For my husband John and I, listening to sports like major league baseball, National Hockey League and college football are great ways to unwind after a long day of work. So I thought it would be fun to share with others how we do this with as little hassle as possible. We've managed to simplify it to a couple of apps and some specific search queries, after which point we can enjoy the good food we have on hand for games.
In writing this article, I recognized that John and I have our favorite sports (mostly US based) and that other blind people around the world have their own favorites as well so I queried some blind friends who enjoy other sports, other teams and incorporated their input into our story.
Readers outside of the US should note that I did not install a VPN to test how the various apps described in this article behave or what content they include for users internationally. Thus, the apps and their content are what John and I get at our home in Pennsylvania and may be different in your locale.
Last year at the beginning of the college football season, we started experiencing quite a bit of friction when it came to hunting down the audio version of games: (Ohio State for me, Penn State for John), and at the beginning of hockey season we further found that the official NHL app started providing only the ESPN TV feeds. This was also double plus ungood and, for us, the last straw. So we got ourselves a paid subscription to TuneIn Radio so we could get all the games via radio feed. All we have to do is search for the team, (Tampa Bay Lightning or Vegas Golden Knights), while we use the official NHL app to get game times. TuneIn Premium provides all of the teams, these are our favorites though and the Tampa Bay Lightning may have the best announcers in the entire league and are a pleasure to hear even if you're not a fan of the team.
With TuneIn Premium, we can then play the radio feed throughout the house because we have speakers in every room. We do the same for college football, and this included the play-off and championship games this year.
In 2021 and for some number of seasons previous, TuneIn Premium also included live radio feeds for NFL and NBA games but apparently they lost this contract to another service and users had to find another source on which to listen to these games.
TuneIn Radio also provides a no cost version that, if you don't care about NHL, you can get radio broadcasts of live sporting events from all over the world. The no cost version includes NCAA March Madness for college basketball fans, Premier League Football (soccer to we Americans) from UK, the World Baseball Classic, minor league baseball, the NCAA Women's Final Four and a lot of other women's sports, cricket matches from various nations, college ice hockey, soccer matches from around the world including full coverage of the recent World Cup in Qatar and much more. To be perfectly honest, as the group of friends I surveyed, we may have missed some entire sports as none in our group listen to golf, rugby, Australian Rules Football, auto racing and some other sports you may enjoy so, if you're interested in those events, the TuneIn app doesn't cost anything to download and use so I'd recommend it as a place to look for broadcasts you can't find elsewhere.
TuneIn also provides recordings of classic sporting events so, if you're too young to have heard the great Ali/Frazier fights or Bob Gibson's amazing performance in the 1967 World's Series, TuneIn may have them in their collection of classic broadcasts and you can enjoy them in the same way as they were heard when they happened. You can also use Tunein's replay feature to catch games that are well outside of your timezone, as I occasionally do in order to catch the Israeli feeds for things like the Paralympics and the Macabiah Games every four years.
There is one major annoyance with the no cost version of TuneIn. Most sports broadcasts are on commercial radio stations and, therefore, have advertisements. The no cost version of TuneIn stomps on the local commercials, which are annoying on their own and replaces them with ads for other TuneIn content. If you're listening to a three hour broadcast of whatever sport you enjoy with the gratis version, you will hear the same TuneIn commercials repeatedly which goes beyond annoying and, if you've the spare money to get the premium version, these TuneIn ads go away.
During the spring and summer, we add baseball on top of the remainder of the hockey season and the college football season. We use the MLB app (formerly called AtBat) for this, because once again we can get the radio feeds. We also have the option to listen to spring training games as well as things like the all-star game, and we can pick between feeds although we usually go with the home feed, (Rays and Braves, when we're not picking on John's dad due to his support of the New York Yankees). Both of us also have our teams' games in our calendars so we never miss one, and we also use the At Bat app to keep up with games when there's a conflict and we have to pick just one game. As usual the game is on throughout the house so we don't miss anything no matter what we're doing.
The MLB app also provides Spanish language broadcasts and, in a nearly 100% accessible manner, includes all of the news and highlights from around Major League Baseball. It also includes recorded radio broadcasts so you can listen to a game you might have missed. If you're a serious baseball fan, you can listen to all of the teams. Some people enjoy particular broadcasters so, even if they're not an especially big fan of a team, they listen for the great voices and stories told by baseball announcers from around MLB.
Unlike NBA, NHL and NFL, the MLB app is very accessible and offers a radio only subscription for under $20 per season as opposed to the expensive version that includes the television broadcasts. A while ago, I heard an announcement that one of the television networks was offering descriptive video (DVS) on some of their sports and could only wonder, isn't DVS sports called radio?
Major League Baseball was one of the first Internet based cases that the amazing Lainey Feingold, one of the top ADA lawyers in America who uses an approach to cases that starts with talking, took on and, through her structured negotiations legal strategy, she got MLB to make its web site accessible and MLB has maintained a relationship with the disability community since, always trying to ensure their properties are as accessible as they can make them.
What if you're blind and want the radio broadcasts of NFL, NBA or other sports that you can't get on either TuneIn or MLB? Enter SiriusXM and its app. SiriusXM started as two separate digital radio broadcast companies that required one get a device from them with a special antenna that you could put in your home or car. After a few years, the two companies merged and became the SiriusXM we have today. This service is most well known for its proprietary content that is unavailable elsewhere like the Howard Stern show, Bob Dylan's show, Marky Ramones' show, Bruce Springsteen's show and lots more very well produced content but it also carries all four major US sports leagues, including NFL and NBA games. Of the various radio apps available, SiriusXM is probably the most expensive at around $15 per month but it often has a three month free trial so you can check it out gratis to see if you like it or not. It is also not the most accessible app out there but, unlike much of the NFL or NBA apps, it's accessible enough to be used by a blind person. I don't like endorsing poor or mediocre accessibility but if you care to listen to NFL and NBA games, SiriusXM remains your best option. SiriusXM can learn quite a few lessons from TuneIn Radio as it's far more accessible.
The SiriusXM app has an interface that can be quite confusing at times. Sometimes, based on what you've listened to previously, it will suggest programming on your home screen. Sometimes, it puts precisely what you're looking for right at the top but, at other times, you need to dig through a series of pages to get to what you want to hear. I would have assumed that if I had listened to an NFL playoff game the week before, it would recommend the following week's NFL playoff games. Instead, if, for instance, you had listened to a Buffalo Bills game one week and they were eliminated from the playoffs, it assumes you only cared about the Bills and the following week you need to navigate to Sports>Live Sports>Live NFL games to find the game the following week. In general, the interface feels old and that it's trying to simulate their original digital radio interface in an app rather than reconsidering their design for smart devices.
Sports Elsewhere Online
If one is interested in winter baseball, events like the Caribbean Series, you can find live broadcasts on YouTube but only in Spanish or other non-English languages. If you're interested in Korean Baseball League games, there's a student from Korea attending university in the US who does English language broadcasts of those games. As I played beep baseball, I tend to pay more attention to baseball than other sports but you may be able to find sporting events broadcast live on YouTube in any number of languages from all over the world.
A lot of blind people enjoy podcasts about topics they enjoy and, if you're a sports fan, there seem to be a near infinite number of podcasts that discuss sports and your favorite sport, even if it's curling, will have between one and many podcasts dedicated to it. Some of these podcasts, especially those from ESPN and BBC, are very high quality and you can listen to them on your favorite podcast player. Some sports podcasts are related to gambling on sports and, as I'm not a gambler, I can't speak to them but if you like placing a bet on a game now and then, there's all sorts of information out there that should probably be taken with a grain of salt as there's a reason we use the word "gambling" and not "winning" to describe placing a wager on a game.
Listening to sports games for us is one of our primary ways of enjoying downtime, almost as much as books, and we hope that the tips in this short article will help enhance your sports enjoyment.
As this article does have a US bias, please, if you are outside the US, do go to the World Blind Herald contact page and tell us about your experience as a sports fan in other parts of the world and if you'd like to write an article about being a sports fan or if you play blind sports describing your experience, please go to our author guidelines page and pitch us a story, we pay authors for their work if we accept them for publication and we'd love to hear your story.