NFL teams’ IT staffs emerging as key players in virtual draft

As sports fans we’re used to hearing quotes from general managers like John Elway touting the skills of players on their teams, but when’s the last time you heard a GM go out of his way to praise the IT department?

Elway, like several other NFL GMs who have been publicly appreciative of their IT departments, was quoted calling his team’s IT department “heroes” for their work during the coronavirus shutdowns, as well as in preparation for this week’s virtual NFL draft. Take a bow, Russ Trainor! You and your team, like other IT departments around the NFL and in sports in general, are earning their keep and more during these everyone’s-remote times.

UPDATE: The Niners’ John Lynch likes his IT team, too.

With reports that a test run of the NFL’s draft operation hit a few hiccups early, some teams are likely to follow the Detroit Lions’ lead of having the IT staff close at hand to tackle any emergency communication issues:

BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament postponed due to coronavirus

One of the bigger non-major tennis tournaments in the U.S., the BNP Paribas Open, has been postponed indefinitely this year due to a local confirmed case of the coronavirus in southern California.

In a post on the tournament’s website, officials said they are exploring options to hold the tournament on a later date, but have no set plan yet.

“We are very disappointed that the tournament will not take place, but the health and safety of the local community, fans, players, volunteers, sponsors, employees, vendors, and everyone involved with the event is of paramount importance,” said tournament director Tommy Haas, in a prepared statement. Here is the lead paragraph from the website page announcing the postponement:

The Riverside County Public Health Department has declared a public health emergency for the Coachella Valley after a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19) locally. As a result, the 2020 BNP Paribas Open will not take place at this time due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and the safety of the participants and attendees at the event. This is following the guidance of medical professionals, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and State of California.

The BNP Paribas Open is the biggest sports event so far to be canceled or postponed due to the virus. Previously this year the Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona, Spain, was canceled, as was the South by Southwest conference in Texas, which was scheduled for later this month.

In the sports world, the focus now shifts to the NCAA and its upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which are scheduled to begin next week. Among the options being talked about in news reports are holding games at fewer arenas, or holding games in empty stadiums. As of Sunday night, there was no definitive plan for the NCAA events.

Other observers are looking further ahead in the sports schedule and questioning whether the NFL should eliminate the fan presence from its annual draft. The 2020 draft, scheduled for late April in Las Vegas, had been expected to draw as many as 300,000 visitors to the event.

Stay tuned for more news as we are sure this will become somewhat of a daily thing as the virus spreads.

NFL playoff expansion on hold

Playoff games will be a bit more spread around this post season in the NFL as NBC will be adding a divisional round game and ESPN will be getting a Wild Card game. The ESPN game will be also broadcast over the air in the cities of the two teams that are playing.

Meanwhile the talk of expansion of the playoffs looks like it has been delayed, at least in the near term. NY Giants team president John Mara spoke to Newsday and said that he believed that the earliest additional post season games would be added would be in 2015. Commissioner Goodell had been pushing for this year.

NFL Players to land Tweet deal
Fans quite often follow their favorite athletes on Twitter, or at least ones that might make outspoken or interesting statements. Well now they may say something along the lines of “This Tweet brought to you by…”

A deal between the NFL Players Inc. and digital marketing company Opendorse will work to get endorsement deals for players who will be paid to tout the products via Twitter. According to Sports Business Journal Opendorse has already signed 200 players.

Top NFL Draft misses?
One of the byproducts of the huge NFL mock draft industry is that it sometimes makes some glaring mistakes. I think that most fans have a love/hate relationship with top online and broadcast mock drafters and really enjoy bringing up this topic.

Awful Announcing has complied just that type of list and leads off a historcial gem with Mel Kiper saying that JaMarcus Russell, the Oakland Raiders top draft selection in 2007 is the next John Elway. It just gets better after that but a few I was hoping to see did not make the cut, which may say something about the number of mock draft failures.

World Cup teams have needs too
Who knew that World Cup teams had demands that will most likely force rock stars to improve their game when it comes to making demands from the hotels where the teams stay. Kosher meat, fresh bananas from your native country and only liquid soap, none of that old fashion bar soap, which is apparently not good enough for the French.

According to SB Nation many are demanding the televisions carry broadcasts from home with Honduras demanding six Spanish speaking stations. Japan needs a Jacuzzi in every room. And I thought that Van Halen was demanding because they did not want brown M&Ms.

Olympics great for NBCSN; Are mock NFL drafts worthwhile?

The Sochi Winter Olympics are now in the rear view mirror as the sporting world now looks to the next major event, the World Cup, yet NBCSN is ready to continue basking in the winter event’s limelight for just a bit longer.

The network reported its best ratings quarter ever with a 215,000 average viewership daily for the live events that it broadcast during the two-week run. This represents a 231% increase over its 2013 numbers. Even subtracting the Olympics it saw a 58% increase and may indicate that the little-known channel may finally be getting traction with viewers.

Dodger fans can’t watch Dodgers games
With the huge growth of regional sports networks it seems that every MLB team has its own, dedicated network to bring its games to its fans. Somehow it does not always work that way, as New Yorkers can attest from a few years ago.

Now it appears that the fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are facing viewing issues as its RSN, SportsNet LA, has had issues getting cable players to air the games, causing as much as 70% of greater LA to be blacked out.

Unconscious bias by umpires?
An interesting piece from looks at strike zones but importantly how it can change, and change dramatically in important situations as umpires striving to ensure that they are not a part of the game instead do alter the outcome.

The article can be a bit confusing for some when looking at the graphs but it has some interesting conclusions including that umpires seem happier to call a strike on a borderline pitch with three balls than ball four. Head over and give it a read.

WatchESPN on Amazon TV Fire
Amazon has recently entered the broadcast delivery business with its Amazon Fire TV, a platform that will vie against Apple TV, Roku and others, but sports fans need not worry because ESPN will be there ready and waiting if you adopt the platform.

WatchESPN is available on the Fire TV and using it fans can access a huge amount of live and recorded sporting events along with ESPN’s select offerings of the channels original sports programming such as E:60 and Outside The Lines.

Mock NFL Drafts

The NFL draft is less than two months away and so now is the silly season for a growing industry — NFL mock drafts. You know, when an athlete who has not played in months magically goes from a first rounder to a third rounder on someone’s big board for no apparent reason.

The good folks at Kissing Suzy Kolber have taken the industry to task and show why you should pay little attention to the mock drafts. They point out the inanity of the event and it has always seemed to be that the local beat writer for a team has a much better feel for what your team will do than some talking head in a studio will — that is unless the talking head is using other peoples’ work without recognizing it and we know that never happens!

NFL Network has Broad Digital Coverage for 2013 Draft


As any fan knows the 2013 NFL Draft starts on Thursday and while there has been a great deal of coverage leading up to the event, it looks like that will pale in comparison to the massive coverage the league’s network plans.

Most fans I know switch between networks on draft day, checking to see what the experts at ESPN, the NFL Network and elsewhere have to say about each choice. Yet an issue can arise since the draft starts on a Thursday night and even with a prime time start there are many that have to work or have other engagements that might make it impossible to be in front of the television. There is online coverage as well as a mobile app for these types of problems.

For the online user, be it as a second screen or a user watching at work there is the Live Presented by Courtyard. Coverage begins at 8:00 pm ET for the online effort and will be hosted by Matt Smith and will include former NFL players LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner and Akbar Gbajabiamila, as well as former NFL general manager Charley Casserly. The online show will occasionally join with the NFL Network’s broadcast of the event.

Coverage will continue over the weekend with Friday’s starting at 6:30 pm ET for rounds 2-3 and Saturday’s coverage of rounds 4-7 will start at noon ET. Much of Saturday’s proceedings will be simulcast.

For Verizon subscribers there is the option of using NFL Mobile from Verizon that will be streaming the NFL Network’s entire 2013 draft coverage. The network has also added a live draft tracker feature and video on-demand featuring draft and team analysis. NFL Mobile, however, costs $5 a month and you must have a Verizon phone and data plan.

For users of the NFL ’13 app, a free app for both iOS and Android owners, there is now a feature called Draft Xtra that can serve as a companion or second screen to both broadcast NFL Network coverage or the coverage that is available on NFL.Com. It will include both on-demand and live video as well as a range of interactive features.

Of course there has been a great deal of coverage both online and on the broadcast arm of the NFL and that will increase as the draft nears and will include predraft predictions and post draft analysis. Look here for a complete listing.

The NBA Draft is Tomorrow but ESPN Starts Tonight

The NBA draft is upon us once again and in some ways it has not achieved the overall hype level that the NFL has achieved, but it also often makes for a much better viewing spectacle as there is often a host of wildcards.

The official draft begins Thursday night at 7 pm ET and will be hosted, as it has for the last decade, by ESPN. A predraft show will be aired tonight at 7 pm ET for those of you that want to get an advanced look and see if you should despair or be elated over your following day prospects.

ESPN’ has said that it will have a specific focus for part of its broadcast that will be on the themes of determination and achievement and “climbing the ladder” to success. I think that this could be very interesting. It often seems to me that players that were stars in school and then disappear in the NBA, and NFL for that matter, are often the victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Getting stuck with a coach that does not use a players skill in his offense or defense, and yet when traded seem to bloom as their supporting cast improves, or their skills are used in a much better manner by the team.

The NBA’s 66th annual draft, held at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., will feature a horde of ESPN personnel and is hosted by Rece Davis along with and college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy, NBA Insider Chris Broussard, college basketball reporter Andy Katz and NBA reporter Ric Bucher.

It does not appear that the network is taking its arguers in chief Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith on the road for the event, something they did do for the NBA Finals. I was hoping to once again hear the chants of ‘cheese doodles’ ringing from the rafters.

However ESPN is pulling out all of the stops with live news feeds from 15 cities to get head coaches and general managers’ feedback on selections, with live reporting from New Orleans, where the league owned team has the #1 choice and a reporter in Charlotte where the #2 pick resides.

ESPN will also be providing coverage over a wide range of its other media properties including ESPN Radio, ESPN Mobile TV and streaming live via WatchESPN on You can also look for NBA on ESPN Facebook page for updates of you are so inclined.