Reilly, Trump Fall Short in Bid to Renovate Wrigley Field

wrigleyWell, Chicago, it almost happened. You know what I’m talking about, the plans by sportswriter Rick Reilly to buy the Cubs and turn them into a winner by “making necessary improvements” to Wrigley Field.

Turns out that Reilly’s last ESPN column wasn’t just opinion, it was strategy — who knew that Reilly had a partnership already in the works with Donald Trump to do a leveraged buyout of current Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who was only too happy to take Reilly and Trump’s $3 billion to leave the Friendly Confines? Or rather, the “Friendly’s Ice Cream Confines,” which the park would have been re-named under the Reilly/Trump “aggressive revenue raising plan.”

See, Reilly, wizard that he was, had solved the problem that had been vexing the North Side for more than a century — the reason why the Cubs couldn’t win, Reilly wrote, was because they weren’t using Wrigley to its full fiscal potential, thereby robbing the Cubs of necessary income they could use to bolster their lineup. Never mind that the soon-to-be renegotiated TV deals for Cubs games could net the franchise at least equal to the Dodgers’ recent $7 billion 25-year pact. Or that the Oakland A’s somehow managed to win the AL West in 2012 with the next-to-lowest MLB salary total. It was that missing $70 million or so, Reilly said, that would end the goat curses and bring a World Series trophy to Addison and Clark.

You gotta have more bucks to lure the big stars, Reilly reasoned, and the best way to do that was to make some “obvious” changes needed to the ballpark that used to be crammed to the gills no matter how good or bad the team was. Just to recap, some of the highlights of the Reilly/Trump plan were:

— Tearing out the grass field and putting down blue synthetic turf, a la Boise State. Not only would that net a cool $5 million per year from sponsor FieldTurf, but it would also stand up better than grass and dirt for the 40-concert revenue-rich schedule of “old rock stars selling $250 tickets” tour, headlined by Bruce “No Free Tickets” Springsteen.

— The new “Trump-surround” Digitial Scoreboard, which would wrap from foul pole to foul pole in the back of the outfield, soaring 100 feet above the top of the back wall. Replacing the Dallas Cowboys’ TV screen as the world’s largest, the Trump-surround screen was going to be revenue-positive from its launch, thanks to constantly changing display ads and to the $10-per-tweet charge for fans to post messages to the big screen during play. The back of the screen was going to be live too, showing repeated recordings of Trump and Reilly laughing and flipping off anyone who still climbed to the rooftops of surrounding buildings.

— Instead of organ music, the Reilly/Trump plan called for the “world’s biggest collection of iPods,” a number of different-colored versions which would replace the ivy lining the outfield walls. Fans would have been able to pay $10 to request a song, with music playing non-stop at every break in play. During the seventh-inning stretch, the traditional “Take me Out to the Ballgame” break would no longer be live, but instead feature a different hip-hop star doing a rendition of the song in a Intel-sponsored hologram projection every game.

— There was more, of course, like the Budweiser “simple math” scoreboard that was to show only one digit at a time (saving fans all the time and pain of having to actually add the runs scored every inning) and the “BALCO Distance Meter,” which would use lasers to track the flight of every home run hit by the Cubs’ new steroid-powered lineup. No named sponsor was necessary for the “Alderman’s Payoff Race,” where cartoon versions of famous Chicago politicians would push shopping carts full of cash around the bases between innings. Trump and Reilly said the race would simply honor the new “city/stadium leasing agreement,” under which half of the team’s purchase price would be underwritten by city-backed bonds.

Luckily, the deal fell through when Chicagoans stopped laughing hard enough to make it to the polls to defeat the bond measure by the first ever unanimous margin in city elections. Reilly and Trump, of course, redirected their energies to golf, and are now presiding over the “Trump Resort and Spa at Augusta National,” where this year’s Masters tournament will be the first in that event’s history to be played at night, under the lights installed around the entire course.

“We’re confident golf fans will appreciate our eliminating all that stuffy old tradition in favor of exploding scoreboards and comfortable, double-deck seating,” Reilly said. “After all, how can the Masters expect to survive without reaping the obvious ad revenue that’s available? Isn’t that what sports is all about, anyway? To take maximum advantage of fans’ undivided attention? The idea of going to an event to escape the everyday barrage of marketing is as old as gutta percha balls. Masters fans will be happy we’re moving this event to the 21st century.”

The preceding was a special report from our bureau of satire. We now return you to our regular programming.

Is Masters Online Coverage Feeling the Pressure?

Tiger in the creek at #13

Don’t know if this is a widespread thing or if it’s only affecting me but I would have to say that through 2 and a half rounds the online coverage of the Masters this year is playing about as well as Tiger Woods. Meaning that when it’s on, the online coverage is world class. But so far this year like el Tigre there’s been a lot of bad to go with the good.

The problem I am seeing most is just stuttering load times — for no reason the screen will just stop and you get the feared white line circling around the logo, the Masters online equivalent of the old Windows hourglass or the Mac spinning rainbow. And when the live coverage does come on there seems to be a long wait for the pixelation to go away. I have also seen on several occasions a Matrix-like instant repeat, a replay of the scene shown just seconds before. Once it got so bad (5-6 times in a row) I had to shut down the app and start over.

(Just for reference I have been watching mainly the service online. Went to the window a few times but saw some similar problems there. Also think the design is a better feel.)

Before you tell me this is just my setup, rest assured I have done all the home-fix things I can, closing and clearing the browser cache, resetting the router and the cable modem, and the problems are persisting. And I am on a Comcast Internet connection that just tested out at 35 Mbps download so it ain’t the ISP. We’ve asked the folks at IBM if they are having any problems but my guess is that we’re not going to hear anything from them so if you are having similar issues let us know in the comments below.

I also tested out the Android app, which is new this year, during a trip to the doctor’s office yesterday. While I was generally pleased with the service (I mean it’s pretty damn amazing to be sitting there watching live golf on your phone, right?) I did notice that the app kept telling me (every few minutes) that the “this video not optimized for mobile.” Exsqueeze me? If it’s not optimized for mobile what’s it doing on my phone?

So… watching Tiger trying to get back into the tourney it looks like he is playing solidly but not amazing anyone. I’d have to give a similar grade to the online coverage this year, though with a note that the Masters online is by far the most ambitious digital coverage of any major sporting event, hands down. Like the Masters, this stuff ain’t easy.

Masters Viewer Numbers Up on ESPN, CBS

The early returns are in and yes, more of you are watching the Masters this year. According to both ESPN (which is carrying the CBS broadcast live Thursday and Friday) and, there were more of both regular broadcast viewers and online watchers this year than last. Is it Tiger fever? Who knows, but el Tigre opened Friday with a birdie which is good news for the weekend.

According to, unique viewers of Masters Live traffic on was up 40 percent compared to Thursday traffic for 2011; no discrete numbers yet (those should come Monday) and no totals yet from the site. Yours truly spent about an hour Friday on the Android version of the Masters app and Verizon 4GLTE. Kept getting messages saying “this video not optimized for mobile” which makes me think the folks at IBM need to bake that app a little more. Otherwise, though, impressive to watch live video while waiting in the doctor’s office.

For ESPN, here is the press release info:

ESPN’s live telecast of the first round of the 2012 Masters Tournament on Thursday, April 5, averaged 2,661,000 viewers with a 2.3 household coverage rating based on fast nationals, according to the Nielsen Company.

The rating was an increase of 10 percent from last year’s first round, which earned a 2.1 rating. Viewership was up four percent over last year’s 2,550,000 average.

Across ESPN digital platforms – including, the ESPN mobile Web and ScoreCenter – the first round of the Masters generated an average of 50,600 people using one of those properties at any given minute of the day, up 35 percent compared to the previous year (source: Adobe/Omniture). Daily unique visitors to the Golf index page on were up 10 percent, while total minutes to the page were up 53 percent. Additionally, daily unique visitors to Golf content on the mobile Web were up 67 percent.

Whoops! Hope we didn’t jinx the coverage. Here’s what I’m seeing now:

Anyone else having troubles watching?

ESPN: March Online Highs, Par 3 Contest Lows

Is this any surprise? ESPN announced Wednesday that it had a “record-setting month in March, with new highs for mobile web and app usage, as well as video content and alerts.” We will get into the numbers below but — after all ESPN is the World Wide Leader and in an era of digital, mobile explosion its online numbers should be like Apple’s quarters: Every time, more.

Here is the snippet from ESPN PR on the online explosion:

ESPN mobile web and apps served an average minute audience of 103,000 in March, with an average of 5.1 million daily unique visitors (an increase of 22 percent over March 2011) and 3.1 billion total minutes for the month. ESPN apps in March had 3.6 million average daily uniques (up 125 percent over March 2011) and 1.5 billion minutes (up from 595 million in March 2011).

ESPN Mobile delivered 45 million video starts in March, including 24.6 million from mobile web and 19 million from the ESPN ScoreCenter handset and table apps, both record highs for a single month. In addition, ESPN delivered 1.5 billion alerts in March, also a record high for any month.

Yet for all its online savvy, ESPN found itself the victim of Mother Nature Wednesday at the Masters, when rainstorms turned its highly hyped live coverage of the Par 3 Contest into a rainout discussion with Mike Tirico at the helm. Now I like Mike Tirico. But I’m not wasting bandwidth watching Mike talk to Andy North about who might win the Masters. Jack and Arnie and Gary trading barbs and small iron play? I was just getting hooked when the toondershowers took over. I was surprised that ESPN had no backup other than having the studio guys start talking. And when they did, I clicked off the online stream and… went back to work.

No golfers ready for live interviews? No Dan Jenkins with some lore? In my mind ESPN whiffed a bit on a prime opportunity to show its Masters chops. (I also have had trouble all day with ESPN’s video feeds not loading properly — anyone else notice this?) But we have seen this before — ESPN doesn’t always do so well when there isn’t a script to follow. Let’s hope the WWL is back on its industry leading form on Thursday. Because we all will be watching.

Watching Golf This Week: The Masters

OK golf fans, time to get interactive and help us out. We know there is no way in hell that we are going to find every outlet covering the Masters this week, but we’ll try. And with your help we can do that sharing thing that everyone loves about the Internet. So here is our “first draft” attempt, going out on Wednesday since there is going to be coverage of the par 3 event Wednesday and who doesn’t want to watch that? But instead of typing it in this post we are going to simply say:




OK, that takes care of 99 percent of your questions. Now. Unless you’ve been under a rock you know all the story angles — Tiger vs. Rory, Tiger vs. Phil, Rory vs. Keegan, who the heck is Charl Schwartzel — so we don’t need to repeat those here. The only big question left is how to watch — on broadcast or cable, where there are so few commercials you might want to keep an empty jug handy next to the couch if you know what I mean; online, where and will have seven different live streams of video; or at any one of the many live-blogging outlets. If you know of one that we don’t have listed, add it to the comments; we’ll update this post throughout the week.

Here’s where to follow the action:


(all times Eastern)
Wednesday, April 4 (par 3 Contest, live) — ESPN, 3 p.m. — 5 p.m.
Thursday, April 5 — ESPN, 3 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 6 — ESPN, 3 p.m. — 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 7 — CBS, 3:30 p.m. — 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 8 — CBS, 2 p.m. — 7 p.m.

SIRIUS XM (Satellite)
2 p.m. — 6 p.m., Thursday-Sunday
Sirius will also have several feature shows. Check this schedule for more.
There will be a live streaming radio report on the site.

Full live video coverage at and Different cameras start at different times each day, so… check the schedule to see when they go live. Right now tentative start times for Thursday are: Amen Corner camera, 10:45 a.m.; Holes 15 & 16, 11:45 a.m.; Featured Groups 1 & 2, 12:00 p.m.

ESPN’s live ESPN3 coverage of the Par 3 contest

ESPN: The Worldwide Leader will be at the Masters in force, with its live coverage Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and more online coverage goodies. Here is ESPN’s Tournament Central link. This is also a good place to check for live ESPN online coverage, via ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app for mobile devices. Remember, the WatchESPN app only available for cable subscribers of Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon FiOS TV. Comcast customers are still out of luck.

ESPN also has the Putting at Amen Corner game online, as well as the popular Best Ball Majors fantasy game, which plays just like the NCAA hoops brackets. We’ll have an MSR group to join, stay tuned or follow me on Twitter @PaulKaps for more info. is going Masters overboard, with more content than you could possibly read. But the Sports Illustrated group of writers hanging out there may be the best covering the game right now.

There will be NO Shot Tracker at the Masters. Too bad.

Dan Jenkins — golf’s Shakespeare. From Texas. Hope he is on form for the Masters. If you don’t know who he is, hit Google. And buy a few books.
Geoff Shackelford — well known golf writer is slinging Masters lore and great links.
Golf Channel — official Golf Channel feed
@PGATOUR — official PGA Twitter feed
@StephanieWei — great golf writer who is a Twitter fiend

The Augusta Chronicle knows how to play the biggest event of the year. A good bookmark.

Here’s an incredible service: The Masters course page has video flyovers of each hole. I think I will only spend about 80 hours on this page alone.

Want to check out the historic clubhouse? Sports Illustrated’s has a video that takes you inside.

Do you need a refresher? It was Mr. Four Birdies in a row to close, Charl Schwartzel.

1. Hunter Mahan, 1,314 points
2. Johnson Wagner, 1,056
3. Rory McIlroy, 1,015
4. Phil Mickelson, 988
5. Kyle Stanley, 954

See the full standings for the FedEx Cup points list.

1. Luke Donald; 2. Rory McIlroy; 3. Lee Westwood; 4. Hunter Mahan; 5. Steve Stricker.
See the official World Golf Ranking list.

MSR Tech Watch: The Masters is a ‘Major’ IT Challenge for IBM

Everything about the Masters, from Magnolia Lane to the blooming azaleas to the old-timey scoreboards, oozes tradition. But to make sure that you can see all that old-timey stuff on your iPad, it takes a lot of new technology and online-infrastructure smarts. That’s where IBM comes in, as the white-bibbed caddie who makes the Masters come alive online.

“The Masters is all about being more than a tournament, it’s about being a service to the game of golf,” said John Kent, sponsorship marketing technology manager for IBM, which provides much of the technical underpinnings for the site and all the tournament’s scoring tabulations. “The challenge is to preserve all the history and tradition, and balance it with technology.”

Take those scoreboards — the iconic white signs that provide drama all their own, when names and scores are manually shifted in a pleasing delay after roars are heard from distant parts of the course. Though technology exists to create LED leaderboards that could update in real time, Kent said the tradition of the manual white boards isn’t going away from Augusta.

“There’s a lot of drama at the course with the manual scoreboards — you can be sitting at 18 and hear a roar somewhere else, and then you watch the scoreboard and wait for that tile to disappear,” Kent said. “The funny thing is, those are the most highly automated manual leaderboards out there, with wireless connections to the crew in back.”

Real-time video another Masters innovation

Since most golf fans aren’t lucky enough to have a Masters badge, the next best thing to being there is live video — and IBM helps the tournament provide a plethora of streaming images at the website. During last year’s tournament Kent said the site served up 3 million video streams on Saturday and another 4 million on Sunday, an amazing online total when you consider that many golf fans are glued to the regular broadcast and its almost commercial-free serenity.

According to Kent, the explosion of handheld devices that can serve up video images is partly responsible for the growth in online viewing of the Masters — the Saturday and Sunday online video totals mentioned above were 40 and 80 percent higher respectively than the stats from the same days the year before, and he expects more growth in mobile viewing this year. “We’re seeing a trend of people using the site at work on Thursday and Friday, and then using mobile devices on the weekend,” Kent said. “They’re just taking advantage of the best experience available.”

And to make sure that experience is Masters quality, the IBM tech team does its own “range work” in the offseason. This year that meant testing numerous Android-powered devices so that the release this year of the first Android Masters app would be green-jacket good.

“The complexity this year was in the number of devices we had to test,” Kent said. Apple’s iOS, he said, is easier to support since there are a finite amount of things to look at. But with Android devices, Kent said, there is a wide range of differences, not just in hardware form factors but in the different ways the manufacturers implement the Google OS.

At the golf course, IBM does bring in a truckload of servers to help gather, encode and send out to the Internet the video streams for the seven different channels on the site. But you might never see any of this infrastructure on camera — just another part of how the tournament and the Augusta National club combine new technology with tradition.

One advantage the Masters has over other major tournaments is that it is played on the same course every year. To support quality images — Kent noted that the Masters was the first golf tournament to be broadcast in color, and the first to use HD — Augusta National has buried miles of fiber beneath its azaleas, to bring signals from cameras without cables lying around.

“The Masters uses plenty of technology, but you’ll never see it,” said Kent.

IBM customers benefit from Masters tests

While there are few businesses that have the kind of explosive one-weekend stress test traffic that the Masters does — Kent said the site attracted 10 million unique users last year, who totaled 197 million page views — IBM does learn a lot about how to dynamically allocate resources during the event, which ultimately serves corporate customers better.

“We have a single cloud infrastructure that supports it all, the scores, and the live video,” Kent said about the back end. “And our [corporate] clients struggle with the same things — how to build the right cloud and how to dynamically allocate resources as efficiently as possible.”