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MLB and Team Up

Listen, I am not — even for a minute — saying that I possess even a modicum of business acumen. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that pretty much everything I know about business comes from 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy. I do not possess an MBA, and I have a fairly weak handshake. With that all said, the announced partnership between MLB and could make a lot of sense. However, this does not negate the fact that it all seems very silly.

People give the dating app Tinder a good deal of guff due to the perception that it is a platform merely for people looking to rub against each other in some sort of way. And while that facet of the service certainly exists, Tinder leverages an easily-trackable and simple trait for every user — proximity. When you match up with someone, you know, for a fact, that you already have something in common. This may seem oversimplified — and maybe it is — but it’s part of Tinder’s core appeal.*

*–yes, there are also photos involved, but that is included in nearly all dating services.

Services like Match and OKCupid also leverage common interests, no doubt, but they are not as instantaneous. Match is now looking to tap into that instant-match process by using baseball fandom as a variable. Using the new “Singles” (can you hear my eye rolls through the Internet?) platform, fans can combine their profiles with their team allegiances. People can search Match for others who have also designated a favorite MLB team, and, 29 team-specific portals will also be available for people to match themselves with others who also root for the same team. I really want to know which MLB team was the holdout.

Is this platform totally pointless? Probably not. Will it make these businesses money? I have no idea — see paragraph one. However, it points to a continuing trend from MLB that shows a disconnect between what MLB thinks women want and, well, reality. Hey guys! Tired of meeting women who *gasp* don’t like baseball?! Do we have the site for you! Ladies! Wanna show all the dudes out there that you are totally down to hang in a ballpark and might even eat a hot dog? Sign up below! From Match’s web site:

With over a quarter of Match members identifying as baseball fans, now’s the time to make a connection with another single fan online. Connecting over a shared passion like America’s favorite pastime is the best way to break the ice, so visit to start your search today!

In the interest of fairness, I haven’t dated in a while. And based on what I hear from single friends, it can indeed be rough out there. But predicating a relationship based on the fact that two people like the same baseball team seems shaky at best. Plus (and I hate writing this as much as you hat reading it), sports are different. There are varying degrees of fandom, to put it lightly. A guy can check a box because he likes going to a game every now and then, where a woman who watches every game and can recite the rosters of every historic team might check that same box. There’s no sliding scale here, it’s a binary response. This can happen with other subjects as well, certainly, but there are no portals for fans of Hemingway or the movie Top Gun. Match and MLB are trying to pair people together with the help of one variable that can fluctuate immensely. It probably isn’t a recipe for disaster, but it most likely isn’t one for success either.

Who knows? Maybe this will lead to some deep and meaningful relationships. Who am I to tell people how they should look for love? But on the surface, the whole situation seems pretty phony. I mostly am worried about St. Louis fans living in Chicago and vice versa. I don’t see a whole lot of room for romance there, but it might give @BestFansStLouis some good fodder.

TechGraphs News Roundup: 1/22/2016

Greetings, fair readers. The NFL has it’s championship Sunday this weekend, the NHL All Star Game (love it or hate it) is right around the corner, and we’re still waiting for a couple big signings in Major League Baseball. It’s an exciting time for sports fans, though the sports-tech world had a bit of a quiet week. It’s a post-CES lull for sure, but nevertheless, here are the stories that we found interesting from this week.

The biggest news this week came from Facebook, which has launched a new platform for engaging with a sporting event and other fans. Titled Facebook Sports Stadium, it’s a little mix of Twitter, an ESPN mobile app, and an engagement-measuring tool. Knowing Facebook, it’ll certainly get a couple face lifts along the way, but it’s an interesting tool for non-Twitter people out there that still want to discuss the sport they are watching on TV.

Another big story comes from MLB which settled a lawsuit concerning their blackout policies. As of this writing, all the details are still a little fuzzy, but it looks like the price of the overall package will be lower (yay!), and there will be an option built in for fans of out-of-town teams when said team comes to play in said fan’s town. It’s a developing story, and we’ll keep an eye on it.

Just today, UEFA announced that it will be instituting goal line technology in upcoming tournaments. David Weirs tells me this is a good thing.

Samsung is rumored to working on a smartwatch/shirt sensor combo. It’s an interesting idea. A smartwatch for the every day activities that can be paired up with a body sensor to collect more granular data during workouts.

Kirk Herbstreit, a wealthy sports announcer, got butt-hurt about a non-wealthy basketball player trying to get paid for his likeness and causing a cancellation of a video game series that cost Herbstriet a job.

Hoverboards are dumb and dangerous, and probably more dangerous when 200 lb. testosterone machines are riding them. That’s why the Carolina Panthers banned players from using them.

Wired has a nice story on the overall influx of technology in football.

Video-streaming service Ustream has been acquired by IBM. Ustream hasn’t dabbled too much in sports as of yet, but if their partnership can bring forth a series product (and given IBM’s history of corporate partnerships), we could see that technology being utilized by leagues in the not-so-distant future.

That’s all for this week. If you’re on the east coast, good luck with your shoveling. Be excellent to each other.

The Astros Hack Won’t Be the Last in Sports

Criminal charges have finally come down in the case regarding an employee of the St. Louis Cardinals illegally accessing computers belonging to the Houston Astros. Chris Correa has plead guilty and could face up to 25 years in prison for his involvement in hacking the Astros’ database. It’s a move that will hopefully deter professional sports teams from participating in this kind of behavior in the future, but one that certainly won’t guarantee it. On the contrary, these kinds of security breaches are now commonplace among corporations, and there doesn’t seem to be any discernible light at the end of the tunnel. Provisions can be made, certainly, but there’s no guaranteeing that any professional sports teams’ internal documents and information will be safe from hackers looking to make a name for themselves, or even from rival teams.

In his (Insider) piece for ESPN, Jim Bowden opines on some possible punishments for the Cardinals in the wake of the scandal. His last idea has good intentions, though the implementation is basically impossible:

New computer requirements: Manfred should put together a task force that would make sure all 30 teams have sufficient security for their baseball operations systems so that hacking is nearly impossible. These systems can either be checked on a regular basis or be monitored from a central location (i.e. the commissioner’s office).

I won’t berate Mr. Bowden on his nativity here. An understanding of cybersecurity doesn’t really fall under his job description. But this suggestion is both impossible and unfruitful. There simply is no way for an organization to absolutely protect itself against network attacks. We’ve seen hacks against the Office of Personnel Management, Patreon, T-Mobile, Ashley Madison, Hilton, and many other companies in 2015 alone. The attack vectors grow bigger and the number of threats gain in numbers every day. Most of what is considered cybersecurity these days is simply addressing known exploits. There are a varying degree of measures that can be taken against unknown exploits, but they are all difficult and the best require big-time money. A league-mandated policy on cybersecurity won’t help that. In fact, if teams are looking to protect themselves against corporate espionage, mandates are the last thing they want.

Let’s play this out a little. Say Team A wants to find out who Team B is planning on drafting. Team B has taken every (hypothetical) precaution laid out for them by the league. The problem is, Team A already knows all of these procedures. They know exactly which exploit methods to avoid and which are still left open. The road map is already drawn up. All they need to do is follow it.

It’s true that something like what Mr. Bowden is suggesting would hopefully ensure that teams act a little smarter. In fact, the exploit used against Houston was a very low-level attack. Correa essentially guessed an Astros employees’ password based on what that employee used as a password when he was previously with St. Louis. This really isn’t hacking, and it’s barely social engineering. Some guidelines from the league (who will hopefully consult with some professional security experts) could help prevent against these kinds of mishaps in the future. But if a team really wanted to get their hands on some classified information (and were willing to take the risk), it wouldn’t be all that difficult.

The FBI charges will most likely ensure that teams won’t try any shenanigans themselves, and certainly not from company computers on company networks. This does not mean, however, that rival teams or any other ne’er-do-wells couldn’t use outside sources to try and dig up secrets.

I don’t want to get too far into the nitty gritty of how the hacking community works, but suffice it to say that there are communities out there that are certainly willing to perform this type of work for a fee. Potential recruits can be found on certain IRC channels or Tor (a pseudo-anonymous network where web traffic is masked) sites and paid in Bitcoin — a cryptographic digital currency that makes transactions hard to trace. There are hackers out there for hire, to be certain, which means that teams wouldn’t even have to get their hands dirty.

And even if teams were to take measures into securing their servers and networks, there are certainly other ways security breaches can happen. An attacker could find an exploit in an employee’s home router and monitor their traffic from a car parked near their house. Man-in-the-middle attacks could be employed from a coffee shop a scout or executive visits.

And let us not forget social engineering, perhaps the most common way breaches happen nowadays. An attacker can call people around the front office posing as Todd from IT, telling people that the mail server failed and that they need their password to recreate their profile. People are still all-too willing to provide passwords and other sensitive data over the phone. Spoofing emails can be sent out with links to legit-looking websites. It usually only takes one person to give up their login information or click a link for an attacker to gain access to a network. People rarely change their passwords — and if they do, it’s often in predictable ways.

These are threats that all corporations face, not just sports teams. But it goes to show that no team is 100% safe, no matter what their respective league does or doesn’t do. In our age of prediction models and player evaluations and biometric sensors that track performance data, there is certainly a lot of juicy information that teams hold dear, and wouldn’t want other teams to see. The problem is that this information is stored on computers, and most computers are on networks that face the public in one way or another.

Is it a little scary? Certainly. Is it avoidable? Not entirely, though a hefty dose of firewall provisions, complex-password requirements, and employee training can go a long way to help prevent most attacks. But there’s no silver bullet that the league or anyone else can provide to ensure that what happened to the Astros won’t happen to anyone else. It’s part of the cost of doing business in our connected world, and probably will be forever.

(Image via Christian Colen)

TechGraphs News Roundup: 1/8/2016

Greetings, fair TechGraphs readers. Here’s hoping you all had adequate holidays. Let’s ring in the new year with all the sports-tech stories we found interesting this week.

The ringing in of the new year also means the coming of the Great Silicon Gathering known as the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES. Wearables and fitness trackers were a big theme at CES last year, and that theme appears to have carried over to the newly-christened 2016. We’ve done our best to keep tabs on all the announcements. We probably missed a couple, but here’s the general low-down on what’s coming:

Misfit is bringing a fitness tracker that actually kind of looks nice. They are also developing earbuds — yes, earbuds — that will help track your activity. Fitbit is branching out to the smartwatch market. So is Casio. And PC maker Razer. HTC is going to sell an all-in-one package that includes a scale, a fitness tracker, and a heart rate monitor. Garmin is looking to release a Google Glass/HUD device specifically designed for cyclists. They’re also coming out with a GPS watch with its own heart rate monitor. Vert is coming out with an update to their already-interesting jump tracker. A French company called In & Motion has developed a vest for skiers that will work like an airbag to to prevent injuries. Oakley is working on a pair of sunglasses with a Siri-like fitness coach built right in. And Under Armor is pairing up with IBM’s Watson super computer to develop new kinds of health and fitness tracking.

Meanwhile, a few non-CES stories came across our desk as well.

Activision has bought Major League Gaming. Fans of esports can expect to see more tournaments that should include more styles of games.

The UFC 2 video game will be coming out in March. Those interested in virtually beating the crap out of each other should mark their calendars.

Because the job of a golf club R&D team is never done, Callaway is getting into bed with Boeing to make faster drivers. No word yet on whether the 2017 model will come with optional jet engine attachments.

That’s it for this week. Have a nice weekend, and be excellent to each other.

On the End of the Tyranny of the Local Sports Market

FanGraphs’ Nathaniel Grow recently unearthed an interesting tidbit buried deep in a court filing involving Major League Baseball. Per Grow’s findings, it appears as if MLB is planning on changing up its service.

“beginning next season MLB will make single-team, out-of-market streams available for purchase (alongside the out-of-market package) on MLB.TV.”

It’s a feature that both the NHL and the NBA offer already, but it seems to be a harbinger of a sea change in the world of sports fandom — it’s now easier and cheaper for fans to be region-agnostic when it comes to picking their favorite sports teams.

Not so long ago, and for a very long time, if one found an affinity for a certain sport, their best bet — by far — was to follow the local team. That is, they were best served following the team that held rights to the local TV and radio markets. Those were the teams that kids could watch, listen to, and follow in the local papers (insert “you see, newspapers were these things…” joke here).

Now, fans have a choice, if they want it. It’s probably true that the ensconced fan — those that have been loyal to a team for most of their lives — aren’t budging on this one. But for young fans, or fans of any age that are looking to get into a new sport, it’s a liberating proposition.

The idea behind and NBA League Pass seemed always to revolve around the idea of the misplaced fan — the Cleveland native who was forced to move because of work/love or the offspring of the Yankees fan who moved to the South way back. It was, and certainly still is, a way for one to follow thier favorite team from afar. And these services are great tools for that. But they are also great tools for those looking to play the field — no pun intended. These are also built for the kid in Chicago who loves Giancarlo Stanton or the L.A. native who is a big fan of P.K. Subban. We are no longer tied to our local media markets. We can be free agents.

Again, not too long ago, if people were fans of out-of-market teams, those teams tended to be what’s known in the gambling realm as “public teams.” Think the St. Louis Cardinals or Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Bulls or Boston Bruins. These were the teams that got the most air time of their league’s respective Games of the Week that played on network (and later cable) television. If you didn’t want to follow the local team, your best bet was to latch onto a team that was on TV a lot. No more. Want to follow the Flames in Okalahoma? How about the Padres in upstate New York? No problem. Even college sports are adapting a bit, though only through conference-specific packages.

I won’t get into the specifics, because I already have, but a few years ago I was interested in finding myself a new baseball team. Ten years ago, this wouldn’t really be possible. I would have been stuck with whatever team was playing in my market (i.e. the Twins). But technology allowed me to shake off the shackles of the default.

It’s a microcosm of what technology did to commerce in general. I do believe that the rise of online retailers has been a hindrance to local businesses when it comes to the subjects of scale and wholesale-buying power, but it’s also done wonders for some. I love building PCs, but I could not imagine what I would do if Best Buy were my only option for buying PC parts. I’m lucky enough to have a Microcenter in my town, but if I didn’t I could always turn to Newegg or Tiger Direct to fill my needs. I could shop around.

The same now goes for sports fans. Think your team is dumb for supporting a domestic abuser? Sick of the local baseball team’s refusal to adopt even a modicum of advanced statistics in their daily operations? Go somewhere else. Find a better option.

In the grand scheme of things, we still have little power. TV money rules the kingdom, and blackout rules and other nonsense will still burden us peasants for some time, but there’s some light shining through. Yes, it will cost us money. Yes, the delivery methods aren’t perfect. But we are slowly being allowed to make our own decisions in the realm of fandom. We aren’t tethered to the local club. We might want to be. It’s usually easier and makes for accessible small talk with other locals. But we don’t have to.

My name is David Temple. I live in Minneapolis and I watch the Houston Astros during baseball season and the Edmonton Oilers during hockey season. I am the new face of the sports fan. It’s breaking my bank, but it’s lifting my spirits. Long live team-specific streaming packages.

(Image via Bernard Spragg)

How Playing Hockey Video Games Actually Taught Me How Hockey Works

It’s a bit of an odd dichotomy to be a sports fan living in Minnesota and not know anything about hockey. My excuse is that I grew up in Wisconsin, where football is king, and never even had a chance to play hockey in school. But I moved to Minnesota over 10 years ago. They air high school hockey games on the regional sports network here. I should have learned a little by osmosis at least.

I was too busy going to baseball games in the summer and pretending to care about the NFL in the winter to ever give hockey a try. It’s a shame really, because I found that the more of the sport I caught, the more I enjoyed it. So last year, when the NFL finally pulled enough BS to make me quit it pretty much entirely, I thought I’d give hockey a try. The only problem with that plan revolved around that fact that I didn’t really know anything about hockey. I’m not talking about not remembering what player played on what team. I barely knew the rules. So, like any enterprising 30-something with disposable income would do, I tried to solve my problems with video games.

Let’s preface this by saying, with the exception of simply knowing the name of some of the game’s biggest stars (Ovechkin, Crosby, Kane, etc.) essentially everything I knew about hockey came from whatever I ingested by watching The Mighty Ducks 50 times as a child. As it turns out, regular hockey is WAY LESS exciting than movie hockey, and movie hockey isn’t very good at explaining rules, strategy, or really even giving a general sense of the flow of the game. Needless to say, when I fired up NHL 15 last year, I had a steep hill to climb.

NHL 15 had its flaws, certainly, but the gameplay was always spot on for me. The graphics were great, the controls were responsive, and I had the ability to tailor the game in a myriad of ways. I could make my games easy or hard, fast or slow, and even get granular with how I wanted things like puck handling and passing accuracy to behave. I didn’t play much with these in the beginning, however, because I was too busy getting my butt handed to me.

Playing a video game based on sport you know nothing about is like driving a car in a country where the traffic laws are totally foreign. You have a good understanding of the mechanics of the whole thing, but not quite sure how to put it all together. Here’s how those first few days went:

1. Start game
2. Immediately get scored on
3. Check replay to see why
4. Glean nothing from replay
5. Get back into game
6. Get called for a penalty/violation
7. Pause game
8. Google said penalty/violation on my phone
9. Return to step 2.

I didn’t know what the blue lines were for. I didn’t understand offside or icing or interference of delays of game penalties. I didn’t know that if you shot the puck at the opponent’s net after an offside was called, the other team takes umbrage with it at a fairly aggressive level. I didn’t know that my goalie could be checked if he was out of the crease, because I mostly didn’t know what the crease was.

But soon enough, after enough failings and enough Googling, I understood the basic ins and outs of hockey. The hockey I watched on TV started to make more sense. When I watched the playoffs, I could understand a little more of what Doc Emrick was saying. It was some solid progress.

That was last winter, and I came into this season looking to understand a little more about strategy and basic fundamental gameplay. So instead of a general season playing as one team, I waded into the waters of creating my own player via the Be a Pro feature. I was about to go to school. NHL 15 taught me about how hockey was played. NHL 16 taught me how to play hockey.

OK, that last sentence may have been a bit of an overstatement. I’m not saying I’m ready to lace up and bang against some other out-of-shape dudes in a rec league or anything, but playing a season as a single player helped me better understand what everybody did and where they were supposed to go.

I think I’m on my seventh created player. The first six didn’t last very long. I tried playing as a center, but that didn’t do it for me. I tried a right winger but I made him right handed which isn’t the best idea because of the bad forehand angles (something I learned like three games in). I made some guys too big or too small for their position or juiced all the wrong attributes during creation, but finally I settled on a very solid player.

His name is Jacques Jacques. I wanted to make him have just one name like Pele or Cher, but the game wouldn’t let me. Regardless, Jacques was a last name prerecorded by the announcers, so it kind of sounds like they’re just using his one name. I even create a backstory for Jacques. Basically, he’s from somewhere outside Yellowknife, and he was discovered as a 17-year-old competing in unsanctioned MMA fights. He’d never played hockey because he was too busy logging or drilling for oil. But a scout found him and convinced him to learn hockey. It’s basically a mix between the plot of The Air Up There and Wolverine’s backstory from the first X-Men movie.

Jacques grows his playoff beard in November. That's how confident he is.
Jacques grows his playoff beard in November. That’s how confident he is.

Anyway, I played a whole minor league season with Jacques and ended up being the first overall pick. I was an Edmonton Oiler. The game, however, did not adjust the rest of the draft after that, so the Oilers still ended up with Connor McDavid. Needless to say, the Oilers are doing pretty well.

It’s kind of hard to explain everything I learned while trying to make my way through a digital hockey career, but the progress has been substantial.

I now understand things like general positioning — where the left winger should be in a given offensive formation. In the past, line changes always seemed so random to me, but now that I actually skate to the bench to rest, I’m starting to pick the best times to do so given where the puck, my teammates, and the opposing players are. I’m starting to decipher the fine lines surrounding what is and isn’t boarding and what is and isn’t interference. Whenever a goal is scored, I go to the replay to try and find out how. Where were the weaknesses in the defense? Who made a good play to get open? Was the goalie beat or was it a fluke deflection?

I see articles all the time about how schools are using games like Minecraft to teach kids things about teamwork and geometry and even basic computer programming. Educators have long used games as a teaching tool. And a silly as it sounds, NHL 15 and 16 honestly helped me learn about hockey. I now have a GameCenter subscription. I watch the Oilers and my hometown Wild or any other game that I find interesting. I’m understanding more and more why certain players or teams are really good.

I still have a lot of learning to do, but I can at least hold my own in a conversation with a hockey fan. I can detect a good play or a misstep when watching on live TV. I now have opinions that I yell at the TV.

Anyone can mindlessly play Madden or FIFA for hours on end. I’m not saying there isn’t value in that. But if one wants to really dig into the specifics and the minutiae of the sport, video games can actually be great for that too. I now know some stuff about hockey, which isn’t something I could have said two years ago. Now I just need to acquire a taste for lutefisk, and I’ll be a true Minnesotan.

TechGraphs News Roundup: 12/12/2015

Welcome back, fair TechGraphs readers. Here’s hoping your fantasy football wishes turned into caviar dreams and you all made your respective playoffs. Unless you play DFS, in which case this week was less important — if you don’t live in New York state, that is. More on that later. In the meantime, here are the sports-tech stories we found interesting this week.

We might as well start with the big news of the week. A while back, New York’s attorney general said that daily fantasy sites — most notably DraftKings and FanDuel — constituted gambling. Since gambling is still illegal, said attorney general  took DFS to trial. On Friday, the judge granted the injunction. Then, the appellate judge overturned that ruling. The overruling doesn’t put DFS in the clear in New York forever, they are just allowed to continue doing business until the legality of their operations are further discussed. Nothing is certain yet, but it’s some temporary good news for DFS players in New York.

Polygon goes over some of the HUGE numbers that October’s League of Legends tournament drew in terms of online viewers.

EA appears to see the writing on the wall, as they recently announced that they have opened an esports division.

While netting isn’t necessarily the cutting edge of technology, they can play a big role in keeping fans safe. Because of this, MLB has recommended that all teams increase their use of netting to increase the safety of spectators in the stands.

New Balance is working on a very cool idea that allows runners to 3D print the soles of their shoes to better fit their specific feet and running style. It’s still in R&D at this point, but it’s an excellent use of the emerging technology.

Yahoo has released a new app that serves as a sort of TV Guide for Internet streaming. While it doesn’t include sports yet, it’s fairly easy to see that getting implemented soon enough (or another company picking up where Yahoo is leaving off).

The Cowboys ran into a little bit of tech trouble on Monday Night Football. Because of the way NFL rules work, this in turn (and fairly) meant the Washington Professional Football Team also had tech trouble.

Showtime is trying to get people to watch boxing in a VR environment. You yourself can try it for free. The bout already happened, but the it seems that just showing off the technology is the main point of the demonstration.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend and be excellent to each other.


New Tech Partnerships Prove the NBA is King of Fan Engagement

The NBA is really good at making their brand as visible as possible on the Internet. They have been for some time, actually. Whenever I have discussions online or in person about what sports leagues can do to make online engagement better, I have long used the NBA as the high watermark. It’s probably true that basketball as a sport is slightly more akin to displaying highlights, in general. Dunks and half-court threes and buzzer-beaters only take a handful of seconds compared to a a touchdown pass or even an impressive deke leading to a goal. Nevertheless, the NBA hasn’t been resting on its sport’s inherent excitement. It’s making big pushes to engage current fans and win over new ones.

Leagues like the NFL have always held a firm grip on their property when it comes to things like highlights, and the MLB has currently upped their actions against people posting GIFs of what they consider to be their property. The NBA, conversely, gives fans and creators carte blanche when it comes to posting videos online. The NBA has their own YouTube channel where it posts plenty of highlights and videos itself, but one can also find tons of dunk compilations, replays of old All-Star games, or even the goofy one-off things that happen in any given game.

But they’re not stopping there. They just recently partnered with a company called AVGEN. And AVGEN’s software does some really cool things. From The Verge:

On a basic level, AVGEN is software that automates the video editing process that creates highlight reels. According to Aviv Arnon, WSC’s VP of business development, “We analyze the video itself to figure out where the players are on the court, where movement is, [and] do audio analysis to figure out the perfect ins and outs for every moment.” That means analyzing fans screaming in the stands and color commentary, as well as player stats to determine what plays meant for the game as a whole. Most importantly, the software uses image recognition to also identify players and the types of plays being made. So if an outlet wanted to create a highlight reel of DeAndre Jordan’s slam dunks, they’d simply need to specify those terms in AVGEN before getting a clip minutes later. That clip can then be shared to the waiting eyes on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter on the fly, ready for easy consumption. Which is great, since the NBA has 3 billion cumulative views on YouTube alone.

This process takes away the labor and time needed for interns to comb through video, edit it down, and post it online. It’s been streamlined and automated, as it should be. AVGEN’s process takes away the biggest problem of MLB’s recent GIF crackdown. MLB says it doesn’t want people posting GIFs or videos of cool highlights on Twitter because that highlight is property of MLB. But MLB has a long history of, well, taking a good amount of time to actually post that material online. It’s way less fun to share something when it happened 20 minutes ago. The NBA never cared about highlight sharing the way MLB did, but event then they made the process smoother by letting a machine do the posting for them. They cut out the middle man that no one was avoiding in the first place. That’s progressive thinking.

Now that they’ve made consumption easier, the NBA has turned to increasing the ease in which fans can actually contribute — most notably in terms of All-Star voting. Certainly, the NBA has long allowed fans to vote for their favorite players online and via mobile, All-Star voting has now been ported to a platform that people have already baked into their daily online activities — searching crap on Google. The NBA and Google have entered a partnership in which fans can vote for the All-Star game right from Google in their desktop or mobile browser. All one needs is a Google account and the ability to search for “NBA All Star voting.” They’re then presented with an embeded voting platform right in their current screen.

Google’s All-Star Voting Screen

Again, the middle man is being cut out here. The barrier of entry is lowered. Nobody knows that actual URL to vote for the All-Star game, so they’re just going to Google it anyway. With this new partnership, fans don’t even need to leave their search engine to do what they sought out. No Tweets are necessary, no SMS messages need to be sent.

The NBA isn’t reinventing the way fans engage with its league online. They are simply making it easier and more convenient. These are incremental improvements — improvements that any other league could easily make. The NBA — like any other league — is not without its problems. But they are hands down leading the charge when it comes to proliferating their brand online. And when sports are competing with a seemingly infinite amount of other entertainment streams on the web, every little bit helps.

TechGraphs News Roundup: 12/4/2015

Greetings, fair TechGraphs readers. I hope everyone had a pleasurable Thanksgiving holiday. We took a little time off here at TechGraphs, but we’ll back in full force next week. In the meantime, here’s a look at the sports-tech stories we found interesting this week.

Remember that time that one of sports’ most iconic figures announced his long-rumored retirement on a blog? That was weird.

ESPN is always into using social media to promote games that they broadcast, such as Monday Night Football. The problems come when the game they have to promote promises to be a garbage fire. The game actually turned out to be fairly exciting for everyone who isn’t a Cleveland fan.

On the topic of ESPN, it appears cord-cutters are costing them a not-insignificant number of customers. I don’t know how losing TV subscribers means you should lay off a bunch of great web writers, but what do I know?

For those of you who think HD just isn’t HD enough anymore, you’ll be pleased to learn that DirecTV is planning on carrying 4K content in 2016. No word yet as to which channels will be offered, but since DirecTV still up-charges for basic HD programming, rest assured that 4K will cost even more money on top of the regular bill.

I don’t much at all about esports, but I do know that beefs always help a brand, so keep at it, nerds.

Lots of ESPN news this week, but they have integrated their WatchESPN feature (for those with qualifying cable/satellite subscriptions, of course) with their ESPN app. The idea is that if you are using the ESPN app to check on a score, you’ll be able to just tap a button to pull up the live video of the game. As ESPN carries a lot college basketball on WatchESPN, the addition is timely.

Google is immensely brilliant, interesting, and terrifying company. They seemingly do something incredibly cool and incredibly creepy every day. I would chalk up patenting a blood-sucking smartwatch under both categories.

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend, and be excellent to each other.



TechGraphs News Roundup: 11/20/2015

Greetings, fair readers. We’ve been taking a bit of a mini hiatus here at TechGraphs, but luckily, not a whole lot of news has broken in the world of sports tech. Oh, I mean besides that an entire billion dollar fantasy industry is in complete legal limbo, but, you know … other than that. Anyway, while we all cash out our DFS accounts, here are the stories we found interesting this week.

Let’s get straight to the point, and talk a little daily fantasy:

  • New York state’s attorney general has suspended daily fantasy operations while they investigate the game’s legality.
  • DraftKings and FanDuel are sued said attorney general.
  • That didn’t work, so FanDuel is suspending operations in NY for a while.
  • Oh, it’s also running a bit behind in paying back its players.
  • Meanwhile, Massachusetts has instituted some new regulations regarding DFS.
  • Because of all this, the TV networks might be in trouble as far as ad money goes.
    • DraftKings is trying to suspend its advertising on TV, for example.
  • If you want a British guy to explain everything to you, check here.

OK, now that we’ve sifted through that:

Good news! MLB and Fox have announced that they will offer in-market streaming! Bad news! It doesn’t work for Comcast customers, and only those who already pay to watch the games on TV will have access!

We talked about the controversy circling new styles of curling brooms (because we’re hip like that), and now it looks like the World Curling Federation (yes, that’s a real thing) has put a temporary ban on the brooms while it sorts all this stuff out.

The folks behind Bauer hockey products has unveiled a new collar that they think will help prevent athletes’ brains from bouncing around in their skulls — i.e. concussions.

With the help of Facebook’s 360-degree video technology, GoPro has released a new video to with a panoramic view of what it’s like to carve some waves (is that surfing lingo? I feel like that’s surfing lingo.)

The video game Fallout 4 was released to much fanfare. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Boston, so some enterprising fan decided to mod the game to allow the game’s character to look like Red Sox slugger David Ortiz (albeit a right-handed version). It was a fun/lighthearted thing, so naturally MLB got butt-hurt about it.

Speaking of sluggers, Jason Giambi took some time away from not sliding to partner up with a company that uses VR to help train hitters.

If you are a stadium/architecture nerd, Wired ran a couple of stories giving a look into the future of NFL venues.

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend, and be excellent to each other.