These highlights brought to you by Parallels

I like watching some sports on TV, even more so now that I have a high-definition TV. Hockey, for instance—I can sit through a game even if I don’t care about the teams involved because it’s such a fascinating spectacle. I mean, it’s not just the skill and coordination required to pass and shoot a puck, but these people are on ice skates the whole time. (And it’s interesting to watch a sport where if you get into a little fisticuffs, you get a few minutes to catch your breath instead of being booted from the game altogether.) I also enjoy baseball, especially when I can cheer for the Los Angeles Dodgers or root against the San Francisco Giants.

But when it comes to many other sports, I’m less of a fair-weather fan than just a late-blooming fan. The major tennis events are fun to see in later rounds, after the wheat has separated itself the chaff. Same goes with basketball. When medals are on the line during the Olympics, I’m there. And I’ve even been known to put up with a Super Bowl or two, but mostly just to watch the outrageously-expensive ads.

Those same tendencies have exposed themselves recently with the World Cup. Now I played many years of AYSO soccer growing up. And when I was stricken with the chicken pox during the 1990 World Cup in Italy, I watched nearly every match (mostly because they were on TV when I couldn’t sleep at night). But I’m not what you’d call a big soccer (sorry, “football”) fan. I don’t own a soccer jersey, nor do I follow the sport. This year, I caught a match or two on TV, but hadn’t really paid that much attention.

But when it got down to the semifinals—with just four teams left out of 32—I found myself a little more interested. I watched as Italy defeated the host German team over the weekend in the waning minutes of overtime. And I cared enough to check the score of the France’s match against Portugal while at work Wednesday. When I got home, I thought I’d fire up the official FIFA 2006 World Cup site for video highlights of France’s victory. But when I tried to load the highlights using Firefox, instead of streaming kicks and blocks, I could barely make out the words “undefined/undefined” in white text on a grayish background. No luck.

As my colleague Cyrus Farivar has been covering at the Mac User blog, many users of the better platform have been having trouble playing videos from the Yahoo-hosted World Cup site. Always interested in a challenge, I decided to think like the majority of the world (it is the World Cup, after all), and give in to the Dark Side. I fired up my MacBook, launched the virtualization software Parallels Desktop for Mac, and then booted up a copy of Windows XP in a little window on my desktop. Windows prompted me to allow it to install the Flash plugin, which I did. I then picked the match I wanted, and the highlights played beautifully. So, for the people out who are asking why anyone would want to to install Windows on a Mac, there’s an example. Hardly worth the money if all you want to do is watch a highlight from time to time, but until the world sees fit to provide equality in computing, it’s at least an option.

And yes, I do plan to watch the final match between France and Italy—as long as it doesn’t overlap with the Dodgers-Giants game that day.

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