Why We Don’t Like Brett Favre or Agra Anymore (or “Watching” the Vikings Throw the Game Away in Agra, India); January 25, 2010

For all this talk of globalization and the flattening of the world with technology, other places in the world can still seem very far away when you are trying to watch the NFC championship game in Agra, India.  What follows is a description of the trials and tribulations of being a devoted Vikings fan half a world away.

As soon as the Vikings defeated the Eagles in the playoffs, Meg began planning how to watch the game from Agra. After exploring many possible options including:

-       ESPN but India gets ESPN Asia (which as best as we can tell only shows cricket, obscure soccer highlights, and old Olympic videos)- a downside of specialized programming in our modern era

-       Satellite TV, which just isn’t something that is feasible from Agra

-       Watching the game online, but apparently the NFL simulcast online is so bad as to not be worth watching

-       Calling Meg’s brother Josh via Skype to watch the game with him on Skype (ie pointing his computer at the television)

The last option was the plan that we decided on. Since the game started at 5am, we decided that we would get up, go see the Taj Mahal at sunrise (when it is at its “most atmospheric” according to Lonely Planet), get a score update from Josh and then leave the Taj in time to Skype call for the second half, if the game wasn’t a blow out. But, as usual when traveling, things didn’t go as smoothly as planned:

1.     When we arrived the evening before the game, it turned out that our hotel did not have wireless internet even though they told us over the phone that they did have it (after talking to the manager of the hotel it was clear that he didn’t really understand the concept of wireless internet when he told us “I have signal towers on my roof, why don’t you just plug into them?”)  The hotel did not, in fact, have any internet at all.

2.     As a next step that evening we decided to see if we could pick up in our hotel room wireless signals from nearby internet cafes. After exploration none of the nearby cafes had Wifi but we were able to pick up one obscurely named network. After consultation with the hotel manager, it seemed that the network was named after the son of the owner of the restaurant next door. So we went to the restaurant to investigate. To make a long story short, after phone calls across town, a Jed’s 15 minute walk through the back alleys of Agra with our laptop under his arm to visit the “uncle”, and a consultation on the mechanics of the Indian internet, it became clear that using this network was not a viable option.

3.     So giving up the dream of watching the game from our hotel room, the next option we explored that evening was nearby internet cafes. But these cafes closed early and opened late, but with the help of the “uncle” we were able to find a hotel that had internet which it claimed to be open 24 hours (the proprietor said “I’ll be here all night; just wake me up”).

4.     We woke up the next morning early, went to the Taj Mahal, bought our tickets, and got in line to go in. And waited in line to get in, and waited, and waited until it became clear that Taj didn’t actually open at the time we had been told. Then we got a call from Josh telling us that it was tied at half time. Since this meant we’d have about half an hour in the Taj, coupled with the fact it was so foggy that visibility was about 20 feet (not ideal for watching sunrise at the Taj Mahal), we decided to go watch the game instead. It seemed like a tough decision but that turned out to be the easy part.

5.     After abandoning ship on the Taj Mahal, we went to the “always open” internet place. It was, in fact, open (literally the door was unlocked). But the proprietor was very asleep; Jed spent 5 minutes trying unsuccessfully to wake him up (techniques included talking, banging things, and (softly) kicking him). Then we gave up and enlisted a nearby rickshaw driver to rouse someone else in the hotel. This gentleman (the manager?) informed us that despite what we had been told the previous night that the internet wouldn’t work until 9am (long after the game was over) because the electricity was off until then! So back to the drawing board as we got another phone update from Josh on the game clock ticking down.

6.     After running down our (dwindling) options we decided to try for an internet connection in one of the fancy hotels across town. After being rebuffed by the closest (and fanciest) hotel (no non-guests allowed), we set off in a rickshaw to the next closest hotel that had a wireless internet connection. Given the need for speed, Jed even dispensed with the rickshaw bargaining, paying 10 cents more than he wanted to.

7.     While this hotel did have wireless, it would not work with Apple computers (which we of course have.)  Luckily Meg found another hotel, a few doors down, where, after some coaxing, we did get the wireless internet to work…..for a little while. While it was working, we were able to connect via Skype with Josh and see the game on the TV (granted we couldn’t really make out much—pointing the computer at the TV, while a brilliant idea and a good last resort, is not exactly HD quality).  This turned out not to matter as the wireless internet connection stopped working a few minutes later.

8.     Fortunately, we discovered that the hotel did have a business center where we could connect to Skype. But unfortunately the camera function did not work and all we could see was a black screen.  Instead we had to resort to Josh’s audio play by play (we appreciate his effort, but he shouldn’t give up his day job just yet). 

This was just in time for the Vikes last drive where they drove to the Saint’s 33 yard line with a first down, plenty of time left, and Meg thinking “this was totally worth it!”  Instead, of course, in typical Vikes fashion, they got a thoughtless penalty, threw an interception to end regulation, and lost the game in overtime (all of this, again, being relayed by Josh’s commentary, getting more depressing by the minute.)  The only solace Meg could take from this (apart from the fact that her traitorous younger brother who has become a Saints fan since moving to New Orleans was happy) was the thought “at least we don’t have to do this again for the Superbowl.”

Oh and, anticlimactically after this heartbreaking Viking adventure, we went to the Taj Mahal…….

 …where it was still foggy, a fitting end to the morning. 

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