It’s been a year and two weeks since I stopped handing over $90 a month to my local cable provider. When I told my brother that I was going to not have cable at home, he looked at me as though I had three heads and was challenging the proper order of the world. The question (indeed the proverbial question to so many decisions I make) was of course “Why would you do that?”. This was followed by another question that at the time I really didn’t have the answer to: How will you watch sports?
The decision to not have cable had been brewing in my mind for a long time. January 2010 to May 2011 was a really intense time in my life. I was writing a dissertation, teaching classes, and looking for a job. I didn’t have a lot of time to sit on the couch and channel surf, and when I did, I felt guilty and bad about it because I knew I was supposed to be (needed to be) doing something else. By the time June 2011 rolled around, the number of television shows that I actually watched when they aired was small, and I had discovered that I could do without the rest or wait until that golden era that I assumed would be my post-dissertation life. I was also moving to a new city, and so the timing was ideal. I should point out here that with my cable subscription, I didn’t also have some kind of DVR service, and that $90/month I mentioned above? Yes, that was just for cable. It didn’t include internet service or phone service or any other fun add-ons. Just cable. It didn’t even include premium channels like HBO and Showtime. Yes, I know, $90. Entirely too much on the salary of a graduate student. But, perhaps I digress…
In the last year and two weeks I haven’t had cable at home. I didn’t fit out my TV so that I could use an antenna and still get the basic broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and PBS. When I say I don’t have cable, I mean I don’t have the capability of watching live television on my television. I kept my TV, but I can’t even remember the last time I turned it on. It’s not even plugged in and hasn’t been for months—I’m energy-conscious! However, not having cable doesn’t mean that I don’t watch or consume my favorite television shows. I just watch and consume them in different ways. This will likely come up in future blog posts so let me just lay it out there right now. My favorite (currently airing) television shows? The ones I must see the minute a new episode is available? Here they are, and this is in no specific order: Castle, The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Sherlock, Doctor Who. Yes, it’s a short list. Certainly not enough to justify $90/month. I’m not going to lie—in this last year, I bought the season passes for all of these shows, and you know what? I still came out ahead of what I would have paid with cable. So yes, this decision has actually saved me money. I get other shows through Netflix (right now I’m watching Season 8 of NCIS). I already had Netflix and so I didn’t incur any new expenses as the result of cutting cable. I also only have the DVD option for Netflix, but don’t get me started on all the reasons why. Basically, I now watch television in one of three ways—season passes or individual episode purchases, Netflix, or watching free online.
But what about sports? Yes, it’s true. I love major league baseball, the NCAA tournament, the Stanley Cup playoffs, and grand slam tennis. Do you want to know what I have discovered about this love of mine? It’s not as strong and lasting as I had previously thought it was. The only sports programming that I have gone out of my way to enjoy in some fashion is the Stanley Cup playoffs. I found a way to listen to live radio broadcasts on my computer. Not the same as watching but still satisfying enough. So the answer to my brother’s question of how I was going to watch sports? I don’t watch sports anymore, and I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I have discovered in this last year that a lot of things I thought were important to me, just really aren’t important to me anymore. Will I miss watching the 2012 Olympics? Maybe a little, but at the same time, how much do I really care? How does watching the Olympics (or any other sports broadcast for that matter) affect my life in a positive way? If I’m being brutally honest with myself, it doesn’t positively affect my life. It gives me the chance to stare mindlessly at the television for a few hours, and sure, that can be relaxing, but there are lots of other ways for me to relax. Like meditating.
Not having cable—or that is, not being addicted to staring at my television screen for hours on end—has given me time to do other things that I enjoy a lot more. Such as reading for pleasure (reading is a big part of my professional life, so for me there’s always a distinction between reading for pleasure and reading for work), writing, trying out new recipes and cooking a nice meal more than one night a week. I have no regrets about my choice. Letting go has been one of my mantras over the last year, and letting go of cable has been liberating in a lot of ways. Unless magic happens and my household gains another person, I can’t imagine that I will ever be a cable subscriber again.