A Different Game

Thoughts on sports, technology, and marketing from CaptainU

Is FIFA serious about Fair Play?

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by Avi

Commentator Julie Foudy might have struggled subtracting 76 from 90 minutes — she said there were 24 minutes left — but she said it best: “At the end of the game, you want to walk off the field knowing that the players decided the result of the game, not the referees.”

Honestly, how many times is this going to happen before FIFA starts using technology to prevent its biggest showcases from devolving into a complete joke?

This go around, it was Hope Solo’s amazing penalty kick save against Brazil that was erroneously called back because the referee mistakenly said Solo moved before the kick was taken. To be honest, it wasn’t even clear that it should have been a penalty kick in the first place. In the last men’s World Cup, it was Frank Lampard’s obvious goal against Germany that crossed the line — which was seen by millions of viewers at home — but not by the referees. Of course, there were also dozens of blown offside calls. The list of injustices goes on and on.

The sad thing is that the powers that be insist that “this is part of soccer,” and that it upholds the purity and integrity of the game. It’s not clear to me how scenes like this reflect integrity.

Instead, as millions of television viewers watch replays that tell the true tale and shout at their TVs, the fact that referees can’t be informed by the same evidence makes the game look pathetic.

You can’t blame the refs. They have an impossible challenge. They have to cover a huge amount of ground and make split-second decisions on complicated plays that happen at an incredible pace. So let’s explore the possibility of how today’s USA-Brazil penalty kick pandemonium might have played out had instant replays been allowed.

  1. The referee thinks Rachel Buehler fouled Marta in the box. She signals for a penalty. Play stops. Enter technology: the fourth official on the sideline looks into a monitor and determines whether it was in fact a penalty. Time elapsed: 15 seconds. For the sake of argument, say she determines that it was a foul. At least everyone can rest more easily with the decision.
  2. Christiane steps up and takes the penalty kick. Hope Solo saves it and it goes out of bounds. Play stops. The ref thinks Solo might have moved early and, through her headset, asks the fourth official to review it. Time elapsed: 15 seconds. The fourth official determines that Solo didn’t move early.

The game goes on. Justice has been done. 30 seconds of time elapsed — time during which play was stopped anyhow. Did that really ruin the purity and integrity of the game?

FIFA is all about Fair Play, but their unwillingness to use technology to actually make the game fair undermines that ideal and the game itself.

Then again, maybe Sepp Blatter has a crystal ball and knew that the injustice against the USA would lead to this:

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Written by Avi

Sunday, July 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Antidote to a Slow Afternoon

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Born out of necessity for the NCAA basketball tournament at the turn of the century – video streaming has become an integral part of sports broadcasting industry and indispensable to the rabid sports fans that tune in. It is reported every year that billions are lost during the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA tournaments – combine that amount with the damage done from the Masters, Wimbledon, US Open and other weekday sporting events and the number only grows.

 

 

This technology has shown it worth on many levels, not just in the professional ranks. With the advancement of the cameras and other tools involved, now any small college or high school with a decent athletic budget has the ability to live broadcast their events.

I can watch a NESCAC lacrosse game featuring my brother in one window while simultaneously enjoy the Adidas Super 64 AAU Basketball tournament featuring the next crop of McDonald’s All-Americans, all safely from my office chair!

Now if only there was a way to automate the work that isn’t getting done while the games are being played…..

Written by Avi

Monday, June 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

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From Graveyard to Glory (Almost)

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by John

A couple practices into the season, Coach Dave Esquer delivered the news to the team that University of California – Berkeley Baseball was to be cancelled. As the news quickly spread to the community surrounding the team that the team was to be no more, alumni and people from all over donated money and time to help keep the program in the history of CAL sports. The team even made a rap song, reaching out to the community for additional support for the program.

Months later, after raising upwards of $9 million, the University reinstated the program for the long-term. The team took this to heart and realized the enormous support they had behind them throughout the entire season.  The Golden Bears battled through the regular season and earned a prestigious spot in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska for the first time since 1992.

In the CWS, the Golden Bears lost to Virginia early in the double-elimination bracket and was placed in the losers bracket to face Texas A&M. After a win against Texas A&M, they advanced to face Virginia again.  It was a sad day for CAL Baseball, but the team still walked off the field holding their head high. The team ended the season with a 38-23 record, a National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Coach of the Year award, a Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Houston Regional award, and a 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year award. This was truly an amazing team that took it all the way and went out swinging.

Written by Avi

Friday, June 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm

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Arsenal Gets It

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by Avi

Arsenal might have finished a pathetic fourth in the English Premier League this past season, but they finished first in one category: connecting with fans.

They’re masters at making fans feel like part of the club. The latest example is a photo gallery posted on their Facebook page of fans’ pictures of their own Arsenal gear. What a great way to make fans feel like part of the cause.

Written by Avi

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 11:57 am

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Making a Web Page Easier to Use

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by Avi

Good technology is all about simplicity. You shouldn’t have to sit through any training. It should just make sense.

Late last night, we launched a redesigned Profile for college coaches on our Teamlab app. I thought our members might be interested to hear about how we think through designing a web page.

Previously, the page was setup as a “live preview.” Everything below a dotted line was what live on the public-facing version of the page. This included the college team’s name (which could be changed), a stream of pictures and videos, and a recruiting questionnaire (which could be edited.)

This page had an identity crisis. On the one hand, it was a live preview. On the other, you could edit things within the live preview. We also found that many college coaches wondered, when they were on this page, why they could fill out their recruiting questionnaire right within their own website. In short, it was too confusing and needed a makeover.

The new version of the page has a much clearer purpose that can be articulated in 7 words: This is where you control your Profile. To serve that purpose, we made a number of key changes that make the page much easier to use:

  1. Adding a new post is the most important thing you do on your Profile. Now, you can post a picture, video, or text directly from this page. You don’t have to click an “Add a new Post” button to get to a new page where you post.
  2. Coaches rarely change the name of their page or modify their questionnaires. There was no need for these editing tools to be front and center. So we moved them to a toolbar on the right. It’s still easy to access. It’s just not glaring at you every time you hit the page, creating a distraction.
  3. We removed the questionnaire preview, making it easier to understand that this is the place where you control stuff, not where you type the names of new contacts.
  4. We made a clear distinction between the page that controls the profile and the actual profile, by adding a clear link that says “View public profile.” This also helps create a cognitive distinction between what you’re looking at now (the control page) and the live version of the page.
We’re really excited about the new design and the feedback thus far has been really positive.

Written by Avi

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 12:42 pm

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Clint Dempsey’s Missed Opportunity

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by Avi

After squandering a bunch of sitters against Guadeloupe, Clint Dempsey, America’s best soccer player (yes, Landon Donovan notwithstanding), scored on a sublime put away against Jamaica.

Dempsey has done an amazing job cultivating the “Deuce” image among the US Soccer faithful, including his rad video “Don’t Tread on This.”

But what a missed opportunity is his Facebook page. The pictures he (or his handlers post) are generic action photos that you could see on any sports news website.  Facebook is the way for athletes and teams to connect at a deeper level with their fans. Clint should post a picture of the much ballyhooed wedding that he flew back from in the wee hours of the night before the Jamaica game. Or post a picture of the team meal after the game yesterday. There’s so much more to the story — and these pictures fail to tell it.

Here’s a stark contrast to that — Cesc Fabregas posting a picture of him and his buddies at the Grand Canyon on Twitter (by way of yfrog.)

Written by Avi

Monday, June 20, 2011 at 11:10 am

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The Best Sports Movie of All Time?

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by Avi

Moneyball. The best sports book ever written.

After years of getting kicked around Hollywood, it’s coming to theaters near all of us. Please Brad Pitt, make this movie realize its potential.

Why am I so obsessed with Moneyball? Simple. It represents new thinking — a totally revolutionary way of doing something that has gone on since the being of time in an antiquated, non-analytical way.

Quite simply, Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s revolutionized sports. They brought math to sports. And they made a backwater team with no budget one of the most consistent top performers in baseball. Awesome.

Written by Avi

Friday, June 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

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