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A Better Fly for Fighters

Posted by Alex Dalenberg in EQUIPMENT on 08-12-11    No Comments


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I’d wager that keeping your shorts up is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re getting kicked in the head, but hey, getting pantsed can’t be good for an MMA fighter’s reputation either.

Luckily, there’s a breakthrough coming in this area. Respect Your Universe, Inc., a new Las Vegas-based MMA apparel company, announced this week that it’s filing a patent for what it’s calling radical new waist closure technology. In other words, the ultimate fly for ultimate fighters.

There aren’t many details yet, but apparently the old velcro closures weren’t sitting well with the MMA crowd said RYU CEO Christopher Martens.

Per the release: “One of the first things we did was reach out to the fighters. What we soon discovered was that almost universally the talk turned to the bulky uncomfortable layers of Velcro being used in the fight shorts. MMA rules forbid the use of string, metal and other hard materials, so the choices were seen to be limited. We knew right away, this was the first problem we needed to solve, and with our creation of this proprietary technology and our patent filing to protect it we believe we have risen to the challenge and are confident our hard work has paid off.”

RYU (which according to its website is pronounced roo) doesn’t have an online store up yet, but you can check out some of their next-gen fighting duds here.

Pretty sharp. And as you can see, these guys takes shorts seriously. Here’s a bit from the company mission statement about its Warrior Ethic:

During the ancient period, armor was a symbol of belonging to a higher Samurai clan and worn with pride. Its many parts, details and lucky symbols formed a meticulous, integrated whole, the aesthetics of which were given close attention. Combat equipment for higher-ranking samurai formed works of art. Soldiers were supposed to resemble demons, so their appearance had to be frightening. Their armor was decorated with images of dragons, tigers and insects, or beautiful patterns.

No word on how the 12th century Japanese buttoned their trousers.





Another Fantasy App… Stay in the Loop with PRMtime Mobile Live Scoring

Posted by Alex Dalenberg in MOBILE on 08-11-11    No Comments


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Everybody’s pretty excited that there is actually going to be football this fall — admit it, when was the last time you were this interested in the preseason — but maybe in your enthusiasm you find that you’re a little… overcommitted this fantasy football season. Or maybe you’re the just that wanna-be GM who joins one-too-many leagues. Either way, keeping track of it all is going to be a juggle.

Add this to the growing pile of fantasy sports apps out there, but, if it’s good, it could just thing for hardcore, multiple-league fantasy players out there. A company called PRMtime Fantasy Sports — in partnership with the sports super-geeks over at Stats.com — is launching an app that will let you track all of your fantasy sports teams in one place from your smartphone or other mobile device.

PRMtime’s Mobile Live Scoring App will give users the ability to track real-time scoring for up to seven different leagues through its app as well as a web portal. The idea is you’ll be able to quickly get a general idea of what’s going on with your teams from pretty much anywhere without having to waste time logging into multiple league sites.

PRMtime says it will also be able to score teams for any type of league: commissioner, salary cap, challenge leagues, you name it.

However one big thing sticks out. The app doesn’t sync with all of your leagues, you’ll have to input roster data manually to take advantage of the tracking features. The silver lining: that roster flexibility also lets you test “What If” scenarios with players that aren’t actually on your team, so with some tinkering, this may actually be a cool application.

The app, which costs $4.99 per season, will be available Aug. 26 on both Android and iPhone.





The Sports Tech Nihilist’s Yearly Sunday Ticket Rant

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


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So, football is back. Did you hear? The NFL preseason gets under way this week — four weeks worth of “games” played by a bunch of guys who will get cut and end up in the Arena League in the not-too-distant future.

And this is the time of year that DirecTV ramps up its efforts to sign folks up for NFL Sunday Ticket — the biggest ripoff in out-of-market sports packages. It costs you well over $300 for 17 Sunday afternoons of football, which is easily $100 more than any of the other out-of-market packages, even though they all provide a ton more programming. DirecTV has been running commercials saying that NFL Sunday Ticket is now included in all packages. What they mean, of course, is that it’s included for the first year when you sign up for new service. After that you have to pay for it — which is sort of the way it’s always been.

Clearly, Sunday Ticket needs to be cheaper, and I’ve long thought the NFL needed to end its exclusive deal to distribute the package through DirecTV. Seems to me they’d sell an awful lot more subscriptions if were available through other providers. I finally gave up after nine years and multiple price increases with Sunday Ticket. The Red Zone Channel will do just fine for me.

The NFL is also pushing its Audio Pass package, where you can get the radio broadcasts of all the games for $29.99. Strangely, this package is available via the PC, but not on any mobile devices. That seems really ass-backward, but considering we’re talking about the No Fun League here, that hardly comes as a surprise. And there also is an online alternative to the overpriced Sunday Ticket. The NFL offers Game Rewind, which allows you to view games online, but not live. Everything is archived after the games are over and you can have DVR controls as you view them. That package will run you $39.99.

We all know the NFL is stodgy and crusty, but they really should get with the program when it comes to out-of-market access. The NHL, NBA and MLB all do a much better job of providing access to their product. The NFL. meanwhile, which plays far fewer games than the other leagues, seems determined to milk that limited supply of content for all it’s worth.

Maybe the reason football has become America’s pastime is that the league rations our access and makes us pine for it. So when they ask if we’re “ready for some football,” we feel compelled to scream, “hell yeah!”

 





Perfecting Your Swing With RightViewPro

Posted by Anthony Mowl in ALL, EQUIPMENT on 08-09-11    No Comments


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Want to hit as well as Ichiro Suzuki? Or how about Mickey Mantle? If only you could have some batting practice time with them. Any good hitter will tell you the secret never truly was “The Clear” or whatever came out of BALCO’s labs. It’s in the swing. RightViewPro will testify to that, because they’re putting your swing up against the greatest in the game.

The folks over there came up with a whole line of products to help turn bad hitters into good ones, and good ones into great ones. And they know what they’re doing. They put together an all-star team that includes coaches and former professional players — including former major league catcher Don Slaught — and put them in a room with a couple Ph.Ds. As a result, they produced software that will let you examine the technicalities of your swing in slow motion for a direct comparison against the great hitters of all time.

They’re selling the software for only about $75 depending on what version you want, and it works with your existing cameras and computers. It allows coaches and players everywhere to get instant analysis of players’ swings. But we’re not talking hitting balls off a tee here. Pitches come at all types of speeds, from knuckleballs to fastballs, and it’s difficult to practice that on your own without actually having pitchers who can throw at various speeds so you can get your timing down. RightViewPro also sells XLR8 practice balls, which are built so each ball goes at different speeds no matter who’s doing the pitching, allowing players to work on their timing even with a kid brother in the backyard.

More sophisticated programs can buy RightViewPro’s cameras and install them in stadiums, practice fields and batting cages to get more consistent footage and analysis over longer periods of time. Plenty of teams have bought into the system, including the Boston Red Sox, the U.S. National Softball Team, and numerous major college programs.

The software looks simple and useful for players who need more concrete feedback from their coaches. It gives serious players stuck with bad coaches a chance to improve their game on their own, and gives coaches a set of baseline examples that might persuade players to actually listen to them.

Video systems like this one are penetrating sports everywhere. Golfers depend on them for feedback on their swing, and runners are analyzing how they start out of the blocks. The interesting thing about technology’s revolution in sports is that few advances have truly penetrated the games, themselves. Instant replay is still very limited and RFID chips still aren’t found in balls and pucks to pinpoint their locations. But when it comes to practice, technology is taking over and are becoming a serious element. It’s not practice makes perfect anymore. Algorithms make perfect.





ESPN 3D Takes Hit From AT&T

Posted by Seth in TELEVISION on 08-03-11    No Comments


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I don’t have much use for 3D TV, and apparently I’m not alone.

AT&T announced this week that it is dropping ESPN 3D from the channel lineup on its U-verse television service. People are slow to buy into 3D TV, and there are a couple of basic reasons for that.

The 3D-enabled TV sets are expensive at a time when you can get a really nice regular old 2D set for a dirt-cheap price. ESPN 3D notwithstanding, there isn’t that much 3D programming available. And then there’s the matter of those goofy glasses you have to wear in order to — you know — actually see anything in 3D.

All of this stuff is on the tip of everyone’s tongue whenever talk turns to the slow adoption of 3D TV. And it all ignores one key point.

Even with an expensive, excellent 3D set, and even if you don’t care about the goofy glasses, 3D programming looks like crap. I’m on record with my opinion on this. OK, fine, the 3D effect is a little bit cool, but nowhere near cool enough for me to want to watch a whole game that way. Is it because the 3D image is so foreign to me I just can’t get used to it? Maybe. But I really think the image quality on 3D programming is so inferior to an HD picture that it’s going to take many years and many advances in the technology for it to catch on.

HD has revolutionized sports programming. You can’t ever go back to watching in standard def once you see sports in HD, although Verizon Fios TV has done a nice job of forcing me to do just that, with the lack of HD games available on their out-of-market sports packages. Maybe one day we’ll all feel that same sense of loyalty to 3D, but frankly I don’t see it. That’s how good HD is. What did we ever do without it?





Big Ten To Stream Games To Your iOS Device

Posted by Anthony Mowl in INTERNET, MOBILE, TELEVISION on 08-01-11    No Comments


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I’m a die-hard Indianapolis Colts fan, and I refuse to miss even a single game they play. So when I got some great free tickets to go to a Washington Redskins game at the same time the Colts were playing, I had serious doubts about whether I wanted to go to the game. But these were club seats, and my girlfriend was going to kill me if I turned them down. Thankfully, we had DirectTV’s NFL Ticket, and NFL Ticket subscribers can stream games to their iPhone or iPad. Problem solved. While everyone was watching Mike Shanahan single-handedly implode the Redskins on the field, I was hunched over my iPhone watching Peyton Manning hook up with Dallas Clark over and over again while drinking $6 beers.

Watching games on a 2 1/2 inch screen like the iPhone isn’t ideal, but there are times when it’s necessary. The NCAA basketball tournament streams every game live over the Internet and on mobile apps, and there are millions of fans eternally thankful for the option. I can only imagine how many people sat on their office toilet away from their bosses, or were dragged on road trips to visit their in-laws, or were stuck on a train during their commute home, but were still able to watch the games. There is a need to stream games live over mobile devices, even if it isn’t going to be a primary source of watching games.

The Big Ten Network has jumped onboard, and last week announced it will be launching BTN2Go, offering more than 40 football games and more than 100 basketball games in addition to other programming. All content will be available to subscribers online and streamed over iPhone and the iPad. Yet another reason to be happy I opted for the iPhone over an Android device. But more than that, it seems as if there is a trend developing where we’re going to get more games streamed to our mobile devices.

In addition to DirectTV, the NCAA, the PGA Tour and now the Big Ten are streaming events live. While some people might be calling foul, and saying that screens are too small for this content, I say otherwise. It’s about having the option. I hope every game in every sport is streamed live so the poor folks stuck in airports waiting for connecting flights or even laid up in a hospital would still be able to keep up with their favorite teams. That’s the beauty of technology, and the opportunities it’s creating for us crazed sports fans.

Now let’s hope the capacity of wireless data networks can keep up with all these games. Especially when the Colts are on.





Jumproping Shoes: Do We Need This?

Posted by Anthony Mowl in EQUIPMENT on 07-29-11    2 Comments


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I’m a little Dutch girl
Dressed in blue.
Here are the things
I like to do:
Salute to the captain,
Bow to the queen,
Turn my back
On the submarine.
I can do the tap dance,
I can do the split,
I can do the holka polka
Just like this.

All of the little Dutch girls on schoolyard playgrounds had better check to see if they’re wearing the right shoes. Ropix founder Dennis Dwyer has come up with the first shoe specifically for jump roping. As a New York City boxer in the early 1990s, Dwyer spent a lot of time jumping rope. He felt that neither boxing shoes nor sneakers gave him the support he needed to jump rope for a long time, so he came up with The Forefoot trainer, “a system made of a dual density rubber material with a soft cushion landing pad in the ball of the foot. The mid-sole turbine insert is designed to attenuate shock and made of soft bounce rubber material.”

In other words, it’s a special shoe that I could salute the captain and bow to the queen with. The design is sleek and looks cool, but at $80-$90 a pop for something I can only do one thing with, I figure I’ll pass. Even Ropix’s website says, “You don’t have to jump with a pair of Ropix, but you’ll know you can…” I’m not really sure what that’s supposed to mean. That same page says that “The cross-trainer was invented more as a marketing need rather than an equipment requirement.” Quite frankly, I think Ropix fills this same gap. A shoe for jump rope? Unless you’re one of the 12 teams competing at the World Jump Rope Championships, the shoe sounds like a marketing need to me too.

While I can understand that a person who spends a lot of time jumping rope may find this shoe beneficial, jump rope is just one piece of a training session for a lot of athletes. Having to change shoes to do different activities over the course of a workout just doesn’t seem to be something that will become widespread. The shoe is only available online at Ropix’s website, and it’s likely to stay that way.

As for all the little Dutch girls, they’ll probably continue using their Sunday shoes in the playground.





There’s Another New App For That

Posted by Anthony Mowl in ALL, MOBILE, STADIUM on 07-28-11    No Comments


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The Portland Timbers soccer team just announced an app that will help their fans find their way around JELD-WEN Field. Fans will be able to find concession stands for beer, and find restrooms to release that beer back into the wild.

Thanks to Meridian, a do-it-yourself app maker, teams like the Timbers are able to quickly and easily produce GPS-enabled apps. Something like this would have been particularly useful when I went to the Indy 500 a few years ago and started walking in the wrong direction to my seat. 2 1/2 miles around the oval track left me too exhausted to enjoy all of the women around me lifting their shirts, even though that did perk me up a little bit in time for the race. At the time, apps did not exist, so I didn’t complain. But today, the Indianapolis Speedway had better get with the program and do as the Romans do.

The neat thing about Meridian’s products is that they allow digital media staff for teams and venues to easily design for the app without too much technical expertise. The flexibility allows the app to be much more than just a scaled-down version of the team’s website. The app plugs into existing content management systems as well as Meridian’s own customized CMS, which gives these guys the power to modify and produce new content on the app quickly and easily — things like what’s available for sale in concession stands, players and their stats, and RSS or Twitter feeds. Meridian has been used in museums like the Smithsonian to help people find their way around sprawling buildings and locate specific exhibits, but putting this stuff in a sports stadium sounds like a no-brainer.

I would definitely use this app to find my way around a new stadium (or racetrack), but once I’m at my seat, I really doubt I would use those apps for anything else. Like any good sports fan, I know who’s playing on the field before I arrive at the stadium, and I didn’t buy a ticket to stare at my smartphone. I would, however, use this app at home as one of my sources for information to do my homework before heading out to see a game.

Meridian apps’ ability to help teams produce more original content is going to keep them constantly busy in our “give us everything now” world. And that isn’t a terribly bad thing, considering fans are demanding more for less. As for me, I would be content if I could just find my seat quickly at the Indy 500 (sans the 5k walk), relax, and enjoy the view.





Stop Getting Ripped Off By Scalpers

Posted by Silissa Kenney in GENERAL, INTERNET, STADIUM on 07-28-11    No Comments


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Have you ever bought a ticket to a live event from a scalper and just cringed at the escalated price? Or gotten to the ticket taker only to find out you’ve got a high-priced fake in your hand? It just sucks. Well fear no more, someone is looking out for you. A lot of someones.

Dozens of  recording artists, professional sports teams, industry leaders, and more than 60 venues across the United States have launched the Fans First Coalition, a nationwide, not-for-profit dedicated to protecting fans from fraudulent and unscrupulous ticket practices. Breathe a sigh of relief!

I know someone who used to work at Tower Records (you remember, those stores people used to have to go to — in person! — to buy CDs). Tower Records had a Ticketmaster counter. Whenever tickets were released to a major live event, the scalpers would come to buy. And they’d pay big “tips” to whoever was manning the counter in order to buy beyond the ticket limit Ticketmaster set for individual purchase.

Of course, this is an ancient way of doing business, but technology has opened up new ways for ticket buyers to get screwed.

In the Internet age, scalpers use software to buy large amounts of tickets online. Or, sometimes fans buy from a ticket reseller website, not knowing they are paying higher than face value. It all adds up to you paying higher prices, but the artist, or the team or the venue don’t make any more money. Seems like it’s bad for everyone.

Maybe we could all just be a little more careful about the sites we use to buy tickets. But, then again, there doesn’t seem to be any way to get around that Ticketmaster “convenience” charge. We all know the one. And there is nothing more annoying then trying to buy a ticket and finding out that the event is sold out within minutes. If that happens because scalpers are scooping up all the tickets, then maybe it will be good to have some superheroes (or singers) fighting the good fight for us little people.

Plus, the Fans First Coalition has brought together Megadeath and Kenny G on the same team. How cool is  that?





Bloomberg Sports Pitch Review: Video Analysis For The Pros

Posted by Seth in INTERNET, MOBILE on 07-26-11    No Comments


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You gotta love that Bloomberg guy … he’s not just the mayor of New York anymore. And he’s not just the guy who founded Bloomberg News anymore either.

Over the last couple of years, Bloomberg has launched a sports division that has delved deeply into statistical analysis, including tools for fantasy sports enthusiasts. And the beat goes on for Bloomberg Sports, which this year started a video app specifically for Major League Baseball players and teams.

Baseball players have been examining video of their at bats for years. There are legendary stories of Tony Gwynn lugging multiple VCRs (VCRs!?!) on the road with him in order to fine tune his approach.

You wonder how much better Gwynn might have been if he’d had access to today’s technology. Bloomberg’s system allows players to access video of their at bats or pitches with a couple of taps on an iPad touchscreen. They can look for at bats in specific situations or against certain pitchers. You’re a right-handed hitter getting ready to face Roy Halladay? Punch up the video of every righty he faced in his last outing. Frustrated that you’re not getting good wood on the ball with two strikes? Punch up every at bat you’ve had this season with a two-strike count and see what pitchers have been doing to you. The flexibility and portability are remarkable. Players can access it via the web or using the iPad. In other words, anywhere, anytime.

Of course, the problem I always have with any analysis of this type is akin to the warning that Bloomberg’s financial services gurus might pass along to investors playing in the market: Past results aren’t indicative of future performance.

Surely, there are insights to be gleaned from examining your at bats or from watching how opposing pitchers worked against you. But then you actually have to go out on the field and play.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates surge back from perpetual irrelevance and into first place in the National League Central Division. Earlier this month, they called up an outfielder from the minors named Alex Presley, who was hitting .333 in 20 games before going on the disabled list earlier this week. He’s had a nice run. But the inevitable question is this: What happens when he faces teams for the second or third time? It’s the proverbial “next time around the league” that is the telltale sign of how well a guy can hit. The opposing pitchers will adjust, so he’ll have to adjust too. Will he continue to smack the ball all over the place just because he’s checking out how pitchers worked against him the last time? That — much like the Pirates’ ability to stay competitive for the long haul — remains to be seen.

To be sure, this is an incredibly useful application, and Bloomberg has asserted itself as a company to watch in sports data analysis. But is there a point where teams and players get so caught up in the numbers and in looking for trends that they start overthinking?

Ty Cobb was a .366 career hitter, and the closest he could come to this Bloomberg system was a stack of black and white photos. And you thought Tony Gwynn and his VCRs were old school.