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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.





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!”