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!”

 




Big Leaguers Getting Their iPad On

Posted by Alex Dalenberg in Uncategorized on 08-10-11    No Comments


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So a couple weeks ago Seth did a little digging into Bloomberg Sports’ Pitch Review. It’s basically a video analysis app that pro ballplayers can use on their iPad to look at video of their past at-bats or pitches. Players can use it to call up instantly call up video tailored to meet any situation. It’s pretty obviously a cool piece of sports tech that takes watching film to a whole different level.

As it goes with these kind of things, there may be an app for everything, but are people using them? Do players actually take advantage of services like the ones offered by Bloomberg?

Apparently so. A vice president from agent group Reynolds Sports Management (quoted in Baseball Digest) said his clients — and also fellow agents — have been embracing devices like the iPad when it comes to analyzing film and statistics on-the-go. Pretty handy for both players and agents who spend so much time on the road. The agent Mike Dillon even name drops some players who’ve been using their tablets to get an edge when it comes to studying film, including Angels’ players Torii Hunter and Howard Kendrick, B.J. Upton of the Rays, and Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks just to name a few. And for agents, Baseball Digest speculates tablet-based apps will probably replace agents binders of stats and ledger sheets when it comes to evaluating players and making negotiations with teams.

So there you have it. This stuff is changing how we enjoy sports so why not the real thing as well? So for now, geek out a bit knowing you’re managing your fantasy team from the same device.




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.