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Pimp Out Your Tailgate Party

Posted by Anthony Mowl in ALL, EQUIPMENT, STADIUM on 09-07-11    No Comments


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It was a long and miserable football-free spring and summer for me, but the season is finally here. I plan to attend a few NFL games this year, and tailgating is more than half of the experience for me. I like to arrive at the parking lots as soon as the gates open, and leave the game early to beat traffic if the game turns out to be a snooze-fest. The tailgate party makes the experience for me.

While most of my tailgating parties simply involve beer and liquor, with a side of potato salad, there is a whole lot of gear that you can bring along with you to create the ultimate tailgating experience. Satellite dishes, mobile wi-fi hot spots and flat screen TVs just scratch the surface of what people are bringing to games these days.

Dish Network just came out with a new “Tailgater Antenna” which is a compact 10-pound dish designed for tailgating. The antenna comes in at a cool $350 with an HD receiver option. They allow you to activate your antenna for as little as $7 a month during the season. And now that the Dish Network carries the MLB Network, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the fall overlap of football and baseball.  If you’re not crazy about lugging along a generator to plug in all these things, you can just find a parking spot near the big-screen TVs found in many tailgating lots, or piggy back off a neighboring party.

While people have been tailgating with televisions and satellite dishes for years, there is still new, geeked-out stuff you can bring without having to put up with the chugging of a generator. Play with an RC remote-controlled beer cooler on wheels and cart around your beer with a grown-up version of a remote-controlled car. Add Brookstone’s Grill Alert Talking Remote Meat Thermometer to help you cook your burgers, and you can keep your eyes on one of several fantasy football apps on your iPad or mobile phone without burning the meat.

I’m personally wary of bringing high-end electronics to an outdoor party packed with drunk and sometimes out-of-control people. Not to mention leaving them in my car while I’m inside a stadium for several hours (both the high-end electronics and the drunk passed-out people). I doubt I’ll ever pimp out my tailgate party with satellites and televisions. But I have no problem visiting your parking space and catching the pregame shows. You bring the gas for your generator, and I’ll bring the beer for your trouble.





Getting Scammed By Live Streaming For One Low Price!

Posted by Anthony Mowl in ALL, INTERNET, MOBILE on 09-01-11    No Comments


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Why pay over $100 per month for cable or satellite tv services? No subscriptions or monthly fees, no hardware, no bandwidth limits! You get over 3,500 channels and unlimited 24/7 access. You should cancel your cable now, and get < insert scam here >.

We’ve all seen or heard of sites like this. Many of them promote live streaming of baseball and football games for one low cost. Satellite Direct, LiveBaseball-Channel, GigStreams… there are a lot of these sites out there. Unfortunately almost none of them work, guaranteed or no money back.

This guy shelled out $49 to try Satellite Direct, and all he got was the opportunity to make a YouTube video demonstrating what a fraud the site was. Beware of spending what seems to be one low price, and downloading software that has who-knows-what in the code. Among the red flags of these sites’ promotions is the total absence of league names and logos like MLB, NFL, NBA. No schedule of games exist, and yet people jump at the line “Watch more than just sports – thousands of extra channels free!” We all know the adage, if it’s too good to be true…

Adding to these sites’ “legitimacy” is the fact that they’ve created countless blogs, reviews, and postings that all claim that these sites are amazing and worth the money. But a dig a little deeper into these blogs and reviews and you find… nothing else. Even a search for “LiveBaseball-Channel Scam” is populated with the same fake blogs and reviews. Talk about search engine optimization.

To watch games online, go straight to the source. The guys at the league offices are such hard-asses when it comes to copyrighted content that there’s no way they’d let sites like LiveBaseball-Channel fly.

Get your games streamed online at:

MLB.TV ($100-$120 a year for 2,400 games)
NFL Sunday Ticket To-Go ($49.95 for 256 games)
NBA League Pass Broadband ($149.95 for 1,230 games)





Watch Baseball While Eating In-Flight Peanuts

Posted by Anthony Mowl in ALL, INTERNET, MOBILE, TELEVISION, Uncategorized on 08-31-11    No Comments


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Baseball fans have less excuses to miss or reschedule flights now that some airlines have committed to showing all 2,400 Major League Baseball games live and in-flight. Row 44 is a developer of flying wi-fi hotspots on Southwest Airlines and other major airlines in Europe. While Row 44′s partnership with the MLB AdvancedMedia appears to be exclusive, it’s unclear if Southwest has an exclusive hold on Row 44 in the U.S. as well.

Since it seems as if Row 44 inked an exclusive agreement with baseball (a la DirectTV and the NFL), hardcore baseball fans might start scheduling all their spring through fall flights on Southwest. But is this really something to be excited about or simply a marketing gimmick? Fans who really can’t make it through a few hours on a plane without their baseball are probably already subscribing to MLB’s online package, MLB.TV, which they can access on any flight that has wi-fi. It’s likely that Row 44′s baseball games won’t be free, making this “exclusive deal” simply a good press release.

Beyond that, anyone who has used wi-fi aboard a flight knows that service is typically slow, and streaming video is rarely very effective. But then again, baseball isn’t as fast-paced as a basketball or football game, so streaming baseball just might work out.





Dome Sweet Dome Again For The Vikings

Posted by Seth in STADIUM on 08-27-11    No Comments


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As I write, they are playing football in Minnesota. And they’re doing it under a roof.

Personally, I think folks in the Twin Cities should figure out a way to build the Vikings a new open-air stadium because there was nothing like Vikes games late in the season, in the freezing cold, at the old Metropolitan Stadium. But the fact that the Vikings are back on the field at the Metrodome is considered an accomplishment in Minnesota after the roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow last December.

They put up a new roof and inflated it over the summer. It’s made out of higher grade teflon and fiberglass than the old roof. Interestingly, they hired the same company that installed the old roof to put in the new one — Birdair Inc., of Amherst, N.Y. They built this new roof to be a little more sturdy and sit a little lower than the old one, which should make it more resistant to high wind.

And just in case you’re nostalgic you can buy a piece of the fallen teflon. Who doesn’t want that?

 

 





Coming Up With More Things To Ban

Posted by Anthony Mowl in EQUIPMENT on 08-25-11    2 Comments


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So the next conference of “Stuff-to-be-banned” is happening next week in Melbourne, Australia. Who can forget the now-banned Speedo LZR full-body swimsuits that broke 43 world records in a single World Championships? Now scientists of the type who came up with the LZR are coming back for seconds at the Asia-Pacific Congress on Sports Technology.

Be on the lookout for new world records and banned products in kayaking, badminton, and cycling with workshops next week on:

  • Instrumentation of a kayak paddle to investigate blade/water interactions
  • Aerodynamic properties of a shuttlecock with spin at high Reynolds number
  • Fabric testing for cycling skinsuits

And in the ultimate example of finding a way around the word no, you can attend “An evaluation of swimsuit performance,” and “Microstructures an aerodynamics of commercial swimsuits.” Or how about we tinker with swimming some more so we can break some more world records just for the sake of taking the athlete out of the sport, and have scientists come up with a new starting block? You can check out “The effect of start block configuration and swimmer kinematics on starting performance in elite swimmers using the Omega OSB11 block.”

While scientific research in general is important, I can hardly see how putting bright minds together to improve kayak paddles or swimsuits is going to help the world. A new shuttlecock? Seriously? Do we really need these things? Another golf ball that goes further (A study of golf ball aerodynamic drag), or a newer soccer ball (Aerodynamics of contemporary FIFA soccer balls) sounds to me like excuses to get people to buy more stuff. What’s wrong with the balls we have now? They’re round enough, aren’t they? There’s plenty of work to be done in regards to global warming, efficient energy, or making a tablet computer that could actually compete with the iPad. Or how about we help Matt Damon out and get some clean water to Africa?

With conventions like this and scientists working on these projects, it looks like we’re getting to the point where instead of going to a sporting event, I might as well just rent a movie. At least a good movie can be less predictable than sports have become.





Geocaching: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare?

Posted by Anthony Mowl in GAMING on 08-25-11    5 Comments


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Won’t anybody please think of the children? Geocaching sounds like a harmless enough activity that encourages family time. Until you realize that parents are giving their kids a kiddie-GPS and encouraging them to get lost in the woods looking for buried treasure. Is it just me or does this sound really dangerous? As if we don’t have enough nut jobs out there waiting for an opportunity. Not only are companies selling geocaching tools for children, but elementary schools are sanctioning this with geocaching clubs. Geocaching clubs can be found on every academic level, from elementary school through college.

I can only see two possible ways this is going to turn out. Either geocaching is going to be relegated to “Chess Club” status, and these kids are going to be set up to be picked on and teased by the jocks. Or it’s going to grow into a competitive sport and we’ll have kids taking Adderall and other performance enhancing drugs to become extreme geocachers and dig up caches for scholarships. Either way, it doesn’t end well.

In this post-9/11 world, we don’t need more reasons to get kids in trouble with such an open-ended game with no boundaries. This guy found out the hard way when he got arrested for hiding a geocache under a bridge, and the police found it and thought was a bomb. Or how about the couple that’s wanted for questioning after digging up a geocache planted on school property? Let’s keep our kids on a field that’s fenced in, or if you insist on having your kids trek through the woods, be good parents and accompany them. There’s enough crap in this world as it is.

 





Geocaching: A Souped Up Scavenger Hunt

Posted by Anthony Mowl in GENERAL, Uncategorized on 08-22-11    No Comments


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Imagine a scavenger hunt on steroids. I’m talking the full-blown, Barry Bonds, race horse stuff. Now imagine 1,300 people came together to form 600 teams and started looking for stuff.  Put the two together, and we get one of the biggest geocaching games around.

Geocaching is the ultimate event for geeks who want to imagine they’re pirates, or families who want some bonding time.

Geocachers use GPS technology to look for hidden caches. Clues are GPS coordinates that get you within 30 feet of the hidden cache. Once you find the hidden trove, players sign in, get the next coordinates, and follow their GPS to the next cache and clue. Some geocache games require miles of hiking to get to the cache, which can be cleverly hidden where even GPS coordinates wouldn’t be enough. Then there’s Extreme Geocache, where caches can be hidden under bridges, inside caves, and in the water accessible only with SCUBA gear.

Geocaching has only been around since 2000 when GPS technology was made available to the masses, and has since grown to become a popular and entertaining sport. Although prize money and sponsorships haven’t gotten to the point where players can consider themselves professionals, people are traveling far, even to other countries, to participate in geocaching events.

Ironically, while this sport is enabled by technology like GPS, a fuzzy and not-so-accurate GPS makes the game more challenging. If GPS improves and becomes capable of pinpointing locations to the square foot, then most of the fun would probably be sucked out of it. We’re currently in the GPS’ capabilities “sweet spot” of close, but not needle-in-a-haystack-accurate, which keeps geocaching fun and challenging — unless people start hiding caches in tall buildings, trees, in the water, or under several feet of sand.

Or how about we use geocaching to help the Carolina Panthers find the end zone? Now that would be a fun and impossible thing to watch. But as long as GPS technology is only accurate within 30 feet, that would still leave them 10 yards short of the end zone to fumble around.





MaxPreps May Solve Problem Of Hodgepodge High School Stat-Keeping

Posted by Seth in INTERNET, MOBILE on 08-20-11    No Comments


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Summer is fading fast, and that means football season is on its way. And that means another season of stat-keeping for high school football teams and the media that cover them.

There are all sorts of sophisticated stat tracking services that college and pro teams use, most notably StatCrew and Daktronics. But for high school teams, it’s hit and miss. Some schools have the budget to invest in a decent stat system while others don’t. Some coaches are diligent about tracking their stats while others aren’t. And there are so many ways of going about it that media covering high school sports are left to accommodate whatever methods the coaches in their area choose to use.

MaxPreps.com, which is part of the CBSSports family of websites, has launched an iPad app that lets coaches input their stats right from the sideline. This is really the most efficient way to keep track of the numbers, because if you don’t have someone taking stats as the game is in progress, the only way to get them is to go back and watch the video of the game and tack them from there. And if you want your stats to show up in the morning paper — which high school coaches and sports fans still expect — then taking the numbers off the video isn’t quick enough.

The MaxPreps app is far from the only option for tracking stats. There are plenty of others out there. The only problem with all this is that entering the numbers into one of these services doesn’t get them out to the media, which is something that comes with the territory for high school coaches. The MaxPreps system allows you to generate a pdf of your stats that can be emailed to the media. But a lot of papers — both large and small — have created their own online stat packages, and the stat services like MaxPreps don’t “talk to” newspaper websites. Some larger papers have online interfaces that coaches log into so they can enter their stats, which means coaches have to enter the numbers twice — once into whatever stat service they use and again into the paper’s website.

Right now, there are so many different ways for coaches to maintain their stats that finding the numbers you’re looking for is a crap shoot. Some coaches use MaxPreps. Some use other sites/services. MaxPreps might be a big enough player that it could standardize this data collection, which would be to the mutual benefit of coaches, media and fans. This summer the high school athletic association in Colorado announced  that it was partnering with MaxPreps and requiring all of its football teams to use the site for scores and stats. Sounds like a step in the right direction.





Wall Street Guys Get Into Fantasy Sports

Posted by Seth in GAMING, INTERNET on 08-17-11    No Comments


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I’m all for innovation when it comes to fantasy sports. The games can get stale after a while if you don’t shake things up a little. The folks over at SportsGunner have a new take on fantasy sports, and although the initial introduction of their game really rubbed me the wrong way, I can see some value in what they’re doing.

SportsGunner is a market-style sports fantasy game, and there was a statement in the email they sent us last week that made me cringe:

“SportsGunner is the first social compete platform to bring investment strategies to fantasy play across every major sporting category … SportsGunner was developed by a team of gamers, Wall Street analysts and sports fans.”

Investment strategies? Wall Street analysts? The first thought I had was that statement might have been the single dumbest thing I had ever read in my life. Forgive me if I wasn’t brimming with enthusiasm. I pictured complicated models and exotic number-crunching that I wouldn’t understand even if you drew me pictures. No offense to the Wall Street guys, but we’ve read Too Big To Fail, and we don’t need any of that in our fantasy sports, thank you very much.

A closer look at the game reveals that it’s actually pretty simple. You buy shares in a team and speculate whether that team will move up or down in the weekly rankings. The interesting thing here is that you’re not focused on how individual players are doing, you’re looking at the team and who its opponents are and whether you think the team will win or lose.

The only problem here is that SportsGunner takes its rankings from CNNSI or ESPN or — in the case of college football and basketball — the AP poll. So your ability to win or lose at the game is based on the subjective rankings of folks at Sports Illustrated or ESPN. I poked around on Sports Illustrated’s website and couldn’t find anything that resembled MLB team rankings, so I’m guessing ESPN is what they use for baseball. Of course, everyone  who plays the game is at the mercy of this subjectivity. So it all equals out, I suppose. But unlike traditional fantasy games, you can’t really do anything to impact the outcome. You can speculate and hope that the rankings go your way. Your team might win and not move up very far, or at all, because some dude at ESPN doesn’t think it should.

Our Wall Street friends might say that unpredictability is what they had in mind when they designed the game. And they can’t figure out why America hates Wall Street guys. Sure, individual player performances are unpredictable too, but not to the same degree these rankings are.

What do they tell you when you invest? Past performance isn’t necessarily indicative of future results? Somehow I’m not sure I want that from a fantasy game. But this is a cool idea and would be fun for people who don’t have the time, patience or player-by-player knowledge that you need in order to compete in a traditional fantasy league.





Fantasy Football Is Here: Pay Up

Posted by Anthony Mowl in ALL, INTERNET on 08-15-11    1 Comment


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Fantasy football season is finally here! That means people everywhere are joining leagues, preparing for drafts, and coming up with excuses as to why they haven’t paid their league fees yet. There are guys in my league — who shall remain nameless, but everyone knows who you are, Jason and Josh — who have been slow to fork over their money. And it turns out my fantasy football league isn’t the only one with this problem. It’s largely why nobody wants to be the treasurer of our league and assume the responsibility of becoming a debt collector and resorting to harassing emails just to collect a few hundred bucks.

PayItSquare wants to be your league treasurer, and it looks like they rather enjoy the task. They developed a platform that works on top of PayPal that allows you to set up accounts for your league to collect and organize league fees. The premise is pretty simple, believing that transparency will encourage (or pressure) people into paying. It lists everyone in your league, sends out emails, and allows you to see who has paid and who hasn’t. While ideal for fantasy football, it has a variety of other uses. It can also be used to collect dues for team fees for softball leagues, raising money for group gifts for your coach at the end of the season, or paying your share to go to a party. There are many situations where this becomes useful, and the fees are nearly identical to PayPal’s. Every person has to pay 99 cents to use PayItSquare, and those who pay with credit or debit cards are hit with PayPal’s standard 30 cent and 2.9 percent fee. Organizers have the option of passing the fees on to the player or taking it out of the money that comes in. Those who paid in cash or by check can mark their accounts “Paid” free of charge.

It’s easy to register and create events and payment pages, and should never take you more than 5 minutes to create an account and set up a page. You can even pass along your Facebook information to make registration quicker. But based on experience, people are still going to find ways to balk and say they can’t find the link to PayItSquare, or they forgot their password to log in. And by the time these people finally do get logged in, they’re waiting for payday to come around next week before they’ll have the cash to pay. Oh wait, they need new brakes on their car and they’re going to need the next paycheck to buy those. They’ll pay the league fee with their next next paycheck. Cool? I’m on to you guys, Jason and Josh. PayItSquare is too.