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I had one simple goal: I wanted to watch the U.S.-Ghana match in the first round of the 2014 World Cup. I also had one giant, glaring, fifteen-story problem: I couldn’t watch the game until 3 hours after it was over. Somehow, I would have to avoid learning anything about the game for an entire afternoon.
The first step was relatively easy. I just had to get off of my social networks. Some of my Facebook friends and Twitter tweeps were bound to post play-by-play breakdowns that I didn’t want to see. So, I closed those tabs on my work computer. I thought that would be it, but then I remembered that I was carrying a spoiler machine in my pocket. Pulling out my phone, I disabled notifications from the official FIFA app, The New York Times, The News Tribune, Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. But information was still all around me. I shut my office door until the end of the day and hummed to myself to drown out any conversation on my way out. At the final whistle, I was at the train station. I put in headphones and blasted my music so I couldn’t overhear any of my fellow passengers talking about the outcome. Back in Tacoma, I shunned NPR for my drive home and only listened to safe music stations. As soon as a DJ came on the air, I immediately switched, just in case they were about to reveal the score.
In our always-connected world, it’s easy to learn anything at the push of a button. With constantly updated news websites and up-to-the-minute apps, everything happens in real time around the globe. Where once, we used to have to wait for the next day’s newspaper to bring us word of major events, we now known instantaneously. Information is effortless. Now, it takes a huge effort to not know something. To insulate yourself from spoilers, you have to cut off the entire outside world. And it feels strange, once you’re used to being plugged in, to unplug. To wait. To be ignorant.
I used to be much more patient. The Internet, for all the good it’s done, has shortened my ability to wait. I spent much of the afternoon antsy. I wanted to know if we’d won or lost. I wanted to know if I was missing a nail-biter or a shut-out. It was actually a little disturbing how bad I was at delaying gratification. Somehow, in spite of the world and my own impulses, I made it home without finding out anything about the match. My girlfriend wasn’t so lucky. We were both going to watch it together, unspoiled, but a passing coworker revealed the stunning opening play and a notification on her phone later ruined the outcome. But she was a good sport and kept the secret.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead if you live under a rock and haven't seen/heard about the USA-Ghana World Cup match.]
When the game was over (for me), I switched on my digital streams and was bombarded by messages that would’ve given away every crucial moment of the match. Status updates and blog posts about who was injured, who scored and who was carded flooded over me. This is how we experience live events in the 21st century — with a second screen repeating the action like an echo. It’s how I’ve become used to absorbing major sporting events, awards ceremonies and breaking news. I don’t mind the running commentary, but every so often, it’s nice to dodge the spoilers. It’s nice to not know. And it makes the victory that much sweeter.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer, soccer (football) fan and live tweeter in Tacoma, WA. You can follow him on Twitter, where he will most assuredly ruin any games you might want to watch later. Thanks for reading!