September 10, 2010

Remember a time when you could take the whole family to a football game without it costing an arm and a leg? Well, neither do we. Nowadays, the approximate cost for your average family of four living in Massachussets to see the Patriots play an entire season is roughly $22,000, which includes tickets to every game (home and away), travel and lodging, but little else. Even if you were on your own it would cost a hair over $6,000.

So what's a family or die-hard fan to do? Stay at home, of course.

With all the new fangled technology that's available at our fingertips, it's a bit of a no-brainer to watch from the comfort of your own home. You don't have to run to the bathroom in between commercial breaks, deal with obnoxious fans or, you know, find yourself in the middle of a riot. And the beer is a lot cheaper at home, too.

Despite what the guy at your local TV dealer tries to sell you, you don't need to break the bank for the ultimate home viewing experience. Here are two set ups depending on budget and other interests:

This is the year of 3D, folks. Did you see Avatar? This year's MLB All-Star game was broadcast in 3D and it won't be long before the NFL jumps on board, too. Whether it happens this year or next year, you can't go wrong with a 65-inch Panasonic Viera VT25 series full HD (1080p) 3D plasma television. Plasma TVs offer the best color and this particular Viera happens to be THX certified, which means every color is as bright or dim as it should be making it perfect for sports and movies. And with 600Hz sub-field drive technology every frame is crystal clear with no blur -- perfect for sports and action movies. Throw in a 3D ready Blu-ray player (DMP-BDT350) from Panasonic and you've got yourself a near perfect viewing experience for any situation. But don't skimp on the sound system. You'll want to hear every bone crunching tackle and roar of the crowd. Hook up Onkyo's 3D ready HT-S9300THX 7.1-channel system (also THX certified) and you won't even notice that you're watching the game from home.

For those that need to see a tackle one more time or think the ref blew that last second call, don't be confounded by the plethora of remotes when there's one remote to rule them all. Logitech's Harmony 900 replaces up to 15 remotes and works with over 225,000 devices. It allows you to create shortcuts or one one-touch activity controls that fire everything up with the touch of, you guessed it, one button.

There's no reason not to go with Directv next season since you can catch every single game on Sunday and stream multiple games to your laptop or mobile device like Apple's iPad. And if that weren't enough pick up a Slingbox Pro-HD and the mobile app to stream games from your DVR or watch them live in case you're not home. Sling will be releasing an app for the iPad in the fall.

Total setup: $4299.95 (TV) , $1,099 (stereo), Blu-ray ($429.95), $314.93+$49.95 (directv), $399.99 (Harmony 900), $299.99+$29.99 (sling), 500 (iPad) = $7400

For those who don't need every gizmo and gadget and just want to watch the game. We don't blame you. Here's a bare-bones setup that won't break the bank.

Samsung's latest Series 7 LCD (LN46C750) is chock full of the latest technology including Samsung's 240Hz "Clear Motion Rate" that's perfect for sports and Web-connected apps like Netflix, Skype and Pandora for commercial breaks or halftime. Throw in Denon's latest 5.1 system (DHT-591BA) with Boston Acoustic speakers and you've got the beginnings of a wall shaking setup with a 100W subwoofer that can always be upgraded if you want a little more thump. Toss in the DirecTV package and you're set for a season of pigskin.

Minimalist setup: $1699.99 (TV), $599 (Speakers), $314.93+$49.95 (DirecTV) = $2665

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