Friday Grab Bag: O Canada’s Olympic beer fridge

Everybody has that one friend that always manages to drink most of the beer in your fridge and never seems to bring any to replace it. It looks like the Olympics have that problem but at least one nation has come up with an innovative way to keep the beer available only for those who have a right to it.

In the Team Canada athletes compound the only way you can get the beer fridges to open is to have your Canadian passport scanned in order to get a cold Molson. I wonder if they are marketing this technology to home owners?

Rick Reilly really likes Rick Reilly

It seems like a very dim memory now, but at one time Rick Reilly was one of the must reads in sports. And if you did read him religiously in the past there is probably no reason to read him now as it seems that he is increasingly plagiarizing himself in his latest work.

It has gotten so bad for the ESPN columnist that now when people report on his latest transgressions they have a large selection of past examples to bring up. Aside from this he has been embarrassed by Fox Sports 1 announcers, misquoted his father-in-law and complained that he did not get credit for a Twitter news item. What may be even worse is that satire on the subject looks real.

There is an (ESPN) app for that
ESPN touts itself as the worldwide leader in sports and one of the methods that the sports network is now reaching out to fans is via apps for mobile devices.

Most sports fans that I know have the general ESPN app on their phone but that is just the start. There are a range of apps that are locally targeted with the first five covering Los Angeles, Dallas, Boston, Chicago and New York.

No Cactus League games from ESPN
ESPN has released the lineup of games that it will be broadcasting for this years Spring Training slate and if you are not a fan of the Yankees and Red Sox you are very likely to be uninterested in this heavily slanted broadcast schedule.

There will only be seven games and two of them are featuring the Yankees-Red Sox, and the Cactus League, that serves teams from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, apparently does not exist to the network as it has been shut out, again.

A look at climbing one of the tallest buildings in the world
BASE jumping is the sport of leaping off tall structures, so is there a name for climbing them? Well even if there is not it is quite an achievement and the video for the guys that climbed the Shanghai Towers shows how hard it is.

The tower is 650 meters, or 2,132 feet, and these two men did it with their bare hands. I wonder what the winds are like at that height on a building?

Friday Grab Bag: 3D tablet, Dodgers ruled social media in 2013

It just would not feel like a week has gone by unless there was another iPhone or iPad rumor, and it looks like we will meet that goal once again. While we have already mentioned the possibility of a hybrid iPad this week now comes the possibility of a iPhone phablet.

According to Yahoo there may be one as soon as May, in a line that will be differentiated from the iPhone family. That family should get its next member, now called the iPhone 6, sometime later in the year, it reported.

Google Glass rival coming into focus
Once Google made huge headlines with its Google Glass concept rivals have been shooting at the company touting alternative offerings, and among that pack has been Taiwanese manufacturer ChipSiP that this week showed a prototype effort called Smart Glass.

The Smart Glass looks much like Google Glass, runs a full Android 4.2 operating system and features a 1.2Ghz dual core processor with 1GB of RAM as well as 4GB of storage. ChipSiP, which is an original device manufacture (ODM), expects one or more of its partners to start shipping glasses this year priced in the sub $1,000 range.

Hampoo tp deliver 3D tablet
The latest version a glasses-free 3D tablet has been shown this week by developer Hampoo that said it will release the unmanned tablet later this month to an as yet unnamed price. The display has a 1920 x 1200 resolution and a built-in software conversion engine can render 2D into 3D images without glasses.

Other features include the Android 4.0 operating system, a 1.5GHz TI OMAP4470 dual core processor with 1GB RAM, 16GB storage that can be doubled via an optional MicroSD card and the ability to run 1080p HD movies.

MLB a money making machine
Have you ever wondered how baseball always manages to give players multimillion dollar contracts that are guaranteed while the NFL, always seeming crying poor, usually only guarantees the first year or so?

Well Forbes does a real nice job breaking down how much money baseball actually rakes in, and how it spreads a good deal of it around so that while it is not an entirely level playing field, it is as close as it will likely ever come.

Dodgers ruled sports social media
While the Los Angeles Dodgers may have failed to reach the World Series last year with the team’s $200 million payroll it did reach several other milestones including having the team’s home park, Chavez Ravine, as the most “checked-in” sports venue.

In led the league in 2013 in growth on Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram, according to MLB, and was the fourth most checked-in site overall in the world. And as a minor thing it lead MLB in attendance with 3,743,527 fans.

An interesting year in review of ESPN
Ever wonder why some stories that seem relatively inane or trivial gain so much momentum on ESPN? Or wonder what is actually going on at the World Wide Sports Leader? Well Deadspin has put together a pretty interesting year in review for the network.

One of the more interesting pieces is how by having all of its different talking heads repeat something on all of its different channels it can blow something way out of proportion, and the example of that was its big Colin Kaepernick story.

NL West Leads MLB Stadium Wi-Fi Scorecard, with 4 out of 5 Teams Offering Network Service to Fans

The Giants' Bill Schlough in front of some hard-working wireless network hardware. Credit: John Britton, AT&T.

The Giants’ Bill Schlough in front of some hard-working wireless network hardware. Credit: John Britton, AT&T.

Welcome to the spring training version of Mobile Sports Report’s annual roundup of Major League Baseball stadium Wi-Fi networks, where we tabulate which teams have networks for fan use. By our count, the National League West division is the sport’s network-savviest, as four out of the five teams — San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona — will have free in-stadium Wi-Fi service for fans this season. For the entire major leagues, our research found 10 11 12 stadiums that definitely have Wi-Fi, two that are “maybes,” and 16 that don’t have public Wi-Fi service available. But just like baseball, which hasn’t started its regular season yet, we’re expecting our lineup to change before the games that count start.

FIRST UPDATE: Thanks to Jeff Baumgartner over at Light Reading, we have proof that Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park can be added to the “has Wi-Fi” list, thanks to some work by hometown provider Comcast and equipment partner Cisco. Check out the great slideshow Jeff put together.

SECOND UPDATE: Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, has Wi-Fi. More on this soon, but we have it from the horse’s mouth so we are moving the Friendly Confines to the “yes” list.

THIRD UPDATE: Maybe we shouldn’t count Dodgers Stadium yet, since the Wi-Fi service has yet to be launched according to this report from the LA Daily News. Will the lack of Wi-Fi keep the Dodgers from getting All-Star votes?

For the record, here are the 12 teams with networks that we can verify, some of which (like the Dodgers) are coming online for the first time in the 2013 season: San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. The two “maybes” are the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets, which are supposed to have networks but as of this writing we can’t confirm services are available.

Why do we have “maybes,” you ask? Since this research was done completely online and on the weekend, we haven’t had a chance to contact teams directly for confirmation of services. And it’s pretty apparent to us that MLB and the teams do a good job of obfuscating whether or not there is Wi-Fi at the park — some of the teams that have networks don’t list the service anywhere on their MLB-approved team home page. In the weeks between now and the start of the season, we’ll try to figure out our maybes, and maybe add a few more teams in case deals get done before Opening Day. Anyone with definitive knowledge that differs from our totals, please feel free to contribute with a comment or a tweet to me, @paulkaps, with a verifiable link. Any fixes or adds, we’ll salute with a retweet and a hearty well done.

WHY WI-FI DEALS AREN’T PUBLICIZED

As an outlet that humbly boasts having stadium Wi-Fi news and analysis that is the equal of anyone else’s out there, we’re not that surprised that even some teams with networks are keeping things under wraps a bit. Some of that has to do with the secrecy that sometimes surrounds the contracts behind the deals; cellular service providers, for example, might not want to overly publicize the fact that they are subsidizing Wi-Fi at one stadium, since then others will want the same sweet deal. The Dodgers’ planned network, for example, is touted as being built by the Dodgers and MLB’s Advanced Media division — hiding from view whoever the service provider and equipment partners are (we suspect Time-Warner Cable and Cisco, but can’t verify).

The other reason why teams might not want to shout out loud about their Wi-Fi? In case they are worried about performance is one reason. Since these networks are notoriously hard to deploy and operate, if you are new to the Wi-Fi game you might not want to advertise it too heavily. But we expect that will change in the near future as more fans demand connectivity, and as Major League Baseball pushes its teams to all install networks so that MLBAM can sell more of its single, league-approved mobile app.

But on to the stats! Among the gems we uncovered was that among service providers backing networks AT&T had the most with four (San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago Cubs and Arizona) while Verizon has one (San Diego), along with Time-Warner Cable (Houston), Boingo (Chicago) and CenturyLink (Minnesota). Among equipment providers with announced deals we have Cisco at two and Meru Networks at two (Washington and Boston), though we suspect Cisco is behind more deals (like LA’s) as a silent partner. Interestingly, Cisco also has already partnered with AT&T to do StadiumVision video deals in Yankee Stadium and Kansas City, so don’t be surprised to see Wi-Fi networks from the same partners in those facilities sometime soon.

Below is our list of stadiums with yes/no on Wi-Fi fan networks, and some news links we’ve scoured. Again, this is a working post so please — especially if you are with a team, provider or vendor — send us a message if you see an error. Remember, errors are part of baseball! And enjoy your Wi-Fi at the game this season.

MOBILE SPORTS REPORT MLB STADIUM WI-FI ROSTER, 2013 SEASON

NL WEST

YES:
San Franisco Giants, AT&T Park
The Giants, namesake sponsor AT&T and team tech wizard Bill Schlough are recognized widely as the Wi-Fi and in-stadium network leaders not just in baseball, but probably in all of sports and stadiums. Here’s our profile of the Giants from last year.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium
As part of the team’s $100 million stadium renovation, Dodgers fans get Wi-Fi this season.

UPDATE: According to the Long Beach Press-Telegraph, the Wi-Fi and cell improvements won’t be live on opening day. Too bad.

San Diego Padres, Petco Park
This one was news to us — but it looks like fans in San Diego will finally get Wi-Fi in their park, thanks to Verizon’s first baseball play.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Chase Field
Another AT&T network, Chase Field has had Wi-Fi for some time now. They even have one of the better apps pages.

NO:

Colorado Rockies, Coors Field

NL CENTRAL

YES

Chicago Cubs, Wrigley Field
AT&T has helped the Cubs build Wi-Fi in Wrigley. More on the details soon.
NO:

St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium

Milwaukee Brewers, Miller Park

Pittsburgh Pirates, PNC Park

Cincinnati Reds, Great American Ball Park

NL EAST

YES:

Atlanta Braves, Turner Field
Another AT&T network.

Washington Nationals, Nationals Park
Reportedly, this was one of the first 802.11n networks, thanks to gear from startup Meru Networks. However, we can’t find an official link on the Nationals home page, making us wonder if this service still exists. Natitude fans, what say you?

UPDATE 2: Nats are getting a Wi-Fi upgrade, thanks to Comcast. No word if Meru is still the AP vendor.

Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park
See Light Reading’s excellent slide show cataloging Comcast’s Wi-Fi plans at its hometown park.

MAYBE:

New York Mets, Citi Field
Does it or doesn’t it? No answer on the Mets’ website, but the new place was supposed to have a Wi-Fi network… of course that was before its supplier, Nortel Networks, went out of business.

NO:
Miami Marlins, Marlins Park
No Wi-Fi, though Marlins Park does have a new DAS install which helps cellular reception.

AL WEST

YES:
Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park
The refugees from the NL are the only park that we can tell has tried to charge for services — wondering if this info about a $3.95 cost for four hours airtime still exists. Houstonites? Yea or nay? This is a Time-Warner Cable/Cisco deal.

MAYBE:

Seattle Mariners, Safeco Field
All we could find were some references to Seattle’s Nintendo having sponsored a Wi-Fi network for gaming. No sign that it still exists or has been replaced. Hello Microsoft? No network for the home of Windows Phones? For shame.

NO:

Oakland A’s, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Texas Rangers, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Angel Stadium

AL CENTRAL

YES:

Minnesota Twins, Target Field
Good writeup from our friends at SportTechie.

Chicago White Sox, U.S. Cellular Field
This one courtesy of the folks from Boingo.

NO:

Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park
No fan network, though we like this picture showing SSIDs and passwords for the media networks. Hope those settings have been changed.

Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field
No stadium-wide network, but the Indians at least have a social media suite with Wi-Fi. What, only a few people in Cleveland use social media?

AL EAST

YES:

Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park
Here’s our profile of the Meru win at historic Fenway.

NO:

New York Yankees, Yankee Stadium
Do they still ban iPads?

Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers Centre
A bit embarrassing, since Rogers is Canada’s AT&T-like telco

Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field

Baltimore Orioles, Oriole Park at Camden Yards

MLB’s Trade Season in Full Swing

With the conclusion of MLB’s All Star game the next notable day on the calendar is the non-waiver deadline, which is July 31. This is one of my favorite times of the year not just for the trades as for some of the major trade rumors that always seem to be making their way around the league.

The trade rumors often come from a variety of sources and can show player unhappiness with his team, teams being unhappy with their players and agents already working on next year’s deals by showing how popular their players under contract are.

Of course people in fantasy leagues closely follow the comings and goings but often I find people seem to miss some of the trades and are surprised that a player is now on a new team. That is too bad because it is so much fun to follow the activity and a number of sites do a good job tracking them. I read five rumors this morning that I had not heard last night.

We have already seen some interesting trades this year, and no doubt some, as always, will break hometown fans’ hearts. The first in that category is probably the Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees deal. This is in the sad tradition of Willie Mays going from the Giants to the New York Mets and others along these lines.

One of the more interesting trades, in a sort of head scratching way, was the big ten player swap between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros. Now I was a bit confused by the purpose of the deal but others think it might be a great deal for at least one of the teams.

Teams like the Chicago Cubs have been looking for a wholesale house cleaning all season and now might be the time. Teams are looking for pitching and they have Ryan Dempster, who as a 10/5 man can veto any trade he does not like.

Teams in the playoffs or at least in the hunt will obviously be looking to shore up areas that appear to be a weak spot while teams looking to rebuild will want prospects and cash. The Marlins look to be a rebuilding team and have already sent Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Some teams will be looking to unload players perceived as problem players as well. It will be an interesting next few days. Next up will be the wavier deadline, always a much tougher call as players must clear waivers to go to a new team, a much harder prospect since rivals can often easily block moves.

Baseball Adds Instagram to its Team

Major League Baseball is teaming with Instagram to show photos and images that come directly from the teams, enabling fans that are not at events to get a feel for the game, players and fans in attendance.

The concept is very simple but can be very compelling as well. Using @MLBOfficial as its tag line MLB teams will be posting photos from their games as well as behind the scenes images for others to view. Instagram says that MLB is the first professional league to do so.

Currently the teams that are already on board for the program include: SF Giants (@sfgiants), NY Yankees (@yankees), LA Dodgers (@dodgers) Atlanta Braves (@braves), Texas Rangers (@rangers), Seattle Mariners (@seattlemariners), LA Angels (@angels), and the Kansas City Royals (@kcroyals). Instagram said that eventually all MLB teams will be launching accounts.

A quick look over at the SF Giants official account finds that there are 339 photos and 41,530 followers. Note that you have to be an Instagram user to view the images at its site. However a quick visit to the Giants site can give you fan photos.

In the past a huge number of fans of teams have posted images of their teams and players. According to a recent piece in Mashable there had been a 400% increase in Instagram photo postings from major league ball parks compared to the entire 2011 season, with more than 40,000 posted at the time of the piece.

We have long thought that MLB was an organization that appears to really understand how to reach out to fans at multiple levels. It has developed mobile apps to enable you to follow games on mobile devices, is creating high grade stadium wireless networks and constantly launches games and contests to keep fans engaged.

I suspect that this will both help draw more fans to the site to view baseball pictures and also contribute additional images to the mix. I certainly hope that other pro and amateur sports follow this lead because they have the ability to get images that regular fans will not.

Should Dodgers Look to Social Media to Reinvigorate Brand?

The purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.15 billion, plus millions more for improvements may be good news for sports teams as it appears valuation continues to rise but the team needs to resurrect its standing among the LA sports world.

It seems that any group that can pay roughly two and half times the previous high for a MLB team and five times what its previous owner did will pose a great deal of trouble for the Giants and the rest of the National League as the supposedly bottomless pockets of the new owners will create a New York Yankees West type of team that will dominate at least their division for years to come.

Even while the purchase of the team for such a massive sum, and monetary resources that seems to have sent shivers through the beat writers and columnists for the San Francisco Giants it faces a different issue in its own town.

The team has had declining attendance and seen growing antipathy in a fan base that used to fill the stadium with 3 million strong year in and year out. Watching a Dodger game a decade ago and it was sure to have numerous close shots of stars and almost stars in the stands. No more. The Dodgers are no longer the talk of the town.

It seems that this is a perfect time for the team to expand its outreach to include a variety of social media tools, and not just have a presence on them but to aggressively promote the team on them. Baseball has been at the forefront of using the Internet and other social media for its teams, but in some ways it is a cookie cutter solution, they all look alike. Baseball is looking at putting networks for fans in all of its parks, and that is great, once the fans are in the park.

However sports like Tennis, as exemplified at the Australian Open and Hockey with an aggressive push by the Boston Bruins are looking at new ways to reach out to fans and make them feel like they are part of the family. Why not have caption contests and pinterest reviews?

Everybody, and probably not a few pets, has Facebook pages, so what? Make it special so that it is worth visiting on a regular basis rather than after a great win or a heartbreaking loss. I do not doubt that the team will recapture Los Angeles, but it seems that it has a great deal of tools that are left unused, while it will rely on the almighty dollar to do its marketing for it.

Money does cause fear
John Shea, a sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle has a piece entitled “Can SF Giants afford to keep pace with Dodgers?” in which he worries that they will become the NY Yankees or Red Sox West. However he then tempers his article by pointing out how flawed the execution of previous team managements.

Henry Schulman, Giants beat writer reports that the deal means that future Giants free agents, particularly star pitcher Matt Cain will see their potential future earnings increase as the Dodges come knocking with an open checkbook. I suspect that it the first few years this will be true since Magic Johnson, the front man for the new ownership group, said that he would personally be doing the calling.

Mercury New columnist Mark Purdy’s “Giants fans should be concerned about the deep-pocketed new Dodgers owners” brings up that the controlling owner’s business has $125 billion in assets, three times actually. Also post the theory that the team might move elsewhere in LA and a new stadium for football could be built there.

While the execs that now own the team have a great deal of financial assets, they may be able to get more revenue from the team without further investment. If the rival Angels got a 30 year $3 billion television rights deal it will be interesting to see how the Dodgers do since their current rights are now up, and Fox has expressed not only an interest in the rights, but rumor has it that it is seeking to establish itself as a sports broadcasting powerhouse, so the signs are looking good.

Dollars do not always win out however
First of all, despite buying the team with almost no cash and then using it as a personal ATM for the last few years previous owner Frank McCourt always seemed to field a fairly competitive teams showing that sound on-field management and a solid minor league can help offset any shortcomings of an owner, at least in the short run. The owner he bought from, Fox, spent more and made a number of high profile mistakes, yet he had more on field success.

Yet if the Washington Redskins and other well heeled teams have shown us is that just because you have money does not mean that you can buy championships. Also just because you have money does not mean that you will be spending tons of it on your team, look at David Glass, owner of the Kansas City Royals which he purchased for $96 million in 2000.

Do they want to spend?
The truly staggering amount that was spent on the team makes it possible that the new owners will be laboring under a great deal of debt and will be siphoning off money from the team much like McCourt was reputed to do. Instead of financing an opulent lifestyle the new owners will be servicing debt.

The Economist has an interesting piece explaining how this is likely to happen and how a lack of investment by McCourt could very well cause issues going forward. Heck they did not even get all of the parking lot for that price. A good conversation on the details is available over at Baseball Think Factory.

Being a somewhat of a baseball conspiracy theorist believer I greatly believe that the Baseball Commissioner and most of the other team owners, at least the ones that truly seek to win, do not want a team driving the price of free agents sky high.

MLB was fine with the McCourts’ way of doing business until the owners divorce unleashed a wave of scandal. It seems quite happy to leave the Mets alone with all of their problems- short of cash means no free agent bidding, as they were doing prior to the Bernie Madoff scandal. Maybe the Dodgers have an under the table agreement not to drive prices above a certain level? Maybe I should stop drinking ten cups of coffee in the morning.