Archive for March, 2015

Controlling The Narrative – The Players’ Tribune and Brady Aiken

When Brady Aiken announced last week that he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair the torn UCL in his left arm, he didn’t Tweet it, he didn’t Instagram it and his agent didn’t issue a press release. Rather, the 2014 first overall pick in baseball’s first-year player draft used The Players’ Tribune to publish a column in his voice and to get in front of the story. A strange story filled with little facts, a lot of conjecture and an ending which seemingly screams “I told you so.” It’s the ending that Aiken and his agent want to change. So they did, with the help of Derek Jeter’s digital baby.

Jeter created The Players’ Tribune as a platform for “athletes and newsmakers to share information” as he’s quoted in the About section. On Thursday, David Ortiz used the outlet to complain that he’s the most tested player in baseball for substance abuse. It created enough of a buzz that the New York Times printed an article about the inner workings of the website and how the Ortiz story came about. Read the story if you want to know the details, as it’s a great article. Spoiler alert – the athletes don’t write the story themselves. Also, Santa Claus is your parents.

My interest in this “digital venture” of Jeter’s, as the Times called it, is the idea of controlling the narrative. Michael Wolff succinctly summed up this idea for USA Today:

Among the most prevalent and up-to-date phrases in business, politics and savvy American life is “controlling the narrative.”

That is, telling it your way, before someone else gets to tell it — and possibly tell it better — their way. And getting the public to relate to you on a more intimate level: In a social-media world, being impersonal is being out of it.

And when it comes to the Tribune, an athlete can do all these things with the cleanest image of any super star athlete of any time standing behind him or her. For those athletes with questionable credibility, the hope is Jeter’s iconic integrity can muffle the distractions one brings to a story and allow the reader to really hear the athlete’s voice.

Richard Sandomir’s Times piece echoes the sentiment:

The roster of athletes (and former players) featured on the site is lengthy and has included Jason Collins, Danica Patrick, Billie Jean King, Paul Pierce, Larry Sanders, Tyson Chandler, Eric LeGrand, Elena Delle Donne, Chris Long, Andrew McCutchen and Sue Bird. The accumulated message is that athletes, with help from a website overseen by an image-conscious superstar, can freely tell their stories and share their views as if they were credentialed writers. If they ultimately cannot bypass the ravenous news media in locker rooms or the digital hordes of social media, at least they can better set their own agenda.

When I first read that Aiken posted the news at the Tribune I rolled my eyes. Well, first, my story-idea radar perked up, but then I rolled my eyes.

 13-Jerry-Maguire-quotes

Maybe I’m just being cynical. But how could this in any way keep the media and fans from slapping Jeff Luhnow and the Houston Astros on the back after Aiken and the Astros couldn’t agree to terms because the Astros feared the risk of Aiken’s almost UCL-less (or almost) elbow? Ludnow was crucified and the Astros public perception trampled after the general manager fumbled negotiations and ultimately lost fifth-round pick Jacob Nix as well. As Houston Chronicle reporter Evan Drellich, who has superbly covered the saga, tweeted last week “what Brady Aiken wrote should be taken as a press release.”

To my surprise, it’s kind of worked.

Know this – Aiken’s agent is Casey Close, the same as Jeter’s. Close constantly used the media to try and gain leverage over the Astros during negotiations last summer. Close voicerfously banged the “My client isn’t injured” drum, painted Ludnow as the villain and once the signing deadline expired, appeared to have won the public relations war.

Close recognized that any elbow injury to Aiken would erase everything. Ludnow and the Astros would come out as smart, right and justified. And Close would take the blame as to why Aiken didn’t sign a $5 million offer on the final day of negotiations (down from the $6.5 million initial offer, but up from the $3.1 million low-ball offer), missed a year of pitching development and a probable first-round slide in June’s 2015 draft.

So Close reaches out to his best client ever, Jeter, secures space for Aiken to break the news, and does it his way. Frank Sinatra surely would be proud.

Since last summer, a lot of people have wondered how I could have turned down a multi-million-dollar signing bonus after being picked first in the Draft. Now, I know they’ll probably be wondering about it again. I can honestly say I don’t regret not signing. It was a very difficult decision, but it also was an informed decision based on circumstances only a few people know the truth about. My family and I planned for all the possible outcomes. We weighed the pros and cons, talked with friends and mentors and doctors whose opinions we value and discussed it over a number of family dinners. This wasn’t a decision we made lightly.

Brady Aiken, The Players’ Tribune, March 26, 2015

Close and Aikens attempt to tackle the pending issues head on. First, they spell out why they don’t regret the decision not to sign. And in doing so, they jab the Astros with a quick left to the jaw. “The money wasn’t the only factor to consider,” Aiken wrote. “I wanted to play somewhere I felt comfortable, with a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career. Making sure I had that in place was worth the frustration of not being able to get on with my career sooner.”

Second, the Aiken camp has solely focused on preparing for the 2015 draft. Aiken said he was throwing harder and better, his workouts were his best and he was looking towards the future. The message is that Aiken was ready to be another top five pick in the draft. In fact, he may be a better pitcher than a year ago, despite not playing competitively.

And his final point, he’s just a human being. Just like the fans. He’s hit an obstacle, he’s going to work hard, and God willing, he’ll come out on top.

I already have a plan in place to rehab my arm, and I plan to come back better than ever. I also know God has a plan for me. Injuries are part of the job, but so is coming back. I can’t wait to get back on the mound. I can’t wait to compete again.

And to my surprise, this whole thing kind of worked. Unless I missed it, Houston hasn’t thrown the Astros and Luhnow a parade (which I would’ve done if I was in the GM’s seat). Astros blog The Crawfish Boxes chronicled tweets from media following the news. Drellich wrote the most pro-Astros tweet when he said there wasn’t any doubt that this validates the Astros concern. But then a day later he penned this lede: “If you think Brady Aiken’s Tommy John surgery proves the Astros right about the unsigned draft pick, you’re wrong.” Jim Callis of mlb.com took a more even, rational approach. This does add some credibility back to Luhnow, but no one “won” this.

To each side’s credit, since the Aiken story was published, Close and Luhnow have remained quiet. It’s the smart thing to do, to avoid us hating either one of them more. In the end, this is a story about a gifted teenager caught up in the middle of finances and an ugly negotiation played in the media who has suffered a setback and can’t fulfill his dream of pitching professionally for 16 more months. Aiken isn’t an asset, he’s a young man with a family, dreams and a face – not just a high-priced arm. And had Drellich or Ken Rosenthal or any other baseball reporter broke this story, I think this aspect of the story would’ve been lost.

Players and agents can’t control the media. How boring would that be? SO MANY CLICHES! And just because a player gets in front of their story, doesn’t mean everything is peaches. The media digs, it follows up and it talks to other people in the story, whereas the athlete is giving his or her view. And a good reporter can crush a poorly-handled article “written” by a player, thrashing the credibility they were hoping to gain.

But in this instance, it’s helped. The Players’ Tribune allowed us all to listen to Aiken’s voice first. He set the tone. And unless Close or Luhnow speak up to add to it, this is what the story is. While it may not be the exact ending Aiken and Close hoped for, it’s certainly far better than the one I envisioned — the one where Luhnow wakes up the next morning in a Houston mansion naked in a bath of champagne, monkeys smoking cigars and a “I told you so” tattoo on his bum.


Building a Retrosheet Database — Part 3 (The Easy/Mac Way)

I’ve worked in technology pretty much all my life, but my first job was on the support desk of a software company. It was consumer software, too, so anybody and everybody called in — professionals, novices, little kids, people who wanted to learn, people who wanted us to do their work for them, and people who didn’t understand how computer mice worked. It was challenging. But I think the hardest part was that our department didn’t have remote software. This meant that every time a person had a problem, they had to just explain it to us. We couldn’t see what was happening, so we had to trust what the person was saying was accurate. Everybody sees a computer screen differently. Very rarely did a customer see it in the same fashion I was used to seeing it.

When I published the first two parts of this Retrosheet series (Part 1 | Part 2), I did not monitor the comments well enough. I apologize for that. Some people had legitimate questions and I wasn’t there to answer them. I also learned that I was making all of you trust my explanations of things. I was making you see everything through my eyes, and some people got a little confused. This stuff happens. I’m hoping to fix that here.

I also promised a way for Mac people to have access to this, so I’m doing that as well. This article/video is for:

1. Mac (and Linux) users

2. Windows users who had trouble with the first two parts

Some caveats for Windows users looking to use this method:

1. The whole point of the first two parts was to show how the SQL files can get made using Chadwick. The idea being that you could grab the 2015 (and all subsequent season) data when that became available. The method mentioned in this article involves installing one flat file. That means that you’ll need to delete all the data and reload it for 2015 next season. I have no problem making this file for you folks, and will continue to do so as long as TechGraphs and I are around. It’s not a big deal, it’s just a different approach and I wanted to be transparent about that. Mac users basically have to do this method since the Chadwick tools aren’t available for OSX.

2. The video walks Mac users through installing and setting up a MySQL database. Your method differs, and it was explained in parts one and two linked above. I try to make it clear about when I’m dealing only with Mac users, but I wanted to give you a heads up on that.

Everyone using this method will need to download this file. Just save it to the desktop. The video will walk you through the rest.

You will also need these two lines of code. The video will tell you how to do it.

cd /usr/local/mysql/bin

./mysqladmin -u root password ‘password’

I will be monitoring the comments more closely, so let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, and good luck.


FIFA’s Looks to Reach Out to Fans with New YouTube Programming

Soccer is a massive business. Not just club level play, but international events such as Euro events, Gold Cup, and of course, the World Cup are massively popular and thus massive money makers. Despite the popularity of soccer itself, FIFA has a deservedly wretched standing with many fans. It seems as though the governing body of international soccer has recognized this, and is making veiled attempts to reconcile with fans.

From the outcry of fans regarding Russia’s anti-gay laws while they prepare to host the 2018 World Cup to the thousands of migrant workers who have died building Qatar’s 2022 stadiums, let alone the various corruption charges, FIFA had some serious bridges to rebuild. Perhaps it was the FBI’s investigation to countries bidding for the 2022 World Cup or the drop of major sponsors in Emirates, Sony, Castrol Oil, Johnson and Johnson or Continental, but it appears as though FIFA is attempting to re-brand their image.

On January 29 of this year, Major League Soccer announced their sale of the popular KICKTV YouTube channel to London based Copa90. Last week Copa90 then sent out a press released regarding a joint partnership as they joined forced with Pitch International, just three days after Pitch International sent out a press release saying they partnered with FIFA. The FIFA/Pitch International pairing will consist of PI airing the new show FIFA Football. The show will launch in May and according to Niclas Ericson, FIFA director of television, the show is about all aspects of the game.

FIFA Football is about giving fans a real insight into the game, on and off the pitch. Football is a truly global game and there are so many great moments to celebrate and fascinating stories to share from around the world. We hope this show will help to inspire the next generation to play, engage in and enjoy the world’s most popular sport.

Aiming at the younger generations — not just as players but also fans — by acquiring and partnering with YouTube channels seems to be a savvy move by FIFA. The NFL catered to fans in January by putting sanctioned game clips and highlights on YouTube. Given the amount of heat put on the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of several poorly-handled decisions, throwing service to fans, possibly in a bit of a distraction ploy, was an interesting tactic. Similarly for FIFA, their new partnerships do nothing to apologize for past (and present) missteps by soccer’s most influential organization, however reaching out to fans is at least a positive step for a company not well known for positive press.

(Header image via Facebook)

Vine Improves To High Definition

As incredible as GIF(V)s and HTML5 videos are at capturing highlights, sometimes video alone does not do a moment justice. When an occasion calls for audio and video, Vine has filled that niche very well. Until today all Vines were recorded in 480p, however now iOS devices are able to record in 720p. The blog states an Android app update will follow shortly, however no word on Windows devices just yet.

After partnering and covering the NBA so successfully — the NBA Vine account has over 381 million loops — with both regular season and All-Star game coverage, at least one league is embracing the technology. On the other hand, arguably the best soccer league in the world, the Premier League seems set against sharing goals and highlights. In an interview prior to the season, Dan Johnson, director of communications for the Premier League was quoted

“You can understand that fans see something, they can capture it, they can share it, but ultimately it is against the law. It’s a breach of copyright and we would discourage fans from doing it, we’re developing technologies like gif crawlers, Vine crawlers, working with Twitter to look to curtail this kind of activity. I know it sounds as if we’re killjoys but we have to protect our intellectual property.”

Killjoys indeed. It is worth noting while the Vine official blog post does have a Premier League goal in it, Chelsea versus Crystal Palace, it is from the 2013 season and takes place before Johnson’s remarks.

Despite 720p not being particularly earth shattering on mobile devices these days, seeing Vine working to improve their overall user experience, is good for everyone, particularly sports and esports fans.

(Header image via Facebook)

What Periscope and Meerkat Might Mean for Sports

Periscope and Meerkat are both apps that do pretty much the same thing. They allow a smartphone user to broadcast live video. People can already do that, but these two apps tap into the power of social media, mainly Twitter. Periscope was actually bought by Twitter before it even launched. These apps provide users a way to instantly share immediate video. Think Vine, but without time limits and in the moment. This can be used for frivolous things like people broadcasting themselves eating breakfast, or serious things like streaming video of an explosion in New York City. These apps are only a few days old, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them branch into sports very soon.

Meerkat and Periscope might be that perfect bridge between live and televised sports. At home, you get all the camera angles and slick replays and a comfy seat and cheaper beer. But there’s obviously something about the game that draws people to see it live. Nobody goes just to overpay for hotdogs. There’s an electricity at live games — there’s a feeling of being part of a shared experience. Teams sell expensive box seats to try and bring the feeling of the living room to the game. Meerkat and Periscope might be able to bring the feeling of the game to the living room — for free.

Say you have some kind of brain damage so you’re watching the Houston Astros on purpose. You’ve been watching the whole game on TV, and now the Astros have managed to mount a comeback in the ninth inning. George Springer is up to bat. You lean in a little closer to the TV when you get an alert on your phone. An Astros fan you follow on Twitter is at the game and is streaming the at-bat from the stands. You click. On TV, you can see the pitcher sweat. On your phone, you can hear the crowd roaring. On TV, you see Springer take a monster swing. On your phone, you see everyone in the stands rise to their feet, jumping and giving high fives. On TV, you see Springer round the bases. You can hear fireworks from both.

Meerkat and Periscope will not replace the feeling of being somewhere. But nothing will, so that’s not the point. These apps are trying to digitize shared experiences. I’m still not sure how or if it will work. But sports seem like the perfect arena. Baseball season is starting. NHL playoffs are around the corner. The Sweet Sixteen is in full swing. The testing space is there, Periscope and Meerkat just need the lab rats.


New Tablet and Second Screening Numbers Released

For tablets with data plans — and thus excluding Wi-Fi only variants — Compass Intelligence released numbers for the five largest wireless carriers from last year. More than 19 million tablets were sold with wireless activations in 2014 according to the information. For overall tablet numbers it should come as no surprise to see Verizon and AT&T lead the way, with 35.1% and 30.4% of the activations respectively. Sprint and T-Mobile are nearly tied, with U.S. Cellular and other companies rounding out the chart.

carrier-total-subs

Tablets have certainly found more than just a niche fan base over the years and their sales as well as usage numbers have climbed. Sports leagues and networks have taken notice, particularly as the second screening experience grows more popular. Statista released a survey conducted about second screening in June of last year. A reported 44% of sports fans utilized another screen last year for live scores of other games currently being played, and 1-in-5 fans watched clips or highlights or was talking with a friend about the games. Somewhat surprisingly fewer than 1-in-7 claimed they utilized their screens for social networking or watching a separate live game.

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Currently in the midst of March Madness, four games are slated today, however two games will overlap each other. Tip off times for 7:15 and 7:45 eastern as well as 9:45 and 10:17, thus ensuring those without multiple TV’s will be forced to either swap between channels or utilize a second screen. With baseball season just around the corner, games happen concurrently every day, though MLB.TV does allow watching four games at once with their picture-in-picture feature. Similarly, NFL Sunday Ticket allows the user to view eight games simultaneously

Presuming the tablet market continues to grow, something the trends suggest would be a safe assumption, count on seeing even more sports fans make the jump to second screening. Already broadcasts are inundated with suggested hashtags, plugs for apps and commercials displaying the best features of online subscriptions. Eventually sports broadcasts may reach the point where second screening is the norm.

(Header image via Digital Trends)

You Too Can Buy a Piece of Andrew McCutchen’s DNA

Andrew McCutchen’s dreadlocks are dead locks, people. The Pittsburgh Pirates superstar cut off his famous coils of matted hair and kicked off an online auction today to raise money for Pirate Charities. The current high bid at the time this post was published is $300. The winning bidder will also receive an autographed baseball and the ability to create an army of McCutchen clones. But Dr. Ian Malcom would probably just poo all over that brilliant idea.

There are ten available locks, which will be MLB authenticated along with the autographed ball. Funds raised by the auction and his personal charity, Cutch’s Crew, will be dispersed throughout the Pittsburgh community.

In case you wondered, Mrs. McCutchen approves.

Let’s hope someone compares McCutchen’s MLB StatCast times from 2014 and 2015 – dreads versus no dreads.

For conspiracy theorists that don’t believe he ever had real dreads in the first place, McCutchen’s got you covered.

View the auction and bid here. The minimum bidding increment is $10. Bidding will end on April 2 at 10 p.m. Eastern. Shipping rates apply and will be added to final bids, so be sure to check that out.


Is YouTube Creating a New Rival to Twitch?

For all of the various competitions getting streamed via TwitchTV, it is unfortunate to see the platform itself does not have any major competition. Yes, ESPN3 has shown esports in the past, Major League Gaming TV is making strides, and Azubu is still a thing, but without another titan to battle, TwitchTV holds all the cards as streaming’s primary go-to website. Cue the whispers of YouTube preparing to re-launch a gaming centered live-streaming platform in this Daily Dot piece.

The rumor mill has an acute sense of things given the recent Twitch password issues. While it isn’t on the same scale as Sony storing user passwords in plain text, on Tuesday certain TwitchTV users were hit with the a concerning email. A subject line of “Important Notice about Your Twitch Account” immediately caught the eye of channel owners as the body of the email revealed that unauthorized access within accounts may have taken place:

twitchpolicy

As a relatively long-time Twitch user — my account registration is dated January 1, 2012 and the company officially split from JustinTV in June of 2011 — I can even remember the JustinTV days and the issues that have hampered the streaming platform back then. From out of sync audio and video to levels of lag that turned videos into slideshows, Twitch seems to take one step forward and two steps back in terms of being the best available. Now offering the ability to at least report issues on hand with a few simple clicks, Twitch has nonetheless introduced other problems.

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From a sub-par VOD catalogue that lacks a basic search function to their music policy that causes large areas of previous VOD’s getting muted (as indicated by the warning and large red bars), many — myself included — have expressed frustration with the platform.

twitchmusic

Hopes are high that a rival service will end with the companies bringing out the best in each other for the consumers. Google previously showed interest in purchasing the Twitch platform before backing out, but if you can’t join em, beat em.

(Special thanks to the GSL and TakeTV channels)

Check Out MLBAM’s Ridiculous Launch Schedule for 2015

MLB Advanced Media, or the biggest media company you’ve never heard of, is about to embark on a video streaming expedition the likes of which the internet has never seen, supporting five launches in the next month alone, all while providing video streaming infrastructure for CBS Sports, ESPN, and WWE.

Take a look at this list put together by TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

  • 3/18 – Sony’s PlayStation Vue
  • 3/18 – March Madness streaming for Turner
  • 3/29 – Wrestlemania
  • 4/6 – MLB Opening Day
  • 4/12 – HBO Now debut with Game of Thrones

That launch calendar would be great if it occurred in a year’s time, but MLBAM is doing it in one month. If they nail it, MLBAM will be in prime position to do what has been speculated for months — spin off into their own digital entertainment company. As our esteemed managing editor, David Temple, noted, “Through some forward thinking, some early investments, and a little bit of luck, a sports league has ended up being a giant in one of the biggest tech industries around.”

As was previously reported by TechGraphs, HBO Now is being launched with an exclusive partnership with Apple TV, which created whispers that Apple is looking to start their own over the top streaming service like Sling.

In his interview with TechCrunch, Bowman responded to a question about the possibility of MLBAM supporting Apple in these efforts by saying, “I have no idea. We’d be honored to be part of anything, really… What people forget is how long they’ve been together, and how well they’ve been running the company. I think everybody would do a lot of things to be partners with Apple, but it’s hard to imagine there’s anything technologically we could bring to Apple.”

Continuing with the Apple theme, Bowman gave an update on the At Bat app launch for the Apple Watch, saying, “We obviously built a whole interface, when it launches in April and people sync their phones, [sic] obviously, the interface is different. Every piece of hardware has to look different… Hopefully, it looks cool and neat and — the watch itself, there’s ways to dig deeper. When you move it, you might just get an update, but when you punch it a couple times, it’ll dig a little deeper.”

Right now MLB.com is 85 percent of MLBAM’s business, but obviously that number is likely to fall given all off the business they’re taking on. When asked pick a competitor for MLBAM, Bowman responed, “I think the biggest competitors that we have are inertia.”

(Image via Ming-Yen Hsu)

 


Wilson, SportIQ Team Up to Produce “Pro-Quality” Smart Basketball

Look close at Wilson’s Wx “connected basketball,” and it’s hard to tell what’s so different about it until you spot the Bluetooth logo by the inflation valve.

“That is not something we usually deal with,” Wilson’s Vice President of Innovation Bob Thurman chuckled.

The ball was presented, along with an accompanying mobile app, at last month’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Wilson developed the basketball in partnership with SportIQ, a Finnish company whose player tracking solution combines wearable sensors with synchronized video to help coaches analyze their teams’ performance.

When asked, SportIQ CEO Harri Hohteri (pictured above) was reluctant to talk about the “secret sauce” behind his company’s basketball. But he was quick to differentiate it from other smart sensor basketballs like 94Fifty’s.

“[The 94Fifty ball] was designed around shooting mechanics as a training tool,” Hohteri said. “But the first thing for us is the consumer side of things. We wanted to develop a professional-quality basketball.”

Hohteri, who played four professional seasons in Finland’s Korisliiga, insisted the feel of the basketball was of the utmost importance to players. “I can’t tell the difference between this and a game ball,” he said.

The quality of the basketball is further underscored by SportIQ’s partnership with the Korisliiga. For the third straight season, Finnish players are wearing the company’s sensors (and using its basketball) in league games. The data is used to automatically tag events in a synchronized video that Hohteri says coaches are using to track the efficiency of their offensive sets. And because it relies on sensors, the system doesn’t need the extensive camera setup used by STATS’ SportVU tracking system.

“It’s about doing things more efficiently,” Hohteri said. “That’s the whole idea. We can do the whole thing in real time with less manpower than teams are using now.”

But for those of us who aren’t running a professional basketball league, Wilson’s connected basketball is launching this year. The demo at the conference included a smartphone app (projected onto a television) that showed players their accuracy from various distances on the floor. A machine learning algorithm in the app detects makes and misses without the need for an additional sensor attached to the net, unique among smart basketball systems. Each distance stripe was color-coded, according to the percentage of shots made from anywhere in that arc.

SportIQ’s partnership with Wilson started in August 2012, when SportIQ first began its relationship with Finnish basketball. Because Wilson is the official basketball of the league, Hohteri approached Wilson’s innovations department about developing a smart basketball.

“At the same time, our business director was asking us for a way to measure makes and misses in the driveway to keep kids in the game,” Thurman said. “So we agreed that we would help engage them on tracking the basketball, and they would help us with this make/miss aspect.”

Thurman hopes the partnership between their companies will combine SportIQ’s intelligence with Wilson’s broad user base to “gamify” practice and inspire the next generation of basketball players.

“We want to activate 12-15 year old kids, to get them off the video games, and get them back in the park, to be more active,” Thurman said.


Measuring My Intangibles

Analytics is everywhere in the sports world. I’m not telling you anything new, and I don’t need to convince you, so I won’t. The tech world continues to create new ways to compile data on the field that range beyond statistics. Whether it’s video tracking (Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s StatCast) or wearables, a player’s speed, route and jump off the ball can be measured, compiled and analyzed.

Off the field, things are vastly different. As I wrote in December, the Milwaukee Bucks hired a facial coding expert to build an emotion metrics database in an attempt to quantify the previously unquantifiable – character, personality and chemistry. The Bucks are looking for an edge in the analytics race, a race which most teams have finally joined after sitting the past few years cautiously watching from the sidewalk. Will measuring intangibles be that edge in performance data analysis?

SportsBoard, a player assessment platform, and HUMANeX Ventures, which specializes in identifying and developing non-physical talent, are banking on it. The two partnerted in January to provide coaches the tools to recognize the best physical and non-physical talents of athletes and develop players to reach their true potential. They have many common clients in the Big Ten, Ivy League, PAC 12 and SEC. One client in particular, former UCLA softball head coach Sue Enquist, suggested the two companies marry tech and science to help her, and others, coach in a more efficient way. And so the relationship began.

The platform SportsBoard developed caters mainly to college coaches, however they also work with US Women’s Soccer and IMG Academy. Its streamlined assessment processes helps coaches identify and track high school recruits, analyze practices and games track results of various clinics or camps and create, distribute and montior strength and conditioning plans for its athletes.

Meanwhile, HUMANeX developed something called the Select7, which assesses a player’s intangibles (leadership, will to win, desire, mental toughness, etc.) and to what extent an athlete possesses those traits. Once an athlete takes the 60-question assessment, the results feed over that player’s SportsBoard portfolio, and a coach can review the athlete’s stats, notes scouts have scribbled, physical prowess and whether Timmy Football’s personality is best suited for his team.

“Until coaches embrace this, they’ll forever be drinking from a firehose,” said SportsBoard CEO Gregg Jacobs. Prior to developing SportsBoard, Jacobs worked in the enterprise software industry for 20 years and spent two years working at Price Waterhouse.

Of note, 60 percent of SportsBoard’s men’s college basketball clients made the NCAA Tournament. Small sample size alert — three schools, Ohio State, Georgia State and St. John’s participated in March Madness, with the two former teams winning their first-round games.

Brad Black, CEO of HUMANeX, said his company is researching athletes every day.

“Our goal is to create a relevant, impactful mirror with this assessment,” Black said. “We’re trying to give the world a pin number to their tool box. If you don’t know what’s in your tool box, how do you know what tools you can use?”

Clients include professional athletes, a Heisman trophy winner and Olympians. He said his database of assessments can be used to calibrate a current athlete, say a four-star high school recruit, against a former legend, and compare common traits. As a result, Black has identified several traits that the most successful athletes all have in common, which will be reviewed later.

Black graciously agreed to let me take the Select7. For a frame of reference, I started playing baseball when I was 9. I made all-star squads every year until high school, made varsity and then hit a wall. Part of it was because my peers caught up to my physically (I hit puberty in fifth grade). But I think a more damaging part was my mental toughness. Looking back, I didn’t deal with failure well. I wasn’t able to turn the page and ignore a hitless game with a throwing error. Ultimately, rather than work harder on my deficiencies, I just quit. So last week when I took the test, I tried to put myself in that 17-year-old baseball player’s mindset that I had. But I think some of my more mature thoughts snuck its way in to my results.

The assessment took about 20 minutes and included questions about character (keeping promises, doing the right thing type of stuff), goal setting, preparation, how I handled failure and how I was as a teammate. I figured my results would indicate how little mental toughness I had, scold me and prove that it was my downfall. But it didn’t. Rather, it highlights my seven strongest attributes. Some of these I found on the baseball field, but a lot are attributes that have carried over in to my personal and professional life.

select7capture

Goal Orientation

This is an example of my more mature mindset bleeding over in to my results. If my 17-year-old baseball-playing self created plans to grow and ensured I met my desired outcomes, I at least wouldn’t have quit prior to my senior season, and would have maximized my physical abilities. Rather, goal orienting is something I’ve done more since college. And while it’s not written down for anyone to read, I have ideas of where I’ve wanted to be, put myself there, and where I want to go.

Passion

I fell in love with baseball when I was 8. Roy Hobbs was my first favorite baseball player, followed by Wally Joyner. I grew up an Angels fan, mainly because of all my Orange County friends in the third grade liked the Angels. It helped that Wally World took the region by storm and the Angels had a good team in 1986. I somehow was drafted in my first season, at 9, to play in the 10-12 year-old majors division – the one that competes on ESPN every August for the Little League World Series. I don’t think I put one ball in play during my try outs. But my coach saw a tall gangly kid with good hands, a decent arm and a project. My coach handed me my White Sox jersey with 9 as my number. “Just like in The Natural,” I told my dad. I was stoked.

Passion matters. Check out the difference between Russell Wilson and JaMarcus Russell and tell me it doesn’t.

Achiever

An achiever sets high expectations which pushes one towards excellence. I do have this. As most are, I’m my own worst critic. My problem was that 20 years ago, I kept it all inside. If I wasn’t achieving, I’d quit. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t put in extra hours or figure out new ways to improve. I gave up. It’s hard to achieve if you don’t try.

Flexibility

This one is innate. It’s always been a part of my personality. Laid back. Chill. I roll with the punches. I might not like the change, and it might take me a bit to adapt, but I recongize the need to do so. Unfortunately, it makes figuring out dinner difficult with the Mrs. “I’m cool with whatever, babe.” An hour later and we’re still sitting on the couch in sweats.

Resilience 

This is another attribute that’s developed as I’ve grown older. If I had this in high school, I would’ve achieved more. And really, it’s only developed out of necessity. In 2012 my 4-year-old son died following a drowning accident at a neighbor’s pool party. My wife has miscarried three times in two years. I’ve been kicked in the nuts, stepped on and tea-bagged by life for the last two-and-a-half years. Yet I still get out of bed every morning. I’m not living life through the bottom of a bottle as much as I wish I could. People have called me strong. I’m not. I just do what I have to do for my twin 4-year-olds and my wife. I have to keep getting up when life knocks me down. There are no other options.

Activator

This is the energizer. As you know, I’m laid back. However in the dugout, I became the person I needed to in order to help the team win. Does my pitcher need a boost? I’ll give it to him. Is my team playing tight and gripping? I’ll loosen the mood.

I help out with my kids’ tee-ball team. Before this weekend’s game, I was slapping helmets of 5-year-olds, nudging their shoulders and trying to pump them up to play. I’m pretty sure they thought I was just a creep.

Mastery

Russell Wilson and his Surface Pro come to mind on this one. An athlete with this trait has a strong learning orientation. He studies and becomes an expert in his sport. Not to pick on JaMarcus again, but I doubt Mastery scored highly in his Select7.

Black shared the common traits found in successful athletes. Competitive is the most obvious trait. Others include achiever, which Black says is more of a talented trait than competitor drive, since an achiever is always putting the pedal to the floor; passion, as an athlete is more likely to choose sacrificing for his love of the sport than focusing on parties or an awesome social life; and grit, which features a strong fortitude, resolve and courage. Black added other features that stand out to coaches, including mastery and coachability. 

SportsBoard and HUMANeX hope their venture leads to providing clients with a complete picture of athletes, both physical and non-physical, with measurable data.

“Coaches don’t get the physical wrong,” Black said. “They just don’t know the non-physical.”

(Image courtesy of SportsBoard)

Sony Looking to Prove Durability with Tough Mudder Partnership

Various devices boast about toughness, water resistance and qualities of similar ilk. As Amazon’s most recent Fire commercial demonstrates, a device’s overall ability to work under circumstances — extreme and every day — remain important bullet points. Sony is willing to put its money where its mouth is, as they partnered up with the Tough Mudder (TM) organization to record and track various events this year. The devices being used will be Sony’s Xperia Z3, Z3 tablet compact and Smartwatch 3.

From the Samsung S4 and S4 Active in 2013 and their S5 last year to the Kyocera Brigadier and HTC Desire Eye, water resistance in mobile devices is nothing new. HTC offers Uh-Oh Protection, where events such as cracked screens and water damage are covered up to one year after purchase. Similarly there is no shortage of water and sweat resistant smartwatches or fitness trackers, though again, few have been put through the paces of an event like the Tough Mudder. In addition to various participants utilizing the Sony gear, a sponsored team will also be running the course while being subject to all manners of dirt, water, dust and any combination of the three.

According to the Tough Mudder website, 1.3 million people have participated in various events over the years and each race averages between 10 and 15 thousand people. The advertising reach for Sony shouldn’t be understated, but that is presuming their devices work as advertised. Sony claims each of the three are IP 68 certified, meaning they can submerged in nearly five feet of fresh — not salt — water for up to 30 minutes without any negative effects. With multiple TM events involving water, such as the Mud Mile and the Underwater Tunnels, Sony is betting that this publicity and their sponsorship paint the company in good light. Samsung faced public backlash when it was discovered in 2013 that the S4 and S4 Active did not have moisture damage covered in the one-year limited warranty despite being so famously advertised by having a camera mode specifically for taking pictures underwater. The next Tough Mudder event is scheduled for this coming weekend in Los Angeles with five more races throughout the year. It’s only a matter of time before Sony’s products get put through the wringer, just like the people who run in the events.

(Header image via Facebook)

Canada Tells Citizens Not to Cut the Cord Quite Yet

Canada is looking to be a world leader in entertainment, and no, it isn’t hockey. Well, it could be hockey, as the beauty of the country’s recently announced cable plans leafs leaves all of the decisions to the customer. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) claims next year Canadians will have the option of an entry level TV service starting at $20 per month, then an option to purchase individual channels from there. By December of next year, all of Canada is set to have “pick-and-pay” basis or in small packages available.

The vague wording on what “small packages” consists of is yet to be determined, however the CRTC will cap the basic package range from $20 to $25 (plus add-ons) compared to the cheapest current cable package at Rogers Communications goes for $40.48. Of course, much like Big Cable here in the United States, Rogers charges a one time activation fee (49.99), installation fee ($14.95) and renting or purchase fees of the equipment. No word on whether the new plans will have features such as high definition, DVR or any Video-On-Demand services either, which would almost certainly be a major a factor for many.

Take a look at the basic (read: no HD, no premium channels, etc.) packages available in my area for a single TV compared to what we know about Canada’s plans.

Price (Monthly) Extra Charges Installation Activation
Canada $20-$25 None N/A N/A
Charter $59.99 $6.99 $29.99 N/A
AT&T $29.99* None $99.99** $49.99**

*This is the price for the initial six months, then the price jumps to $65.00
**After speaking with an online representative, I was able to get both the install and activation fees waived

The mass appeal to an à la carte system is clear, though it could be nothing more than swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. For someone like me, one who roots for favorite sports teams outside of the local coverage, going back to cable doesn’t make sense. I am already paying monthly for Netflix as well as one time payments for MLB.TV, Fox Soccer 2 Go, Amazone Prime and MLS Live (plus various subscriptions to Twitch.TV) as well the soon to be launched HBO Now, do I really want another monthly bill for entertainment?

For years my parents, friends and others have complained and expressed frustration about paying for dozens (f not hundreds) of channels they’ll never watch. Canada is taking a step for people to choose what they want, but many, myself included, already know — and have — what we want. If I lived in Canada, I’m not sure this package would be for me, however I realize I am on the fringe for many things entertainment.

(Header image via Wikipedia)

Mike Tyson Uploads YouTube Clip of Every Knockout for Upcoming Biopic

Earlier this week heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson uploaded a YouTube clip to his channel with a caption that read, “Help me pick my 10 best knockouts to feature in the Mike Tyson story starring Jamie Foxx and directed by Martin Scorcese.”

Whether you’re a fan of the big fight knockouts Tyson served on Michael Spinks and Larry Holmes, or his early career beat downs on the lower rungs of professional boxing as an 18-year-old phenom, they are all there in over 57 minutes of punishing fury.

This clip adds more credence to Jamie Foxx’s announcement on the Breakfast Club Power 105.1 radio show last week that he will be starring in a biopic about Tyson, directed by Martin Scorcese and written by Terence Winter, who created  Boardwalk Empire and wrote the screenplay for Wolf of Wall Street. Scorcese’s last boxing film was Raging Bull, for which Robert DeNiro won the Best Actor Oscar in 1980.

Foxx said in the interview, “I just went in with Paramount with Mike Tyson. So I’m going to do the Mike Tyson story. Listen, to be in the same room pitching Mike Tyson to Paramount, Mike Tyson is on one side, I’m on the other side and doing Mike Tyson at the same time. And Martin Scorsese at the helm. This will be the first boxing movie that Martin Scorsese has done since Raging Bull.”

If Tyson is sincere about using the web to crowdsource his best knockouts, YouTube sure is an interesting community to select, as their commenters generally leave a lot to be desired.

However, the video has already eclipsed over one million views in just a few days, which adds support to the viability of the project. A film montage of Tyson knockouts would be one of the best ever, yet entirely unlikely to eclipse the best of all time — Push It To The Limit from Scarface.

(Header Image via Wikpedia)

TechGraphs’ Guide to Following the NCAA Tournament

If we had the money to buy the licensing, there would be some trance music playing right now. In fact, do you have some on your computer? Yeah? Cool. play it. It’ll make this next part better. Ready?

Ladies and Gentlemen: It’s Tournament Time!

zachtournament

I know the NCAA Tournament technically started a few days ago, but I, like everyone else who isn’t a degenerate gambler or a fan of those First Four teams didn’t really give a crap. It all starts today. Once again, the Golden Gophers have no dog (or gopher) in the fight, but I’m excited nonetheless. It’s probably the greatest sporting event of the year, and you’ll probably want to follow along. We here at TechGraphs are here to help you keep up with all the latest goings on in the world of March Madness. Strap in.

On TV

Fun fact: They play NCAA Tournament games on TV now! In fact, if you have the right cable/satellite package, you can watch every game in the tournament. The games will be playing on CBS, TBS, TNT and TruTV. You can find a complete TV listing (including scheduled announcers) here. Bookmark that. Print it out, save it to your Pocket account, clip it to Evernote, email it to yourself. That’s an important list.

Does it stink that you need a TV package to watch all the games? Yes. However, the channels needed usually come with fairly basic packages. You don’t need a special subscription like you would with NFL, MLB, or NHL games. It’s a bummer, but a much more affordable bummer than usual when it comes to these things.

If you don’t have/will not buy the requisite cable package, you can still get the CBS games with a digital antenna. Or, you could always mosey down to your favorite watering hole.

On the Web

There are actually two ways you can catch tournament games on the web this year. The first is the “old fashioned” way — directly from the NCAA. Every game will be available to stream. You will need to log in with your cable/satellite package credentials, however. Actually, I should clarify that you need to log in with someone’s credentials. If you plan on watching in the office, it might be a good idea to buy the person in charge of the firewall a gift card or something. Maybe from Newegg. Nerds friggin’ love Newegg. Oh, and don’t forget to use the Boss Button.

Thanks to the new Sling TV offering from Dish, you can watch most of the games online as well. Sling doesn’t offer CBS, so you’d need to do some input switching on your TV if you were interested in flipping back and forth. Sling’s main $20/month package comes with TBS and TNT, though the package that offers TruTV would be an extra $5. Sling has a free 7-day trial available, and can be streamed online via Mac or PC, as well as mobile devices and some connected devices. Check out the full rundown here.

On Your Phone/Tablet

Of course, the NCAA also offers March Madness Live apps for both iOS and Android that allows you stream games. The same TV package exceptions apply here, as well. If you have a good data plan and locked-down company Internet, this might be your best bet to catch games at work. It’s also a great option if your roommate/significant other would actually like to use the TV for once. Don’t be a tube hog. Hand over that remote and fire up the tablet.

If you are mostly interested in the fairings of a few teams, you should be able to set up alerts on your phone through your favorite scores app. I prefer the CBS Sports app, actually, but the ESPN or Yahoo! apps should work just fine. All of the above-mentioned apps will also allow you to set game-start notifications for those matchups you don’t want to miss.

Another app you can utilize is the Google app for either iOS or Android. Google knows what you want, so if you just type “ncaa tournament” in the search bar, it’ll give you all the scores you desire. It’s not quite as robust as some of the other apps, but it’s a quick and easy way to catch some scores.

Keeping Up with Your Bracket

There’s a very real chance you don’t actually want to watch all the games and you just care about your bracket. I fully support this. If you used an online bracket service (ESPN, CBS, Yahoo!), scores should be displayed on your bracket in real time. If your office isn’t keen on you sucking up all the bandwidth, but are fairly lax in letting you visit sports web sites, this is a good option.

If you only filled out a paper bracket, it’s free and easy to create one online just for your reference. Once you’ve done that, feel free to tell the pool organizer that he/she is fired.

Every bracket service has a corresponding mobile app as well, if you need to be even more discrete. The ESPN Tournament Challenge App even allows you to get notifications based specifically off your bracket. It’s a neat feature for when work is preventing you from staring at your phone for hours.

 

All-in-all, the NCAA Tournament has one of the best online offerings compared to the other major sports. Yes, you do need to pay for it, but there aren’t any silly blackout restrictions based on time or location. If you have a reasonable TV package you can stream all the games, no questions asked. Remember, as the competitors get knocked out, more and more games are played on CBS, which anyone can get for free. So if you can work a Sling trial for a week, you might be able to skate by. Or you can always buy a six pack and head to a friend’s house. Buzzer beaters and upsets are usually more fun with other people, after all.

(Header image via Rob Buenaventura)

Use Math to Avoid Groupthink When Filling Out Your NCAA Bracket

Everybody has their own way of filling out their NCAA bracket. Some go by chalk, some pick a lot of upsets, some use computer models, some use coin flips. It’s a personal thing, filling out one’s bracket, and the great part is that none of them are wrong.

But there’s really two general ways to play. You can try and pick all the winners, or you can try and end up with the most points. Yes, if you pick the winner 100% of the time you will win your pool right before you are brought to the authorities because you are certainly a time traveling super villain. But if your goal is to win money or jellybeans or bragging rights, sometimes it’s better to play a little more fast and loose.

Wired posted their guide on using some simple math to help you find value picks for your bracket. The logic is fairly easy. The general population usually does pretty well on their bracket — about 80% correct or so. Nobody really thinks a 16 is going to beat a 1. Lots of second- and third-seeded teams are chosen. If you play online and look at who everyone else in your pool picked, you’ll see a lot of overlap. It’s just the way these things work. These things tend to get clumped together. But breaking away from that pack, and doing it smartly, might be the key to success.

Say Kentucky ends up running the table and taking the championship. Wired says about 50% of players on ESPN predict that will happen. If you picked Kentucky, good for you, but so did half of the people in your pool. So then the total points competition comes down to those random little games that happen in the rounds of 64 and 32. Your fate may very well ride on Stephen F. Austin State University. If you’re comfortable with that fate and confident in your picks, then by all means go for it. But if you want to get a little adventurous, try bucking some trends.

No, I’m not saying pick an upset for every game, but the way Wired lays it out makes sense. Some teams (based on the total picks vs. their expected win probability) are tremendously overrated. Some are flying under the radar. It’s a gamble, but leaning on those big discrepancies can help you stand out in your pool. Being the only one to pick Utah to make the Final Four is a risk. If they do manage to squeak it out, however, chances are you’ll be one of the only people who picked them to do so. If your pool uses a points system based on round, you’re in an even better position.

The Internet makes it so easy to end up in some giant pool that a friend of a friend invited you to join. If you’re comfortable in your method, stick with it. Chances are you’ll end up in that big group of players in the middle when all is said and done. But remember, that chunk doesn’t end up in the money. Luck helps, but you need to take chances to win these things. Fighting groupthink seems like a good way to do so. Does this mean I picked Villanova to win it all? I did! Is that because I know nothing about college basketball and this seemed like a reasonable approach? It is!

Of course, you may know more about the sport than I. Trust your instincts, but don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail every so often.

(Header image via Chad Cooper)

Review: ScoreMore Baseball App

ScoreMore Baseball’s main tagline is “Moneyball for all.” Grand words for a baseball scorekeeping app, but if you’re in the market to dominate the little league fields, this could be the app for you. It is available for Android, iOS and Blackberry systems and in addition to the standard hitting statistics such as batting average and on-base percentage, ScoreMore calculates Runs Created.

Unfortunately the app lacks any advanced pitching metrics, though given the necessary league numbers, statistics like FIP or SIERA are unattainable. As their tagline suggests, the phrase “Moneyball” is thrown around quite often within the app. There is a Moneyball Dictionary where terms ranging from slugging percentage to Runs Created are described — though no formulas are revealed, which is curious given that RC is a fairly straight forward one — and even a Moneyball Lineup.

scoremoremoneyball Within the Moneyball Lineup option it describes each of the first six batting positions. Notably written under the first batter section is the sentence “Regardless of a player’s physical attributes, the primary criteria for the leadoff batter is to get on base more than anyone else on the team.” They are not “selling jeans” in the app.

scoremoreexplained

The demo shows the optimized lineup — with seven out of nine starting players OPS above 1.000 I sure like the demo offense — but let’s see how it stacks up against a different lineup optimizer, one available at Baseball Musings.

scoremorelineup
lineupopt

For a difference of .013 runs per game, the ScoreMore Moneyball lineup (outlined in red) stacks up just fine against a different one. Curious that the Baseball Musings optimizer did find find four better lineups, but rounding to the hundredths of runs is beyond splitting hairs.

A nice feature in addition to the standard score keeping is the ability to chart balls in play, though any spray chart wouldn’t be anything more than an eye-based guess. While scoring a game, you’re given the standard option of on base or out, and within the on base options there is everything else you’d expect.

scoremorehit Say Andrews hit a double, of the line drive type, then you’re taken to a screen to confirm the hit location by tapping where the ball landed. Imprecision, the new Moneyball!

scoremorechart

For a free scorekeeping app ScoreMore does the job adequately enough. The lineup optimizer, while not perfect, is a nice feature as is the ability to chart balls-in-play, but the imprecision is something to be expected. If nothing else just charting ground balls, fly balls and line drives by color makes for a fun spray chart for people to look at, however this app shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

(Header image via ScoreMore)

OOTP Announces Sweet New Features: Managers, Owners, and More

“That video game looks like a spreadsheet,” some doubter once said to me.

“That doesn’t look fun,” another has said.

Well, those jerks can go play their laser games and their wizard sports because Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) is just about the funnest a simulation game can be. And it looks like OOTP16 is going to be even better. Why?

Controlling owners. Manager personalities. More detailed team finance displays.

It almost sounds like satire, but I’m genuinely tickled the OOTP team announced a bevy of new complexities for their ever-impressive video game. The owners and managers are both getting more features, options, and quirks.

But first! A new finance screen!

A customizable team finance screen. This is the thing I always needed but didn't know I needed.

A customizable team finance screen. This is the thing I always needed but didn’t know I needed.

This is nice because it will save me some time flipping back and forth from the Team Info to the Graphs to the Advanced sections. Now I can amalgamate the greatest hits into one screen.

Here’s a look at the new owners:

The owners -- now with more personalities!

The owners — now with more personalities!

And they’re coming with a list of demands!

Here's a look at some of the owner issues. This particular owner, we can see, is a dumbo.

Here’s a look at some of the owner issues. This particular owner, we can see, is a dumbo. Hayashi was past his prime!

And now managers are going to have more discrete tendencies, and we can control how much they control even more!

The redone strategies page looks MUCH better --  vaguely like a thing I'll actually use now.

The redone strategies page looks MUCH better — vaguely like a thing I’ll actually use now.

I’m excited.


Drones to Invade Sports Broadcasts Soon?

The drones are coming. Maybe. Someday. I hope. Fox Sports tested flying cameras in a high-flying sport over the weekend as it used drones to capture video during the AMA Supercross Series broadcast at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. According to USA Today, Fox will utilize drones in upcoming golf coverage, as well.

“If we can track a motorbike doing 30-40 mph, we can track anything in sport,” Brad Cheney, director of technical operations at Fox Sports, told USA Today. “We can certainly track a wide receiver only doing 19 mph.”

HeliVideo, a company based in Austin, Texas approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, developed the eight-propeller drones used during the test run. Each unit costs $25,000. While ESPN used drones in limited action during the X Games, it’s believed this is the first use indoors. Monster Energy, the named sponsor of the motocross event, published the below video on YouTube Saturday as licensed pilots flew three drones during a simulated race.

While this is a positive step towards the use of drones in telecasts of the big three sports, the USA Today reported “it took layers of approval from lawyers and risk management types” to pull off this coverage, so imagine the bureaucratic headaches involved with securing permission from say, the National Football League.

Leagues aim to protect themselves from injuries to players, or even worse, fans. But come on, corporate suits. These are *licensed* pilots. How could you not trust one?

Licensed operator captured during the Fox Sports drone test run.

Licensed operator captured during the Fox Sports drone test run.

Awful Announcing reasonably estimates, based on the USA Today report, that live play telecasts will include drones within the next three years. But why do we have to wait that long? The technology is here today. Take a year, test the use of these drones on practice fields, Little League games or studio back lots during staff pick-up games. How about bringing some publicity to attention-starved sports like AVP Beach Volleyball or Major League Kickball ? I’m pretty sure Bradley Woodrum’s softball team will sign any and all releases put in front of them for a 24-pack and a new team bat.

Drones would make the wire-supported camera, limited in its use and documented to be dangerous, obsolete. A Fox Sports cable camera broke and injured ten fans in the stands during in 2013 during a Spring Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway and damaged several cars, some severely, that were traveling at 195 mph.

It’s an obvious next step in sports broadcasting, and it’s frustrating that the tech, which is ready now, has developed faster than the heads of broadcast companies and the hand-cuffing legalese that bind the hands of network story tellers.


Simulating the First 36 NCAAM Games with WhatIfSports

With millions of people filling out NCAA brackets and no doubt millions of, let’s say “jelly beans” being wagered, why not try to get the inside track on the opening round games? With thanks to WhatIfSports and their basketball simulation system (as well as Yahoo! for the bracket), we have the four play-in games plus the 32 opening round games predicted.

To participate in the premium features of WhatIfSports — such as creating or joining a sim league or dynasty — there is a fee. However, the NCAA single game matchup sim is free. Though no word on their methodology behind the sim (what stats are weighed, how heavily, is it a Monte Carlo, etc.) I’ll share my methods. I used the neutral court option and ran each team once. Small sample size is an issue, and rather than spend hours running a full simulation, like the tournament, I’m sticking with the one-and-done style. With that out of the way, lets take a look at the play-in games!

Hampton wins a fairly one-sided matchup, keeping Manhattan at arms length in the first and second half.

ncaa1

Our second play-in game is much more competitive, with Boise State narrowly defeating Dayton.

ncaa2Robert Morris couldn’tkeep pace with North Florida, getting doubled up on points in the first half. Though they won the second half, it wasn’t enough to overcome the early hole and UNF advances to the field of 64.

ncaa3Our first power conference team is eliminated in Ole Miss, going down to BYU by doubt digits.

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The rest of the results can be found in the brackets below, though note some of opening round upsets. In the Midwest bracket we see Buffalo beating out West Virginia for the classic 5/12 upset and Valparaiso downing Maryland. The upsets continue in the bottom half of the bracket with Butler dropping to Texas.

ncaamidwest

Moving on to the East bracket, a problem arose. Unfortunately the system did not have Northern Iowa’s 2014-15 season on file, so Wyoming got the upset by default. Boise State toppled Providence for their second win of the tournament and while Virginia beat Belmont, it was a five point game.

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History was immediately made in the West bracket, as 16-seed Coastal Carolina shocks the world and beats Wisconsin! BYU defeats Xavier in another upset to finish the surprises for the day.

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ncaawest

Events unfolded without much surprise in the upper half of the South bracket. Suddenly UCLA downed SMU, Iowa State fell to UAB and Davidson defeated Iowa, all upsets.

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Clearly the surprise was for the first time ever a 1-seed, Wisconsin, lost in their opening game. Whether or not this proves to come true remains to be seen, but this bracket will probably do better than the one I filled out.

(Header image via Wikipedia)