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Sweden: a world away from the World Series

The Local · 20 Oct 2010, 17:02

Published: 20 Oct 2010 17:02 GMT+02:00

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For many ex-pats living in Sweden, October can be a trying time of year. The intoxicating sun and lengthy summer holidays have faded away, leaving us facing the sobering reality of a prolonged period of dreary darkness, not to mention a long cold winter.

In order to cope with the physical and mental challenges that accompany a Scandinavian winter, people tend to seek out the simple pleasures and familiar comforts that provide them with the strength they require to face months ahead.

Some may dive into a novel, while others may look to take up a new hobby like ballroom dancing or knitting.

But for a particular subset of us who find ourselves marooned in Sweden in October, the cure we seek for the onset of the winter blues remains thousands of miles and an achingly wide time difference away.

No, I’m not talking about the beaches of Thailand or Florida. I’m talking about baseball – and more specifically, the World Series.

Known in my native United States as the Fall Classic, Major League Baseball’s World Series, which is set to start next week, normally acts something like a shot of vitamin D that counteracts the onset of October’s empty chill. It’s the end of a months’ long journey in which two teams battle in a best-of-seven game series for the sport’s ultimate prize.

For those not entirely familiar with the sport, baseball is a game of bats and balls (no not cricket!) in which teams score runs against each other by hitting the ball with the bat and running counterclockwise around a series of four bases situated at the corners of a diamond.

A complete trip around the bases constitutes one run and after each team gets nine opportunities to bat, the team with the most runs wins (incidentally baseball is the only sport that appears backwards when watched in a mirror).

It is a sport that resonates strongly with American’s of all ages, even those without a strong interest in sports. As historian Jacques Barzun, grandfather of current US ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun, once wrote, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game.’’

Of course, baseball is a sport played and followed in many parts of the world – even in Sweden, where baseball has been played for more than 100 years.

The first documented games was played outside Gothenburg in 1904. The inception of the first viable baseball team in Sweden, the Västerås Bäsbollklubb, took place only six years later, and in 1956 the Swedish Baseball and Softball Federation (Svenska Baseboll och Softboll Förbundet) was founded. In 1973 the SBSF became a member of the Swedish Confederation of Sports (Riksidrottsförbundet) and the Swedish National Baseball team was born.

Today baseball is alive and well in Sweden, although it has yet to become as common as football or hockey. Nevertheless, Sweden played host to the world last September when Canada, Netherlands Antilles and South Korea all descended on the brand new National Baseball Stadium in Sundbyberg outside of Stockholm to take part in the group stage of the 2009 Baseball World Cup.

The SBSF currently governs several leagues with 21 teams and close to 500 active baseball players. The Elite Series, Sweden’s top baseball league, is a blend of foreign and Swedish players and games can be seen at a field near you every Saturday throughout the summer.

And while American baseball fans like me appreciate the sport’s established presence in Sweden, it’s still a long way from providing the excitement and the drama of the World Series. Nor does it satisfy our craving for that October fix of championship baseball, a longing which has built up slowly over the course of Major League Baseball’s 6-month, 162-game regular season.

In a way, the World Series could be compared with the finals of European football’s Champions League tournament, both in terms of the build-up surrounding the event as well as the widespread general interest in the outcome.

Even marginal sports fans manage to follow the World Series, which leaves enthusiasts beside themselves with excitement, anticipation and a seemingly inexhaustible compendium of facts and figures regarding every game and player.

Box scores and statistics describing the events of a game can paint a picture of how any given contest unfolded, but it is often what happens between the box scores that make baseball special. Paul Richards, a former manager for the Baltimore Orioles during the late 1950s, said about baseball: “…it’s a beautifully put together pattern of countless little subtleties that finally add up to the big moment.’’

Baseball fans in Sweden may spend 3 to 4 hours watching games the day after they were played just to see for themselves how the previous night’s drama unfolded, even though they already know the outcome.

Stefan Fahlin, an outfielder for the 2010 Elite Series champions Karlskoga Bats, admits he has an addiction to Major League Baseball playoffs.

“Yes, I watch the playoffs as much as I can. For a World Series game, or a no-hitter I probably would watch the whole game the day after,” he says.

However, watching the World Series from Sweden remains a challenge. Time zones, limited television coverage and a relative lack of interest for the game can make it difficult to find games broadcast on television or shown at a local sports bar.

So how can baseball fans watch the World Series in Sweden?

Fortunately there are a few options, although none may be as gratifying as gathering on the couch to watch a prime-time game live with a group of fellow fans.

For starters, the earliest a World Series games will likely start is about 1am Stockholm time, meaning that deciding to watch means showing up to work looking as if you just came in from a svensexa.

But when history is at stake and you live in shaving-optional country, why not!

When it comes down to it, however, there are basically only two really viable options for watching the World Series in Sweden.

One is ESPN America, offered by most cable TV distributers in Sweden. It has only limited coverage of the MLB regular season but is broadcasting all playoffs games and the World Series both live and on tape delay.

But for the hardcore baseball fan the best option is without question a subscription to MLB.com, an online service which allows fans to subscribe either to the entire season or simply to the postseason. The cost is reasonable and the service is excellent.

Games are presented in HD quality and viewers can choose the television feed from either the home or away team. With a quick trip to your neighbourhood Clas Ohlson, you can easily get the hardware you need to connect your computer to your flatscreen.

Story continues below…

And for those who also own a Playstation 3, MLB has free software that allows you to access your MLB.com account via the PS3 with a gamer friendly interface.

All games can be watched on demand in either the full coverage or in a condensed game mode that allows the viewer to see an entire game in about 25 minutes (condensed mode games can actually be viewed without a subscription to MLB.com).

For those who opt to watch the game at their desk at work the following day there is even a mini-viewer that fits nicely in the corner of your monitor and can be easily concealed from the disapproving eyes of your colleagues or supervisor.

“With the playoffs I’ve been watching the day games live on ESPN [night games here] and the rest I watch on MLB.com [hooking up my computer to the big screen],” says current Elite Series batting champion Shawn Vance, an American love-refugee living in Stockholm.

Aside from MLB.com and ESPN America, however, finding baseball on TV in Sweden is no simple task, leaving the burden on the baseball fan to find a way to catch a game.

“It definitely stinks that no sports bars ever show anything baseball related out here,” adds Vance.

But whether you choose to shield yourself from the sports page and watch the game on tape delay or sacrifice some sleep and stare into a flickering monitor in the wee hours of the night, hopefully the words of New Yorker magazine sports writer Roger Angell still ring true for bleary-eyed baseball fans stuck watching the World Series from Sweden:

“I felt what I almost always feel when I am watching a ballgame: just for those two or three hours, there is really no place I would rather be.”

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Your comments about this article

20:48 October 20, 2010 by JGame
This is a great article and I feel their pain! What you do for baseball!
10:44 October 21, 2010 by hopingagainsthope
I am a subscriber to mlb.com during the regular season, and, alas, do not have access to espn america via swedish cable. My understanding however is that even for subscribers for the season, the postseason is NOT available, except in the US and Canada. (check the mlb.com website)

If there is indeed a way to get live coverage of playoff games, I would love to know how to do it. I'm begging !
11:49 October 21, 2010 by jb2lk
There has to be some pub that is showing the series in Stockholm! Any ideas?
13:03 October 21, 2010 by gtex
GO RANGERS!! I've never been a dedicated fan, but since this is the first year they have made it this far, I have to be excited!! It would be very interesting to see if someone knows how to watch the playoffs/world series.
14:10 October 21, 2010 by Jackdempsey187

There is a postseason package for mlb.tv that costs $20 and is available here in Sweden (and anywhere else for that matter).

Check out http://www.mlb.tv

I'm an Indians fan so this season hasn't been all that fun, but an mlb.tv subscription has been money well spent the past few years.

By the way, this article is a great read. I wish for more articles about American sports!

NFL fans check out NFL Gamepass (www.nfl.com/gamepass). Also money well spent (though yes, the Browns also haven't been that fun to watch this year...). Access to every game, live or at anytime throughout the season. Watch the game the day after and you bypass all the commercial breaks/timeouts/halftime.
16:17 October 21, 2010 by sdv4
I'm actually watching the Giants-Phillies game from last night on mlb.com right now, after carefully avoiding Facebook and e-mails all day so I can be pleasantly ignorant of the outcome. If anyone hears of a bar in Stockholm showing the series, please let me know. As Mr. Gregory mentions, this is like the last party before a long, cold, dark winter. Go Rangers!! (or anyone but the Yankees!!!)
19:14 October 21, 2010 by NvemberRain
I am in the US but keep up to date on swedish news from thelocal! Thanks for all you guys do. And for those of you that can't find a good feed to watch baseball/basketball/american football check out www.atdhe.net

There are live streams of all major sporting events and also have reruns of a few tv shows, live network coverage and movie channels. It saved my life more than a few times! Enjoy!
21:06 October 21, 2010 by Sandy106
Baseball is america's favorite sport? I dont think so...
21:31 October 21, 2010 by max79
Them Americans are so funny sometimes. World series huh? How many countries give a shite about that horrible "sport"?
21:32 October 21, 2010 by adshasta
From Göteborg, I am watching the playoffs with my regular TV packet on ESPN live! NO problem..., GO RANGERS
00:22 October 22, 2010 by Swedesmith
When I was in Sweden I listened to the games on the internet. Summer seems more like summer when you hear the game being called and the sound of the crack of the bat. Go Cubs!.....someday (hopefully in my lifetime)!
11:07 October 22, 2010 by VicTaulic
America's favorite sport is SMPF by a wide margin..............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................(Smash Mouth Pro Football)........that's the football where the ball has two pointy things on the end.
14:07 October 22, 2010 by calebian22

Have you ever tried to hit a fast, breaking pitch baseball? Get back to me on that "sport" label when you finally dub one on your 100th try.
17:33 October 22, 2010 by Åskar

It doesn't matter. Baseball is still one of the World's most boring games (hyperbole) with American football as runner up. ,-)
19:10 October 22, 2010 by calebian22

I don't disagree with you on the boring nature of baseball (or American football). I would rather do just about anything else than watch either. However the hand eye coordination required to hit a round ball, (travelling between 120 and 160kph at the collegiate and pro level) with a round bat is not an easy task.
22:46 October 23, 2010 by dizzymoe33
Yeah congrats Texas for beating those darn Yankees!!! Good luck
03:16 October 24, 2010 by Onepack
Congrats to Joshua Gregory! A well researched and written article! Thanks!
14:53 October 24, 2010 by Texas1

Baseball IS Americas favorite past time. My wife and I were born and raised in chicago and recently moved to Texas. When the playoffs are underway, you can bet that everyone is talking about it. Everyone!

It's a time in America when people from all over the U.S. have some unity and gives us a lot to talk about. I live 1,000 miles away from Chicago in Arlington Texas where the Rangers play and this place is going crazy. The neat thing about baseball is where ever you go, you can identify with someone, especially when you where your favorite teams jersey (mine is the Chicago White Sox) and not to be devisive, but to create conversation and possibly meet someone from your hometown and it happens all the time. People are always ready to talk about baseball especailly at playoff time.

I enjoy reading these articles and try an keep up with world news and apreciate to learn more about my mothers home counrty of Sweden
21:29 October 24, 2010 by VicTaulic
Texas- are you kidding? Baseball is very regional. Pro Football regularly beats baseball handily in the ratings. If a world series game is played on a Sunday, or up against a nationally televised NFL game, I bet foot wins out. Betcha. Even in Dallas, if the Cowboys were playing a marquis NFL team at the same time Texas was playing the seventh game of a World Series, the Cowboys would win. Oh sure, they'd be clicking back and forth between games, but they'd spend the most time on football.
18:20 October 25, 2010 by Texas1

Next Sunday night the Texas Rangers are playing the San Fransisco Giants at the same time the Indianapoluos Colts are playing the Houston Texans on espn Sunday Night Football. I "BETCHA" nationally, more people will be watching the Rangers play in their first World Series against the Giants then they will be watching Sunday Night Football. I betcha. Check the ratings next week and you'll be sucking lemons, bro
07:07 October 26, 2010 by VicTaulic
I'll take that bet. The Vikings-Packers game last night broke all Sunday night TV ratings for any TV show. The entire east coast will be watching Peyton and the Colts, and could care less about the Rangers and Giants. In fact, this world series could be the lowest rated ever. If I win, you owe me a blond babe.
22:25 October 26, 2010 by jb2lk
Ok back on topic..

Has anyone found a pub showing the series in Stockholm? They start around 01 local time, might be tough.
08:24 October 28, 2010 by mikewhite
TYPO in article:

That should be "expat" (expatriate) rather than "ex-pat" (person formerly known as Patrick ;-)
17:45 November 1, 2010 by VicTaulic
Texas1- guess what I am about to post about? Yep. Regular season NFL football handily beat the World Series in TV ratings last night...http://www.startribune.com/sports/106448568.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aULPQL7PQLanchO7DiUsT... I want a leggy Swedish blond as per our agreement. Email is Morlock9@**yahoo*.com. Hey, don't feel bad. I used to live in Dallas and saw a couple Rangers games three years ago. Too bad they lost. But baseball is increasingly regional, and the demographics aren't even close to pro football. (A little fat is OK. Not a lot.) Thanks and all the best...Vic
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