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Archive for the category “sports”

When mandatory police cams become public entertainment

“Excuse me,” Steve said to the waitress. “I specifically asked that you substitute bacon for the ground beef in my triple bacon burger.”

Steve and Kim were enjoying – well, Kim was enjoying – a brief lunch break from work.

As the waitress corrected Steve’s order, he turned to Kim. “So, what are you doing tonight after work?”

“I’m going to watch the police webcams,” she replied.

“What, the ones in New York City?” asked Steve.

“No, our local police department has them now. If you go to the Cams page at their website, you can see streaming video from every police officer who is on duty.”

It was true. While police webcams became more popular way back in 2014 after the Ferguson incident and the Ray Rice case, some people still felt that the police were hiding something. As the years went on, more and more police departments adopted transparency rules, and by the time that Kim and Steve were enjoying their bacon-infused lunch, several police departments were not only equipping every police officer and police car with a webcam, but were also providing real-time public access to these feeds. The goal in providing these feeds was to not only provide complete transparency into police operations, but also to educate the public on the dangers that police officers faced every day as they patrolled their communities.

As with any technological advance, however, the lofty goals of the originators were soon replaced by other goals. The streams themselves became revenue sources for the police agencies, as anyone who accessed the feeds had to sit through commercials for bail bond companies, defense attorneys, and Progressive Insurance. And the audience, rather than consisting of civil libertarians monitoring police activity, ended up as a bunch of teens watching voyeuristically.

Even Kim, who worked for a public safety software provider, found herself addicted to the feeds. She especially liked them when officers Jim and Pat (no last names used) were on patrol on Saturday nights. While most of the shift work was frankly boring, there was always the chance that Jim and Pat would run into some drug-crazed citizen who was trying to get to Disneyland via Frisbee. She still retained the video in which one citizen boldly shouted, “You can’t touch me! I know Officer Jim,” only to receive the reply, “I am Officer Jim. And I’m taking you to the station to get booked.”

As she was telling all of this to Steve, Kim noticed two officers walking into the restaurant – and then immediately noticed a young teenage boy running toward the officers, his face pointing directly at the camera on one of the officers’ chests.

“18th Street rules!” the teen shouted at the camera. Then looking at the officers’ faces, he shouted, “And what are you going to do – shoot me? You’re being watched! 18th Street!”

As the teen raced out of the restaurant, Kim heard one of the officers say something.

“Too bad for him that we were off duty and our cameras were turned off.”

Live from Stamford, it’s the Sochi Olympics!

Remember my post from last month that predicted a time when the only people at a sporting event would be the players?

That time may be closer than we think.

Of course, the idea that EVERYONE has to be at a sporting event is a relatively new concept. Back in the days that Ronald Reagan was a radio baseball announcer, he and his fellow announcers often broadcast games from a studio, heavily dependent upon a stream of information from Western Union.

That offended modern sensibilities, and companies subsequently insisted that their announcers actually attend the games that they were broadcasting. And they did; during Monday Night Football’s heyday, the arrival of Gifford, Cosell, and Meredith in an NFL city was regarding as the circus coming to town.

But now, the pendulum is swinging back a bit.

If you live outside of Los Angeles, you may think that Petros Papadakis and Matt “Money” Smith have disappeared from the radio entirely. The truth is, however, that their show – initially local, then national – has gone local again. And on Thursday’s local show, Papadakis was talking about his Sunday night television partner, Fred Roggin, who had left Los Angeles to cover the Olympics. But Roggin hadn’t gone to Sochi, Russia – he had gone to Stamford, Connecticut.

Roggin, however, is a host, and hosts are usually broadcasting from some studio or another. It’s not like the Sochi Olympic play-by-play announcers were going to be in faraway Connecticut, would they?

Well, actually…

“We have a team in Stamford that will be grabbing event highlights, interviews with athletes, medals ceremonies, feature stories, amazing finishes,” [NBC Sports editorial VP Tom] Seeley said. “They will produce about 100 clips a day, long-form replays plus short-form clips of three to five minutes.”

It also means curling coverage, live from Russia and Stamford….

During curling competition in Sochi, video “will be coming to Stamford over digital paths,” [NBC Sports engineering VP Tim] Canary said. “The matches will come with natural sound, but the voicing will be done in Stamford. We will put curling experts in an announce booth and they will do play-by-play. So viewers will be hearing a call done in Stamford for a match being played in Russia.”

Unfortunately, these announcers will not be supported by Western Union.

Why is the Rose Bowl called a bowl?

(If E.M. Forster’s fiction becomes reality, it will be realized in incremental steps.)

Bob and Judy were in the basement, celebrating New Year’s Day in their entertainment center. The display screen, which Bob and Judy still occasionally called a “TV,” was currently displaying the items that were going to be delivered to their home in the next half hour. Bob and Judy, Luddites that they were, still liked to order real meat, and occasionally Judy would even contact the specialty stores and have them drone some organic meat over to them.

The order perused, Bob switched the display back to the Huffington Entertainment Channel, just in time to hear an announcement about the forthcoming Rose Bowl football game. This year’s matchup appeared to be a competitive one, in which Ohio State was cast to face Reed College.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: THIS IS MY FICTION. I’LL WRITE WHAT I PLEASE, REGARDLESS OF HOW IMPROBABLE IT MAY BE.]

Bob turned to Judy. “I’m bored,” he said. “Do you think our grandson’s awake yet?”

“Probably,” Judy replied.

“Are you up for an adventure?” Bob asked.

Judy nodded, and went to wake North up.

North walked into the basement eating a bowl of Soylent. “North,” asked his grandfather, “how would you like to go to the Rose Bowl today to watch the football game?”

North looked puzzled. “What do you mean, go to the Rose Bowl?”

Judy smiled. “Well, instead of watching the game on the TV – I mean display – we can go right to where the game is being played. Did you know that it’s being played in Pasadena, just a few miles from here?”

North still looked puzzled. “Why would you want to do that?”

Bob smiled. “Because then you could be right there and see the players as they play, rather than watching it through the display!”

North remained silent as Bob continued. “There are actually seats surrounding the field, and we can sit in them and watch the players!”

North’s puzzled look returned. “But then you wouldn’t get all the camera angles and the supplemental information feeds. Are the seats more comfortable than the seats in this room?”

Despite the fact that they hadn’t been in a stadium for decades, Bob and Judy quickly answered, “No.”

Judy smiled. “But it’s an experience that you’ll never forget. Back when Grandpa and I were kids, tens of thousands of people would go to the Rose Bowl just to watch the game. I don’t want you to miss this. You’re coming with us.”

“OK,” said North in a grudging tone. “But this sounds weird.”

30 minutes later, the car had deposited them at the Rose Bowl, and they stood outside in the sun. Each of them was wearing a (southern California) winter jacket, and they weren’t used to them.

“What is that Tickets building?” asked North, gesturing to an empty structure.

“Well,” explained Bob, “years ago, people would pay lots of money to come here and sit in the stadium and watch the game. Some people paid hundreds of dollars for the tickets alone, which was a lot of money in those days. And if a team from Ohio were playing in the Rose Bowl, then thousands of people from Ohio would fly in airplanes to Pasadena and stay here for several days, culminating in the big game.”

“I know it seems silly,” Bob continued, “but back when my parents were kids, displays often had a screen size of less than 30 inches. And the entertainment channels just showed the game, without the supplementary information, and with just two or three people talking about it. Back in those days, you’d actually have a better time going to the game itself than trying to watch it on a tiny little TV – I mean display.”

As Bob talked, the three of them walked past the empty ticket building and entered the stadium. Unlike the scene at previous Rose Bowls, the stands only contained a few hundred spectators, mostly older people like Bob and Judy. Ticket sales had ceased 20 years ago, and there was even talk of eliminating the physical game – and all physical football games – altogether, and just asking the Madden Company (named for a 20th century football figure and early game pioneer) to create simulations for the games.

Despite the empty stadium, football was still football, although the rules that had emerged over the years tended to favor the offense over the defense. Rare was the game in which either team scored less than 50 points, but there was still some competitive balance in the game, and it was not as ridiculous as it could have been.

Despite the discomfort, North was actually enjoying the game – especially since Reed had jumped out to an early 21-7 lead against Ohio State. He was smiling as he munched on his Soylent snack, and Bob and Judy were smiling also, happy that North could have this experience.

During a break in the action, North turned to his grandparents and asked a question.

“Grandma, Grandpa,” asked North. “Why is it called the ROSE Bowl?”

Bob and Judy found themselves at a loss for words.

Take me out coach, I don’t know how to play

Songwriters write about the things they know, which can cause some difficulties when the song is heard by people of different cultures. I was one of many people who had to learn what “vegemite” was when Men at Work’s “Down Under” became popular in the United States. (In a similar fashion, when Midnight Oil sang about “45 degrees” in “Beds Are Burning,” it took me a while to realize that the band was talking about very hot temperatures.)

But what of the effect of time on song lyric interpretation?

In the early 1970s, Joe Walsh composed and recorded a song called “Rocky Mountain Way.” His European fans were presumably puzzled by some of the lyrics:

Bases are loaded and Casey’s at bat
Playin’ it play by play
Time to change the batter

Even those Americans who were not familiar with the 1888 poem “Casey at the Bat” still knew what sport Walsh was discussing. And although there was no major league baseball team in Colorado at the time – the Rockies would not come until much later – the Triple A Denver Bears were playing in the state in 1973, the year the record was released.

Since 1973, there has of course been one famous song that referenced baseball – John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.”

But what about today’s music? How often does the beloved national pastime crop up in 21st century songs?

I thought of this when listening to a Los Angeles Sparks commercial on the radio. The Sparks, of course, are a team in the Women’s National Basketball Association, and unlike the men, they play on a summer schedule. So when advertising on Los Angeles sports radio, and bearing in mind that the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers had been eliminated from the NBA playoffs, and the Los Angeles Kings had been eliminated from the NHL playoffs, the Sparks chose to advertise that they are now “the only game in town.”

And for many in Los Angeles, the Sparks truly are the only game in town. The Los Angeles Dodgers, and Rita Moreno of Arte’s baseball team down the freeway, have no meaning in their lives.

Don’t believe me? Look at the statistics. Brad Wells wrote the following in October – yes, October – 2010.

Last night, a boring Monday Night Football contest between two back-up quarterbacks in the city of Jacksonville drew a better TV rating (7.2 percent) than the American League Championship Series (ALCS) playoff game between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers. That game drew a terrible 6.5.

And according to a 2003 report from Gallup, baseball has long since disappeared from the national consciousness:

For many years, Gallup has asked Americans which sport is their “favorite sport to watch.” Baseball, long known as the national pastime, easily topped the list from 1937-1960, with slightly more than one in three Americans naming it as their favorite sport. But a 1972 Gallup Poll showed football overtaking baseball as Americans’ favorite sport, a distinction it continues to hold today. Meanwhile, the percentage claiming baseball as their favorite sport has continued to decline, while basketball and auto racing are increasing their popularity. Gallup’s most recent data, from December 2002, show 37% of Americans saying football is their favorite sport, followed by basketball at 13% and baseball at 12%.

And considering the steriod issues that plagued baseball after 2003 – things to which Wells alluded in his article – I suspect that baseball’s popularity has not reversed its course.

So if you want to speak cryptically among today’s youth, sprinkle phrases such as “bats four hundred” and “three and two” into your conversation. They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about.

Why Lem Barney is probably wrong about the future of football, even though he’s right

Lem Barney is a former professional football player who, according to USA Today, had some interesting things to say about his former livelihood.

Lem Barney is an NFL legend, a Hall of Famer who made his living playing football.

And he wouldn’t do it again.

Speaking Friday at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp in Southfield, Mich., the Detroit Lions great said the sport would be gone within the next two decades….

“It’s a great game, and I think it’s the greatest game if you like gladiators. It’s the greatest game for yesteryear’s gladiators. But in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it’s becoming, how big it’s becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it’s only going to get worse.”

Barney was on a panel with some college football coaches, who (according to writer Mark Snyder) “appeared frozen” when Barney made his statements.

Maybe the coaches had suffered concussions themselves.

However, despite the numerous issues with people who suffered from football concussions, I’m not sure that Barney is right about the demise of football – even with Gregg Doyel’s 2012 input into the conversation:

Today it’s Troy Aikman saying he’s not sure he would let his son play football. Soon it’ll be the young parent down the street. Then more of them. And more.

You can’t play football without football players.

While Doyel’s statement is true, there are a number of businesses that are dependent upon advertising to football players, and there are a number of teams that need football revenue, and there are a number of cities that need football gate receipts.

And even if every parent in every one of the 50 United States refuses to let their kids play football, the advertisers and the teams and the cities will ensure that a steady supply of new football players can be acquired from outside of the country. They may even get their friends in Congress – themselves dependent upon the money and the votes supplied by these stakeholders – to approve new visa regulations to get professional football players into this country to do the job that no American is willing to do.

And with a steady supply of impoverished football players from the third and fourth worlds, football will hum along.

Creating a fake paper trail in the paperless era

While fraud has in some respects remained the same over hundreds or thousands of years, the tools used to commit fraud have certainly changed.

Years ago, people would commit fraud by creating false receipts and the like.

Now they commit fraud by creating fake websites.

When baseball player Melky Cabrera was found to have ingested a banned substance in violation of Major League Baseball’s anti-drug policy, Cabrera noticed a possible out in MLB’s rules.

The idea, apparently, was to lay a trail of digital breadcrumbs suggesting Cabrera had ordered a supplement that ended up causing the positive test, and to rely on a clause in the collectively bargained drug program that allows a player who has tested positive to attempt to prove he ingested a banned substance through no fault of his own.

So how could Cabrera “prove” that he inadvertently ingested a banned substance?

San Francisco Giants star Melky Cabrera created a fictitious website and a nonexistent product designed to prove he inadvertently took the banned substance that caused a positive test under Major League Baseball’s drug program….

Cabrera associate Juan Nunez, described by the player’s agents, Seth and Sam Levinson, as a “paid consultant” of their firm but not an “employee,” is alleged to have paid $10,000 to acquire the phony website.

Unfortunately for Cabrera, the ruse didn’t work:

MLB’s department of investigations quickly began asking questions about the website and the “product” — Where was the site operating from? Who owned it? What kind of product was it? — and quickly discovered that an existing website had been altered, adding an ad for the product, a topical cream, that didn’t exist.

Now Cabrera is in much more trouble than he was originally. But this is something that James Ulvog has been saying for years – because, regardless of the technology used to perpetrate fraud, the consequences of fraud are always devastating:

Remember when you tossed a rock out into a calm lake? The ripples of the splash spread far. You can see the ripple bounce off a rock or the shore and have a reflected ripple spread across the lake. If the water is very calm, you can see the ripples spread out a long ways from the initial splash. It is the same way with fraud. The devastation just spreads and spreads.

Cleaning up college sports…in 1954

On June 22, after a jury convicted former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky of multiple counts of child molestation, Penn State released a statement that concluded as follows:

Now that the jury has spoken, the University wants to continue that dialogue and do its part to help victims continue their path forward. To that end, the University plans to invite victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse to participate in a program to facilitate the resolution of claims against the University arising out of Mr. Sandusky’s conduct. The purpose of the program is simple – the University wants to provide a forum where the University can privately, expeditiously and fairly address the victims’ concerns and compensate them for claims relating to the University. Counsel to the University plan to reach out to counsel to the victims of Mr. Sandusky’s abuse in the near future with additional details.

When CBS Sports published this press release, the majority of reaction was negative. Nova Goodman stated the problem succinctly:

Paying money is easier than doing the right thing.

As the commenters discussed “the right thing,” various temporary suspensions of the football program were bandied about. But in a November 2011 post, The 312 shared a more radical concept that would probably floor the most rabid Sandusky hater – eliminate intercollegiate sports at Penn State altogether. Why would The 312 share this concept? Because a University in The 312’s area – the University of Chicago – actually did this in 1939, under the leadership of then-President Robert Maynard Hutchins. Today the University plays football, but does not award scholarships.

Was this self-imposed “death penalty” controversial? Well, here’s what a Chicago Tribune writer said:

There’s a school down in Arkansas called Commonwealth College which never has had a football team. . . . It was found by and is operated for communists. . . .

And the athletic director at one university said the following:

“Since he [Hutchins] has the physique of a Sir Galahad, he is convinced that he speaks with authority…. Many [college presidents] share your fears, but they have not run away from the problem or washed their hands of it.”

And which football party school shared that sentiment? Harvard University.

Which brings us to 1954, 15 years after the University of Chicago eliminated its football program. In that year Robert Hutchins wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated. One paragraph of that piece elaborates on the reasons why intercollegiate sports will never be cleaned up, and why scandals will continue to occur.

Are there any conditions under which intercollegiate football can be an asset to a college or university? I think not. There are conditions under which it can be less of a nuisance, or a less infernal nuisance. These conditions are hard to bring about and still harder to maintain. If you should succeed, you will do so only with an expenditure of time and effort that could more profitably be devoted to other things. The first requirement is agreement on the part of your constituency that the institution is to be represented by students, and by students who have come to the college in the ordinary way, with no special inducements, and who are staying in college following the regular curriculum, with no special treatment. The second requirement is even more difficult; you have to find convenient rivals of about the same size, whose constituencies have the same convictions. For if they have not, you will be continuously and unmercifully defeated, and this is something that your constituency will not be able to stand indefinitely. On this rock all the great attempts of the last 30 years to “clean up” or “de-emphasize” football have split; intercollegiate football is no “cleaner” or less emphasized now than it was in 1925 because the temptation to break the rules of a conference becomes irresistible sooner or later to some of the members of it. You then have a scandal, a clean-up, new resolutions, and the process goes on as before.

This year’s version of the death of cable is kind of like the previous versions

I have been writing about the cable/satellite industry for several years now. This 2010 post in my Empoprise-BI business blog links to some of my earlier posts on the subject. The basic issue is that you have content providers (such as Comcast/NBC) and cable/satellite providers (such as Comcast), and the two factions are constantly at war with each other.

Those who believe that content is king have been saying to themselves, “What if we could eliminate the middleman and get the content directly?” Well, in some cases you’ve been able to do this for several years now. Back in 2010, I quoted from a Mike Johns comment on a Michael Hanscom post:

The coolest part of the Roku is what it means for the future of TV. I have already dropped my cable and pretty much watch all of my shows on Netflix. The other channels on the Roku, even the premium channels, make it worth the money. I spend 9 bucks for netflix, and 6 bucks on the kung-fu, cowoby classics and drive in movies – and that has replaced my $75 cable bill.

Since Mike Johns wrote that comment, Roku and others have provided complete direct access to content, and the cable and satellite providers have all shriveled away.

What? They’re still around? Whoops.

Obviously, cable and satellite providers aren’t going to just wither away when their lifelines are threatened. They need to maximize their profits for their shareholders, and they’ll do anything in their power to ensure that their business model remains viable. Earlier in this post, I alluded to the fact that Comcast, a cable provider, has purchased NBC, a content provider. It’s kinda like when tobacco companies buy food companies (remember RJR Nabisco?) – a company will do whatever it wants to continue to survive.

This hasn’t stopped people from trying to liberate content from the evil cable/satellite providers and allow it to run free. Jesse Stay has shared a Chris Brogan share of this story:

Newly launched website TakeMyMoneyHBO.com wants to send HBO a clear message: We love your shows. We’re willing to pay to watch them upon release. Now please, for the love of Winterfell, give us a way to do that — without forcing a cable subscription down our throats.

The expectation is that HBO will see this website and observe all the tweets – with hashtags! – and will suddenly and immediately tell the cable and satellite companies, “Thanks for all you’ve done for us for the past half century, but based on these powerful hashtags we’re going to go it alone.”

For some reason, I suspect that TakeMyMoneyHBO’s strategy will not be entirely successful. Wendy Cockcroft has noted that HBO benefits from the current system.

When the interviewer presses [HBO’s Eric Kessler] again about a stand-alone option, here’s what he has to say:

“We benefit from the existing ecosystem… from bundled cable TV packages… it’s important to keep that transactional machinery going. It’s about economics.”

Kessler says here that he’s doing better from an economical point of view in the current HBO strategy than he would if he opened up the content safe and let some goodies out into the cloud.

Some people think that piracy will drive content companies to create a new model that reduces piracy, but if content companies are making enough money under the old model, why change?

Now I still believe that it’s entirely possible that the middleman may be eliminated, but rather than cutting the middleman out entirely, perhaps the middlemen may continue to buy content providers just like Comcast did.

However, presently the old model is still very much alive, which means that if I want to see or hear a sporting event, more often than not I have to turn on a TV or a radio. With some rare exceptions, I can’t watch or listen to a sporting event over the Internet. We of the Internet just don’t pay enough money to get the rights.

Hope I die before I become a tourist attraction (Keith Moon and the Olympics)

The hot story floating around this weekend? Olympic organizers have invited Who drummer Keith Moon to play in the Olympics.

The 2012 Olympics.

This could be a problem, according to the Who’s manager Bill Curbishley:

‘I emailed back saying Keith now resides in Golders Green crematorium, having lived up to the Who’s anthemic line ‘I hope I die before I get old’,’ said Curbishley.
‘If they have a around table, some glasses and candles, we might contact him.’

But Julian Shea’s Metro article that discusses the Moon invitation contains a picture that is even more shocking in its own way. The picture is of a historical plaque dedicated to Moon.

Yes, a historical plaque. It reads as follows:

City of Westminster

Keith Moon
1946-1978

Legendary Rock Drummer
With “The Who”

Performed Here At
The Site of The
Marquee Club
In the 1960s

The Heritage Foundation

However, it’s significant to note that the plaque was actually spearheaded by the City of Westminster rather than by English Heritage, who normally does such things. (The Heritage Foundation, not to be confused with the U.S. think tank, is a separate organization from English Heritage.)

English Heritage’s reason for declining to honor Moon? While Moon had been dead for 20 years (the requisite time before a plaque can be bestowed), there was a little issue:

“Moon died aged only 32, and many of his contemporaries, including other members of The Who such as Pete Townshend, are still living. Further time should be allowed to pass so he can be considered alongside his contemporaries.”

Of course, there would be no problem if Townshend and Daltrey had died before they got old. Then everyone could be honored.

Go west, young sportsman

It took over a century for the western United States to be politically incorporated into the country. Initially a set of territories, portions of the West eventually achieved statehood, with the last two states in the continental western United States joining the country in 1912.

Integration of the region into the country’s sports landscape took a little longer.

Over thirty years after Arizona and New Mexico joined the union – and nearly a century after California joined – the so-called National Football League had no team west of Chicago, Illinois. As of 1945, the Rams were still in Cleveland, and even the Cardinals were still in Chicago. But the NFL moved with lightning speed compared to the other major sports.

Twelve years later, in 1957, the NFL had teams in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But in major league baseball, the Dodgers and Giants were still New York teams. But baseball was beginning to penetrate the West and the South – the Athletics had moved to Kansas City, and the Braves had moved to Milwaukee. The southern team in Major League Baseball was the Washington Senators. Of course, this would change over the coming years, as the Dodgers and Giants moved to California, the Athletics to Oakland, and the Braves to Atlanta.

A couple of years later, the 1969-60 National Basketball Association was miniscule compared to the NBA of today. The entire league consisted of eight teams, divided into Western and Eastern Divisions. Of the four Western Division teams, only the Detroit Pistons (now in the Eastern Division) have remained at their original location. The Minneapolis Lakers relocated to Los Angeles, the St. Louis Hawks to Atlanta (again penetrating the South), and the Cincinnati Royals underwent a slight name change – they are now the Sacramento Kings. (This week.)

Of the four traditional major sports leagues, it took hockey the longest to establish a western presence. As of 1966-67, this multinational league did not have a team west of Chicago. Of course, the National Hockey League only had six teams at the time. It wasn’t until the league doubled its size in the following year that you could see hockey out west.

It’s hard to conceive of a time in which there was no major league baseball, football, basketball, or hockey in my home state of California. But then again, Los Angeles has not had a football team since the mid-1990s. Now try to imagine Los Angeles without Angels, Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, or Ducks, and you’ll have an idea what the city’s sports landscape was like in the 1940s.

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