my area of Brooklyn got cable too.)

By the time we got cable and I wanted to see a game outside, I usually had to unplug or split the signal to the outside TV (by now it was color) from my den on the second floor. This wasn’t one of those things where you say on the spur of the moment: “I’ll watch the game in the yard!”

The whole process was time consuming because you had to make sure you had enough cable (with extensions) to reach the TV, and hope the signal was strong enough to made it to the backyard.

By the time HD came around and I was able to use that HD antenna, the over-the-air signal was and is tremendous. But I’d have to carry out a small HDTV for the purpose. And most games for both teams were then and are still on cable. Attempts to split the HD signal so I could watch a game on the deck were so strenuous that I simply stopped doing it.

All of this reminds me of iPad’s spring 2010 introduction. Apple’s newest wonder was an immediate hit and attending a press event for a leading TV supplier early that summer I asked if iPad sales were taking sales away from TVs, which were slumping. The executive’s reaction was, “Oh … no, no,” and he said it in a way that translated to me as, “Man, I certainly hope not.”

The revolution in watching video of all types on portable devices of all types over the past five years has severely undercut what traditional TV makers used to rely on for additional TV sales — smaller screens for dens and bedrooms.

Now consumers are watching more sports, movies, TV shows and videos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc., than ever before with smartphones and tablets. And it is far easier to do it with mobile devices than ever before. In looking at that old HDTV — and I think it is only five years old — I doubt I will ever use it again, because with an iPad, a good cable app and strong Wi-Fi connection, I won’t need to lug cables or a small TV outside.

After seeing what Apple introduced the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, or another tablet of that size, it looks very appealing, if for nothing else than to watch ballgames out on the deck.

Steve Smith is TWICE’s editor at large and its longtime editor in chief.

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