EA Sports wasn't joking when it said FIFA 15 would be the most realistic soccer game ever made. For all the detailed features added into this year's game -- which include adjustments to account for ball spin during gameplay -- the most popular will surely be the integration of biting onto the field of play.

Uruguay's Luis Suarez made headlines in this summer's World Cup when he bit Italy's Giorgio Chiellini toward the end of a group play match. Suarez was suspended from all FIFA-regulated play for four months after that incident, which includes missing matches with his professional club, F.C. Barcelona.

Suarez is known for using biting as a dirty tactic in games, having done it at least twice before at the professional level. Suarez has pledged to never bit again, but that promise apparently does not apply to his video game character. Fans playing the game's demo have witnessed Suarez biting in the game on several occasions:



One interesting feature of FIFA video games is that players suspended in real life are unavailable to be used in the game. Since Suarez's ban is still in place, he can't be played with in the actual game. But he is available in the game's demo mode, which is where these biting incidents are presumably being found.

It's unclear if FIFA 15 will include this feature in the full game mode, or if it's merely a promotional tactic. But if EA Sports is committed to a realistic game, the right decision is obvious.

By Jason Notte
MainStreet.com

The NFL reserves the right to black out games on local television this season, but fans don't have to play along.

The NFL blacked out only two games in teams' home markets last year, down from 15 games in 2012, 16 in 2011 and 26 in 2010, but it still has the power to take games off local television if attendance falls short. Under the NFL's original television blackout rule, which dates back to an act of Congress in 1961 that created the league's current antitrust agreement, home games couldn't be shown on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if non-premium tickets weren't completely sold out 72 hours before kickoff.

Last year, the NFL allowed teams the option of calling games "sellouts" at 85 percent capacity and keeping them on local television. Even after opting into that rule this year, however, the Cincinnati Bengals needed a last-minute sales push to avoid blacking out broadcasts of Sunday's home game against the Tennessee Titans.

That reduced blackouts and shifted blame for them from the league to its individual owners, but more importantly it opened a discussion about avoiding blackouts altogether. Last year the Federal Communications Commission made a non-binding decision to end NFL blackouts. In an op-ed for USA Today published this month, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler vowed that his agency would vote Sept. 30 to end sports blackouts completely, saying they "are obsolete" and “make no sense at all.” Fortunately, fans don't have to wait for that result to dodge the NFL's blackouts.

The NFL gave fans a way around blackouts when it added the RedZone channel to its NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-town game package on DirecTV a few years ago. That channel shows only the scoring drives from each game, but has no means of blocking scoring drives in games played in home markets. Better still, the NFL has opened RedZone access to Dish Network, Verizon, AT&T U-Verse, Cox and Cablevision customers as part of its NFL Network offerings. It requires a subscription, but it also bypasses the less-interesting portions of a home game to get right to the action.

That's actually a better deal than subscribers who pay $5 a month for Verizon's NFL Mobile streaming service or fans paying $240 to $330 a year for DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket are getting. Each of those services is still subject to NFL blackout rules despite their subscription costs.

If you're looking to watch the whole game, however, there's only one real way around a home blackout: a virtual private network connection. Online viewers can join services such as Express VPN or Safer VPN to change their Internet Protocol address to an one beyond the local coverage area and stream games through the NBC, Fox, CBS or Yahoo! websites, or ESPN if you have a subscription.

If you're feeling really intrepid, you can change to an address outside the U.S. and subscribe to NFL Game Pass, which allows fans outside the U.S. to follow a specific NFL team for $100 a year, follow all the NFL regular-season action for $130 a year or get access to the playoffs -- which b>aren't immune from blackouts -- for $200. The NFL still gets paid, fans still get to watch and VPN technology makes sure nobody's the wiser.

Internet service providers can't do much about VPN servers and aren't really trying. While some users have tried using enhanced Domain Name Systems (Smart DNS) for the same purposes, some ISPs have resorted to DNS hijacking or transparent proxies to render that method useless.

As long as the NFL gets paid, it doesn't seem to care. Last year, the NFL made nearly $10 billion in revenue, with roughly $6 million of that divided among team owners. The NFL's money machine made more than the $8 billion produced by Major League Baseball over the same span and more than the revenue of the National Basketball Association ($5 billion) and National Hockey League ($3.7 billion) combined. Its television revenue is only going up, as it's reworking a $1 billion-a-year deal with DirecTV for its NFL Sunday Ticket package for out-of-town games and just took $275 million from CBS to broadcast Thursday Night Football this season.

Overall, Fox, CBS and NBC pay the NFL $28 billion -- or roughly $1 billion a year -- for broadcast rights through 2022. ESPN pays $1.9 million each year -- or more than double what any network pays for a season of Major League Baseball -- just to host Monday Night Football. Meanwhile, 34 of the 35 most-watched television shows last fall were NFL games.

NFL blackouts may be nearly extinct, but there's no reason for modern fans to put up with them when technology has rendered them obsolete.

Finally, the NFL has a problem we can laugh at.

As technology becomes ever-more integrated into the game of football, not every NFL player is adjusting well. All NFL teams have now converted to using tablet devices for their playbooks, and some older players are having trouble remembering to charge their tablets before coming to work.

That's a problem because, as The Wall Street Journal reports, charging options in team meeting rooms are limited. While most players seem to prefer their new digital playbooks to old paper versions, they sometimes encounter situations where their battery runs out in the middle of a film or game-planning session.

Texans safety Danieal Manning said he's faced situations where his battery power at the start of a session is limited, and the 32-year-old is forced to work as quickly as he can before his tablet goes dead.

"I [thought], 'Man, I've got a little bit of battery!' I'm trying to jam as much in as I can. I'm drawing plays down and I'm doing it as fast as I can," Manning told the WSJ.

NFL players aren't the only ones on a tech learning curve this season. NFL game broadcasters are also having to catch up on the appropriate lingo to describe the new tablets, which are used on team sidelines during the game.

The NFL has an exclusive contract with Microsoft that requires all teams to use only Microsoft Surface tablets during actual games. But that didn't keep broadcasters from referring to those tablets as Apple's "iPads" early on.

The hardware giant wasn't happy to see its $400 million contract go toward giving Apple some free publicity, but everyone appears to be on the same page now.

They're not iPads, they're Surface tablets. And you need to plug it in before you go to bed.

Say hello to The Big Question Mark.

In promoting the NBA 2K15 video game, Shaquille O'Neal drops some heavy hypotheticals, the kind you usually hear in sports bar or on talk radio. Shaq ditches his usual mumble and gives us his best coming-attractions voice as he booms:

"What if I had stayed in L.A.? How many championships could we have won?"

"What if the Pistons had drafted Carmelo Anthony?"

"What if Kevin Durant was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2007 draft?"

"What if Steph Curry dropped one more draft spot -- to the Knicks?"

Clearly the premise of the game is that the user can make all this happen. As an example, the trailer shows Michael Jordan joined in Bulls uniforms by Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain, so apparently time travel is also a feature.

Technology is pretty advanced these days, but sometimes that angers baseball traditionalists who tell their friends and family to "stop texting" during the game and just enjoy it.

Well, a fan in Tampa Bay wants everyone to know technology can enhance the in-stadium experience for those outside the stadium. During the Rays-Blue Jays game Wednesday night, a fan was caught using his electronic device for a video chat (appears to be via Facebook) from his seat.


Amazing. Just amazing. Without even being at the game, a fan can virtually feel the Tropicana Field experience.

As for the fan in the stands, give him credit for ...

a) showing up to a then-67-72 Rays home game (the Rays lost to make it 73 losses),
b) bringing headphones to hear his friend in a venue formerly known as the Thunderdome,
c) pointing the device's camera toward the field to give his friend the best view,
d) apparently not caring whether this was a violation of MLB policy in which "any rebroadcast, reproduction, or other use of the pictures and accounts of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited."

Of course, the man back home missed out on ballpark essentials such as hot dogs, beer and peanut scent. But otherwise, he probably had a basic idea of the Tropicana Field mood for the night without a ticket, a TV or a digital subscription.

If you'd like a more detailed account of a Rays home game, check out what one photographer did in St. Petersburg as part of his project to shoot a game from every MLB stadium this season.

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