The Super Bowl. What other single-day event can boast over 100 million viewers, all of whom are practically guaranteed to watch the commercials? And this year, the game’s ads are a bargain: a mere $2.7 mil for a 30-second-spot (compared to $3 mil last year). Ridiculous? Sorta. But pricey Super Bowl ads are as permanent a fixture as the game itself.

At least for now.

A recent survey found that nearly three-quarters of viewers see the commercials as entertainment, but less than one-fifth think the commercials make them more aware of the advertisers’ brand. That’s not exactly an efficient use of money.

More ad efforts are being focused on social media and online gaming. Anheuser-Busch, for instance, is revealing snippets of its upcoming commercials to Facebook fans of Bud Light, and Papa John's is offering free pizzas every 45 seconds on during the game to boost online orders. (Though for people like me, who work within walking distance of Patsy’s in NYC, this is far from appealing.)

Other companies, however, are beginning to believe that Super Bowl advertising can be a colossal waste of money. Modern day Mad Men can’t bank on the hope of creating an unforgettable or witty spot that gets replayed indefinitely on YouTube. The other growing reality is that technology – everything from outside-the-house video screens to smartphones to virtual reality to GPS technology – is completely changing the way products are sold.

So what’s coming? For one, technology will allow advertisers to process, collect and store such huge amounts of information that they will be able to see months of your personal data, including your location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, emails and a history of the Web pages you’ve visited. Based on your individual profile, they will be able to tailor their ads specifically to you.

Companies will be able to decide what to advertise and when based on what we are researching or doing online at that very instant. Some media giants (including Yahoo!) are even helping firms purchase ads in the milliseconds between the time someone enters a site’s Web address and the moment the page appears on the screen.

And in full-out Christopher Nolan style, companies may soon begin inserting product placement into personal pictures stored on social networking sites using Photoshop and other visual tricks. Studies have shown that when you see a photo of yourself endorsing a product, it can affect how much you like it, your memory of it and how much you are willing to pay for it. Nothing tricks the brain more than self-portraits. And because of the close relationship between pictures and memories, “advertising inception” could eventually accomplish the much-desired goal of altering brand loyalty. [Ed. Note to self: Design pics of readers wearing ThePostGame.com hats!]

Other companies are trying to raise brand awareness by creating and selling virtual merchandise. MTV, for example, is giving away virtual replicas of celebrity fashion items, and H&M is using virtual goods to entice Internet users with actual discounts. As the real world becomes over-saturated, the virtual world will likely become the next hot advertising frontier.

And if that’s too zany for you, consider the real possibility that product messaging could soon be implanted directly into your mind.

So enjoy Super Bowl XLV while you can. By halftime of Super Bowl L, you find yourself photographed in a duck costume and yelling “AFLAC!”

-- Follow Erica Orange on Twitter at @ErOrange

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With sports on TV, there was at least some measure of control, some restriction on your access. That's why days like March Madness, New Year's Day and the first days of the baseball playoffs were so exhilarating: You could lose yourself in sports for 12 hours at a stretch.

But now, you can do that every freaking day!

The only restrictions are your Internet connection and your wallet. But connections get faster every year, and we're not far from the days where you'll be able to purchase every individual game just before tipoff/first pitch/kickoff, iTunes-style. So farewell, boring board meeting/kids' birthday/funeral; hello, Braves/Phillies or Lakers/Heat!

One sidelight: Skipping TV meant that I also skipped hours and hours of pregame shows, postgame shows, in-game wrap-ups, sideline interviews, yapping screamfests and highlights, and I've got to be honest … I didn't miss those a bit. The Internet is tailor-made for quickie clips of out-of-work coaches pontificating on how the Steelers don't have the secondary to contain Aaron Rodgers, and anyone who thinks so is a heretic and a fool. But you know what? The Internet also makes it easy to skip right past that blathering, too. If all you want is the game and nothing but the game -- plus some trenchant analysis right here on Yahoo! Sports and ThePostGame.com, of course – take to the Web, friends.

Sports, by its immediate nature, stands apart from typical TV fare. You can store up a season's worth of “Dexter” episodes to watch all at once, but you can't exactly package up 162 Cubs games for later viewing. (Though someone surely has.) For one thing, that's a lot of baseball to comb through at once, and for another, chances are you'll know how it all plays out well before actually watching the games. (Spoiler: The Cubs lose.)

So, yeah, the live nature of TV binds us all together even in this era of hyper-fractured media. And there's something comforting in that. The days of everyone gathering around radios or televisions to tune into a single game are long gone. But the Internet yokes us together in million-member communities, where Auburn fans or Red Wings fans or Cowboys fans can virtually hang and share ecstasy and misery, secure in the faith that they're the absolute best fans in the land. And if they're all watching the same game at the same time all over the planet, who's to say they're not?

The No TV Diet Recap:

-- Day One: NFL, Golf.

-- Day Two: NHL, NASCAR.

-- Day Three: MLB, Tennis.

-- Day Four: NBA, NCAA.

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Tags:
Internet, TV

Welcome to the fourth day of our experiment. Here are the rules: No live sports, no news wrap-ups, no talk shows, no documentaries, no pregame or postgame cacklefests. Nothing but a computer and a phone to get through the week.

Day Four: NCAA

If there's one subgenre of sport that translates both incredibly well and incredibly poorly to online broadcast, it's college sports. On one hand, an online feed connects you to your alma mater wherever you are, no matter how far you've strayed from campus and how many years you've put on the odometer since your hazy college days. On the other hand, college sports are a visceral, communal experience, and watching your beloved team on a tiny streaming screen robs the game of the marching-band/boozed-up student section pageantry we all love so much.

Which is not to say that you should avoid college sports on the Internet. On the contrary, the Internet was made for college sports. (Also: national defense. But mostly college sports.) Put aside the hyper-obsessive college-specific blogs and the rabid anarchy of their associated message boards. We can sum up the joy of college sports on the Internet with just two words:

March Madness.

There was a time -- 2007 or so -- when you had to fake sick to bail on work and catch those early games on the Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament. Not anymore, friends! Thanks to CBS Sports' streaming of every single game in the Round of 64, you can pore over your bracket from the moment of tipoff. No more waiting until the workday's done to see Cincinnati lost and screwed your entire East bracket. No more watching scores tick away online and missing out on that unbelievable victory-from-defeat half-courter that'll be replayed for the next two weeks. It's a server-crashing beacon of sports perfection, and it's got to be the most popular online sports viewing time of the entire year.

The regular season isn't quite so dramatic, of course. This being college sports, everybody looks out for themselves, and to heck with every other conference. The Big Ten has its own network on which you can watch everything from football and basketball to volleyball and soccer.
The SEC, meanwhile, has struck a deal with CBS to broadcast games online that are being broadcast on TV, in the event that you're out of market. Other conferences have similar arrangements, either through national or local providers. (Low-tech fun: go to your college's website and find the radio feed. Listen in for ads of law firms and bars familiar from your college days. Try not to weep at the direction your life's taken.) Best bet here isESPN3.com, which offers dozens of out-of-market major-sport games every week across all conferences and divisions.

But where college athletics really shine on the Internet is in digging below the Game of the Week. For instance, I attended the College of William & Mary, a fine academic institution whose football program was once, according to legend, derided by one-time coach Lou Holtz as staffed with “more Marys than Williams.” While the team regularly makes the I-AA (or FCS, whatever) playoffs, its games generally aren't broadcast outside the local southeast Virginia market.

And were I interested in more than football and basketball, I'd be in luck, too. Online streaming gives colleges the ability to put the non-marquee sports out for the world to see, too. So depending on your college's technological savvy and conference muscle, you can keep up with lacrosse, baseball or wrestling at your alma mater.

Best part of it all? You can scope out everything that's going on in your college athletics department without looking like the creepy old guy hanging around school too long. On the Internet, everyone's a Big Man on Campus.

Consult your school's athletic department page for specific streaming details.

NBA

Since the days of Magic and Bird, the NBA has followed a simple formula: Determine the sport's most marketable stars, hail them as gods, then force them down everyone's throat on a weekly basis. You can draw a direct line from Jordan to Shaq to Kobe to LeBron, and once the NBA season starts, you never have to go more than a few days without seeing at least one of them on TV.

Much like baseball and hockey, the NBA has a subscription model allowing you access to up to 40 games per week. You can also purchase tiers of service; broadband-only is $64.95 for the season, while mobile-only is $29.99. (Thirty bucks to watch the NBA on your phone!)

Like baseball and hockey, blackout rules apply, and like those sports, it's kind of a “you'll know when you're blacked out because you'll be blacked out” situation. But hey, you don't want to watch your same team every single game, do you? Kobe! LeBron! Dwyane! Durant! Plenty of candy elsewhere!

ESPN holds a big chunk of the NBA pie, and it's happy to dole out bites of that pie as well. The Sunday-Monday-Wednesday-Friday games on ESPN are simulcast on ESPN3.com, though you don't have quite the same replay opportunity that you have with League Pass. ESPN games don't get the League Pass treatment.

Wednesday night, I flipped among 13 games, most of which were on League Pass, and the Lakers-Mavericks game on ESPN. And oh, I very nearly quit my job and left my family to dive deep into the glory of the NBA. It's not that the games were that great – only two, Philly/Orlando and Memphis/New Orleans, were really any good -- it's just that they were all there, all available. You know how the final five minutes of any basketball game are usually the only part of the game worth watching? Now you can actually do that, game after game, night after night. It's bliss.

-- Day Three: MLB, Tennis.

-- Day Two: NHL, NASCAR.

-- Day One: NFL, Golf.

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Welcome to the third day of our experiment. Here are the rules: No live sports, no news wrap-ups, no talk shows, no documentaries, no pregame or postgame cacklefests. Nothing but a computer and a phone to get through the week.

Day Three: MLB

The sport most associated with sepia-toned nostalgia is the sport that's leading the way in online video presence. Yes, the sport which has done so much wrong in its history -– racially, economically, pharmaceutically -- has done something very, very right technologically.

MLB Advanced Media, baseball's online arm, not only controls all baseball content, it's a diversified entity that has also handled web video for everyone from ESPN to Bon Jovi. It's a valuable enough property that baseball recently declined a reported $1 billion in offers from private equity firms.

How did the property get so valuable? By doing video exactly right. MLB offers streaming video to just about every device you can imagine -- oh, watching baseball on an iPad is indescribably cool -- with a range of subscription options for both the short and long term. The video functions as a de facto DVR, with pause and rewind functions on live video. (Fast-forward has to wait until the game's done, of course.)

The only real downside of MLB.TV, is the same that exists in other streaming sites: Blackout restrictions. No circumventing your local TV broadcast if the home team's in town.

There was apparently a time when the generations would gather around the radio to listen to baseball. And now, future generations will be able to come together over the warm glow of a smartphone to hear the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. Kids will sneak iPhones into class and under the covers at night to listen to baseball games. It won't be Ken Burns-esque mythology, but it'll be baseball, and it'll still be everywhere.

Australian Open (and Cricket!)

Part of the joy of sports is toe-dipping every so often into competitions you normally wouldn't stop to watch if they were being played in your own front yard. Normally, I couldn't care less about, say, soccer, but when the World Cup rolls around, I dive in. Same for the Olympics and pro tennis.

The smarter world sports organizations recognize this, and they make it as easy and pain-free for dilettantes like me. NBC streamed hundreds of hours of the 2010 Winter Olympics, allowing viewers to keep up with actual action while the TV broadcast showed yet another feel-good story about an Olympic athlete who triumphed over adversity. I watched the USA's run in the World Cup via stream at my neighborhood pool, barely restraining myself from cursing as the little kids wandered by. And right now, there's the Australian Open, where you can wait around for the big dogs to play or you can do like I did and watch Tsvetana Pironkova take on Monica Niculescu in the early rounds. (What, you didn't?)

While many tournaments, like Wimbledon, have their own streaming sites, the centerpiece of international competition for the moment is ESPN3.com, ESPN's streaming online headquarters. Here, you can watch every match of the Australian Open. Games are left on the server for several days at a time, so if you happen to, you know, sleep through a match that starts at 11 p.m. Eastern, it's right there waiting for you when you get up.

Some knocks: Access to ESPN3 is determined by your Internet provider; if your provider has an alignment with the gang in Bristol, you're good, but if not, you're stuck. Also, video quality ranges from decent to slideshow choppy, though the audio is almost always steady. It's the price you pay for watching sports half a world away as it happens.

But it's not just the familiar sports that make the grade. Also on ESPN3, I watched a cricket match between Barbados and Canada. Three words:

What. The. Hell.

I've often wondered what people from other countries must think of, say, the Super Bowl, with its unrelenting assault of analysis, graphics, sound and fury, with occasional game play spackled in. And now I know. I have absolutely no idea what was happening in this match, how you score, what happens when you swing the bat-thing, where you run, when to cheer, or how you determine a winner. But none of that mattered, because it was sports and it was gloriously incomprehensible. Thank you, ESPN3.

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Welcome to the second day of our experiment. Here are the rules: No live sports, no news wrap-ups, no talk shows, no documentaries, no pregame or postgame cacklefests. Nothing but a computer and a phone to get through the week.

Day Two: NHL

The NHL has some of the most obsessively loyal fans of any sport, and yet it's the only sport that cancelled an entire season because of labor disputes. Both of those factors contribute to the NHL of today, which does its level best to please the puckheads who have remained loyal through all the downs and, uh, lower downs of the sport's recent history.

Take, for instance, NHL GameCenter. It's hockey's online HD streaming service, and for a mere $119 a year or $23.95 a month, you get access to up to 40 games a week. You can watch them one at a time, or you can totally overstimulate yourself with up to four games at once in a mosaic format. Each game has stop/rewind capability, onscreen stats spool out continuously throughout the game, and if your team is in penalty-killing mode, an alert tips you to which teams might be on the power play so you can switch over.

One slick NHL move is the condensed-game functionality. Provided you can avoid spoilers, you can watch a 10-minute version of last night's games at 8 a.m. ET every morning. Perfect for breakfast accompaniment, the train ride in to work, or an early-morning coffee break. Those sports honchos think of everything!

You can stream the games through a whole range of devices, from PS3 to Boxee to Roku to iPad. While the HD quality may vary depending on your device and connection, the bottom line is this: it's an all-you-can-eat hockey buffet. Belly up!

Now, there are some drawbacks, most significantly the blackout rules. You don't get to watch games on the national networks (Versus, NBC, NHL Network) live; you have to wait 48 hours for their replays. And local broadcasts are also blacked out.

Of course, if your team gets eliminated from the playoffs, why not harken back to some classic moments of the near and distant past? GameCenter also features the NHL Vault, which, for $4.95 a month, gives you access to classic hockey games.

NASCAR
So here's a head-scratcher for you: NASCAR might just have the most plugged-in fans of any sport. Why? Because NASCAR is the only sport which has every single competitor on the playing field at the exact same moment, which makes it exhilarating for fans but an absolute nightmare to telecast. After all, when you've got 43 cars all drivin' fast and turnin' left, how can just one camera view possibly catch all the action?

Answer: It can't. That's why even casual NASCAR fans tap into unending streams of data on every single driver -- lap speeds, pit road times, even driver conversations. NASCAR fans are accustomed to watching every race with a television on and a computer running, so you'd think NASCAR would take advantage of this online-savvy market by presenting races in every format imaginable.

You'd think.

NASCAR already has a curious strategy for broadcasting its races; the entire series picks up and switches networks three times during the season. (Four, if you count switches between ABC and ESPN.) From Fox to TNT to ESPN, the sport dilutes its influence and loses fans with every switchover.

Which would be fine if fans could keep up online. But because of a tangled thicket of rights and some curious decisions by the sport's higher-ups, only six races -- those broadcast by TNT in the middle of the summer --are simulcast online. And there's no indication this will change anytime soon, despite the fact that those TNT online broadcasts draw near-universal acclaim. TNT's “RaceBuddy” gives viewers the chance to choose their own camera to watch the race, along with stats, updates and social connections.

NASCAR fans already sift through piles of online information like they root through coolers looking for that last beer. They'd love it if they could watch a race at the same time.

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Tags:
NASCAR, NHL

Sunday’s Tweet-ocide of Jay Cutler’s character seemed like a landmark event in the evolving relationship between sports and technology. Who ever heard of a mass flogging of a quarterback, leading to the man dissolving into tears, leading to an entire day of soul-searching by a national sports community? Well, it turns out, this phenomenon has been gathering steam for a while. And it’s already done a lot more damage than you can possibly imagine.

Say hello to “social contagion.”

Social contagion is when a behavior or attitude passes from one person to a group, or vice versa. You’ve heard the saying that when one person yawns, everyone starts yawning. And perhaps you’ve heard of the study showing that better goal celebrations create better chances of winning. Well, whether it’s a yawn or a Dougie rendition or a shank into the woods, one person’s behavior can affect the whole group. That’s not just the “chemistry” term you hear thrown around on sports radio. That’s science. And that’s what happened Sunday night. One person lobbed a Tweet grenade at the injured Bears quarterback and soon everyone got the fever.

This gets to the heart a lot of the tension between media and coaches. The press wants to know who screwed up – even if it was the referee. Often, coaches want to point the finger, too. But blaming is one of the worst social contagions of all. Athletes will see a coach blame a ref and they will subconsciously start blaming the ref, or teammates, or any number of factors. The blamestorming will spread quickly -- almost immediately --just like the common cold. Then personal responsibility erodes.

Word of mouth has been shifting to “word of keyboard” for a while. Studies have shown that weight gain, drug and alcohol use, even loneliness and depression are powerfully contagious via online networks. That’s been known for some time, but what’s being shown now is how a behavior can be spread not only to the recipient of an e-mail, text or social network sharing function, but to anyone who reads about a behavior. So when
an athlete rips someone on Twitter, it’s just as powerful as if he rips that person to his face. In fact, it might even be more damaging, as outsiders will catch the blame contagion and start thinking negatively about that player or the entire team. Then fans will react by ranting on their own Twitter accounts, which are sometimes read (and internalized) by athletes themselves. See: Cutler, Jay.

This can have more subtle and scary effects than you realize. Calling an athlete “mistake- prone” can get to that athlete (and teammates) with the click of the “Share” button. And since highlights are more ubiquitous than ever, a clip of a few wince-worthy turnovers can stick in the memories of not only those who made them, but those who might make them after watching them over and over on YouTube or SportsCenter. Perhaps the
bloopers shown on the JumboTron during timeouts -- which we know the athletes love to watch -- should be replaced by Plays of the Week.

So the next time you watch the monotone Patriots coach Bill Belichick say nothing remotely colorful in a post-game press conference, don’t roll your eyes. Instead, remember the growing problem of social contagion and thank the Hoodie for being a human hand sanitizer.

And the next time you absolutely need someone to blame for your team’s errors, maybe you should start with the person writing your angry Tweets.

-- Follow Erica Orange on Twitter at @ErOrange

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Pick any day out of the year -- any one, doesn’t matter -- and there’s enough sports content across every medium to last you a decade, if not a lifetime. Amass all the pregame and postgame shows, video clips, blogs, podcasts, tweets, Facebook postings and DID U C THAT texts, and even a routine December Blake Griffin dunk gets more widespread analysis than “Hamlet” ever did.

And that’s just one day. It’s almost possible now to be a 21st-century sports fan without even watching a game.

Almost.

How close are we to a world where TV is an option and not a necessity? We decided to find out by unplugging the flatscreen for one week. Could we survive? (Well, maybe “survive” is a bit hyperbolic; it’s not like we were going to be eating bugs waiting for that precious moment when we could cue up PTI.) Here are the rules: No live sports, no news wrap-ups, no talk shows, no documentaries, no pregame or postgame cacklefests. (Hey, it’s not going to be all bad.) Nothing but a computer and a phone to get through the week.

And we begin with the biggest of big dogs … the NFL playoffs.

Nice scheduling.

Day 1: NFL

The first day of our little TV fast happened to fall on the second day of the NFL conference semifinals, one of the minor holidays of the sports fan’s calendar. Catching up on “Sons of Anarchy” while all the rest of the sports-watching public was tuned into Jets-Pats and Bears-'Hawks was like being the one guy in high school who didn’t get the memo about Senior Skip Day.

It’s not like I was in a sensory-deprivation chamber. I did have Twitter, Facebook, the Y! Sports scoreboard and NFL.com all humming away at once. Twenty minutes in, and I’m neck-deep in the first real downside of an all-secondhand sports diet -- the echo chamber, where any story gets passed around and re-amplified beyond all meaning and purpose. Cutler-Hasselbeck, the impending Packers buzzsaw, Saint Brady, Belichick vs. Ryan, feet aplenty … you could literally spend every waking moment immersed in NFL content, and surely there’s someone who is.

The Seahawks alone had 37 videos on NFL.com dedicated to this single game, from pregame reports to weather forecasts to two-point conversion tape to a bemused Pete Carroll’s postgame chat. (And that’s for a losing team. The Patriots had 60 different videos devoted to their game.) It’s the video equivalent of one of those Vegas buffets, where you can sample pizza and Chinese food and omelets and roast beef on the way to the sundae bar.

Still, if I’d been of a mind to watch a full game live, I’d have been Favred. The NFL does offer an audio pass for live broadcasts, and if you're outside of the U.S. and Mexico, you can get a “Game Pass.” For those of us stateside, there’s “NFL Game Rewind,” which runs commercial-free HD games. Beautiful, right? As long as you don’t mind being 12 hours behind the rest of the sports universe -- the games are posted on a delayed basis. It’s not an unreasonable cost, though; you could get all the playoff games, including the Super Bowl, for $14.99 total. But it’s geared to the hardcore fan or the unlucky bastard who has to work on Sunday afternoons. Still, beware the NFL’s draconian blackout policies: streaming does not work at all whenever there’s a game on. You want the NFL? Go to the NFL. But you’ll take it the way they serve it, and you’ll like it.

But if you’re just jonesing for a taste, NFL.com features live streaming look-ins at certain games. So if you’re stuck in church on the West Coast and need to keep up with the early games, you’re in luck. The videos hit the web early -- Jay Cutler’s long touchdown pass to Greg Olsen hit the web just 10 minutes after Olsen crossed the goal line -- and, as you can see above, often.

Are live streaming NFL games coming? One day, certainly. But they’ll arrive on the NFL’s terms and no one else’s.

Golf

Believe it or not, the golf season has already started. Sunday marked the conclusion of the first full-field event of the year, the Sony Open in Hawaii. And because of rainouts, it ran 36 holes on Sunday, a marathon charge finally won by Mark Wilson. Unfortunately for Wilson fans -- we know you’re out there -- there was no place to watch anything more than a few select clips online.

Now, even pro golfer Anthony Kim has said that the best thing TV golf is good for is a soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon nap. That said, there are few things in life sweeter than stealing a little bit of sports-watching time while at work, and golf does have meaningful competition going on during the workweek.

Unlike most other pro sports, golf isn’t run by a single autocratic body but by a loosely- knit confederation of little fiefdoms, each with its own take on streaming video. The USGA, which controls the U.S. Open, has no problem streaming its coverage, nor does the Royal & Ancient with the British Open; this past summer, I watched both majors on my freaking phone. (The future rules!) Augusta National, which controls the Masters to such a degree that it doesn't even telecast much of the first two rounds, has limited streaming -- basically, there's a camera set up at Amen Corner that records everyone who plays through. The PGA Championship offers live video of its “marquee group” streamed to the Internet and smartphones.

For most of the rest of the tournaments, the PGA Tour offers snippets and highlights. The Tour’s website does have a Shot Tracker feature, which gives stat geeks a cornucopia of info, from yardage to trajectory to lie, and instantly compares each player’s play with tournament and historical averages. It’s more information at your fingertips than even the caddies possess, and it looks enough like a spreadsheet that you can get away with leaving it on your desktop if your boss isn’t particularly observant … or a golf fan.

Day 1 Verdict:

The NFL, like any good entertainment, leaves us wanting more. Thing is, unlike other sports, we can’t get more no matter how much we’re willing to pay. Golf, on the other hand, knows what we want to see -- the marquee players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson -- and will follow those guys online for every shot they take. Coverage is still spotty week-to-week, but on the whole, we’re already in a world where you can watch golf while playing golf.

And while missing the playoff games made for a quiet Sunday, the agonized wails of Pats fans on Twitter was enough comfort to get me through the week. After seeing my Falcons go out like chumps the night before -- and after spending a day eating nachos while I watched Twitter feeds and score updates -- I was in no mood to be magnanimous. Now on to the NHL!

Tuesday: Hockey and NASCAR

Wednesday: Baseball and tennis

Thursday: College sports

Friday: NBA

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The most difficult thing about placing a sports bet isn’t picking the winner -- it’s getting to the sportsbook.

For fans traveling to Vegas, getting to the sportsbook by 9 a.m. for a college football game or 10 a.m. for an NFL game after a night of carousing is tough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve missed the starts of early games because I was still sleeping in my hotel room.

Then there are the times where you’re waiting for your 4 p.m. business meeting and you realize that the early basketball games are about to start. (Yes, some of us have actual business meetings in Vegas.)

And even for people living in Nevada, journeying through traffic to a sportsbook can be a pain.

Fortunately, Leroy’s Sportsbook has the solution to those problems: Placing bets on your smartphones.

In September, Leroy’s launched the country’s first mobile phone application for sports betting. The app, which currently works only on BlackBerry devices, allows people to place bets with Leroy’s Sportsbook as long they’re in the state of Nevada when they’re placing the bet.

The app has been so successful that Leroy’s has submitted a Droid app to the Nevada Gaming Control Board that does the same thing.

“The (BlackBerry) app far exceeded our expectations,” says John English, Leroy’s senior vice president. “We branched off into development of Android models because it is quickly overtaking the marketplace. Everything is working better than expected.”

English expects Leroy’s iPhone app will come next.

Here’s how the Leroy’s app works: If you’re visiting (or living in Nevada), you have to visit a Leroy’s Sportsbook location to set up an account. (Leroy’s has 77 locations in Nevada, but only 34 can currently set up mobile betting accounts.) If you’re visiting the strip in Las Vegas, the Riviera and Sahara’s are the places to go to get an account.

To set up the account, you’ll need your BlackBerry, identification and money to fund account. After the account is set up, they’ll send you the BlackBerry app.

“Once the application is on your phone, you can bet just like you can at any sportsbook in the state a Nevada,” English says.

For non-Nevada residents, the Leroy’s mobile account is only temporary -- lasting three or four days. If you run out of money –- maybe that should be when you run out of money -- you can call Leroy’s up and drop more money into your account using a credit card. In the future, you might be able to use your wireless phone account or an e-wallet to fund your account.

“We’re trying to make every convenience available to our customers,” English says. “Whether or not the Gaming Board will approve is up to the regulators.”

And whether or not you sleep in is up to you.

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In a moment of inspired American innovation, Josh Springer sat at a restaurant in 2009 and was struck with an idea that could one day be recounted in the Smithsonian. (Or at least be toasted by grateful sports fans).

Springer may forever end the dreaded stadium beer line.

“If I can be the person that does that, I’ll die happy,” Springer, 28, joked Tuesday.

Springer and his Montesano, Wash., start-up company GrinOn Industries have invented the “Bottom’s Up Draft Beer Dispensing System.”

It “pours” a draft beer nine times faster than traditional methods and dramatically reduces spillage. It's so cool to see, it’s generated viral YouTube videos and dragged fans away from the actual events to stand around and watch suds get served.

The key is the use of a cup that features a hole at the bottom and small, circular magnet that rests over it. When placed on the system, the magnet is lifted up by the pressure-driven beer. The cup fills up until the weight of the liquid pushes the magnet back down over the hole. The cup can then be lifted off and the beer consumed as normal.

What traditionally takes a single worker concentrating on the pour -- which still produces spillage and waste to produce the proper foam head -- is now hands-free, fast and almost perfectly efficient.

Springer said stadiums that have used the system have gone from using eight beer pourers for every two cashiers to having one beer pourer for every eight cashiers. A single stand has been able to deliver 56 draft beers in one minute, an unofficial world record.

“It’s just a fantastic system,” said Joe Carter, the director of food and beverage at the Thomas and Mack Center and Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, two of the handful of venues that have begun employing the system.

“The speed of service is phenomenal,” Carter continued. “There isn’t really a line anymore. The only thing that slows it up now is taking the money.”

*****

Less than two years ago Springer was having dinner with family and friends at a Mexican restaurant in Aberdeen, Wash. He’d always been the kind of guy who imagined various inventions, built things in his spare time and was leaned on by friends to fix various things. At parties, if a keg was producing too much foam, he’d be the one to get it straight.

He was working at a sign company at the time and when staring at a margarita pitcher, he, for reasons he can’t explain, noted that it would be cool if there was a beer pitcher that filled up through the bottom.

“I have a really, really good imagination,” Springer said. So good, no one even understood what he was talking about.

“Everybody looked at me like I was crazy,” Springer said. “My dad (Allan) finally said, ‘yeah, it would be cool, but you can’t do it.’”

That bit of a challenge was all he needed. He went to work in his spare time and four days later, using auto parts, wiring that looked like a bird’s nest and one of his wife’s TV trays, produced a primitive prototype, with a pitcher that had a latch on the bottom. He thought it might be useful in bars.

“It was glued, taped and scraped together,” Springer said.

A real latch system would be expensive though -- maybe $30,000 per unit. That was cost prohibitive even to start -- “I didn’t have $30,000.” Then he realized individual cups, featuring a magnet bottom would work best. The magnet would cost less and, if it featured a cool design could become an advertising tool that would offset unit costs.

“The whole thing was about me and my drunk friends,” Springer said. “What would my drunk friends do when they got to the bottom? They’d steal the magnet because they’re drunk. The magnet goes on your refrigerator and well, now you’re advertising. ... Now you have a disposable cup.”

The entire concept still seemed ludicrous, of course. Pour beer from the bottom up? Springer and his friends, drunk or sober, could envision it but no one else could. They contacted the Seattle-based microbrewery, Red Hook, and offered to show them their invention. They sent a homemade video of one cup being filled.

“The Red Hook people called back and said, ‘We don’t know what hell we just saw, but you have to come up,’” he said.

Springer took a week off from work, and along with his friends put in 20-hour days before heading to Seattle. Red Hook management was in awe. A company was born.

“I haven’t been back to work at the sign company since,” Springer said.

*****

As the system has been perfected, the interest has grown. The Thomas and Mack was a beta site for a Supercross race and Carter realized it was a stroke of genius when fans gathered around just to watch the cups fill up.

“People were holding their children up just to see it,” Carter said. “These fans were absolutely stunned.”

This wasn’t just an improved system, Carter said. Suddenly food and beverage was helping provide actual entertainment at an event. It’s been used temporarily at Los Angeles Angels games and poolside at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, among other sites.

Carter said he expects the distribution system to sweep the country as stadium and team owners realize the overwhelming benefits and demand major service chains such as Aramark implement it.

“There is no downside to it,” Carter said.

Minus the line, you’ll sell more beer –- especially in bursts during stoppages of play in football or intermissions at concerts. Spillage –- which costs in wasted product -- is minimal. The beer, Carter said,
comes out smoother and perfectly poured.

And people love the novelty. The only extra cost is the cups. A generic beer cup runs about 10 cents, according to Carter. The GrinOn cups are about 45 cents.

However, by imprinting the magnet with a custom logo -- something commemorating an event or team and featuring an advertisement -- the expense can be subsidized.

“I can defer the cost of my cup if I have an advertiser,” Carter said.

Springer said some other venues are actually making money on the cups due to advertising, which winds up on fridges for years.

While some would say selling more beer isn’t necessarily a positive -- there are enough over-served fans already -- Springer figures the people that are really helped are the moderate drinkers, who skip buying a beer because of the line. It’s the heavy drinker, he says, that will wait as long as it takes to get alcohol.

Best of all, a baseball fan can leave his seat at the end of a half inning, grab two properly poured beers and return without missing a single pitch.

The company is small, just six employees and a bit overwhelmed. YouTube videos of the beer cups filling has driven interest –- “they’ve gone beyond viral.” So too have people who have seen the system in Vegas and then asked stadiums back at their homes why they aren’t using it.

“It’s a good place to be in,” Springer notes. “I need to hire more people.”

This is innovation meeting demand -- and potentially delivering nearly every sports fan’s dream, the death of the beer line. There’s no word on figuring out how to speed up the bathrooms though.

-- Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports national columnist.

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The way in which we digest news as a culture these days is not only drastically different than it was five, 10, 15 years ago, but the pace at which it continues to change only seems to increase over time. The explosion of social media and the ubiquity of cell phones have made sharing and viewing our favorite content so easy a caveman could do it –- to coin a cliche. In addition, video gaming technology and juiced-up televisions enhance our sports intake in ways that generations before us never even thought possible.

Nothing combines the sensory overload that is our technologically-infused culture quite like the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This year’s edition recently took place in Las Vegas and featured a bevy of new goodies for the techie within us all. In case you missed it, here are five things that could revolutionize your sports enjoyment in 2011.

1) 3D Televisions: It’s only a matter of time

Not many people are excited at the prospect of watching sports while wearing a clunky pair of glasses. And even if they are, they certainly won’t be excited about the prices of those glasses after dropping a boatload on the television itself. But that isn’t stopping companies like Sony, Panasonic, Vizio and Samsung from pushing this new tech harder than ever. CNET did a nice job of detailing exactly where the industry is looking

to go, so it’s worth a read for those who aren’t really familiar with the differing perspectives from a tech standpoint. The bottom line is this: 3D televisions aren’t quite far enough along to convince Americans that they are a must-have device. However, the commitment to improving the experience is clearly there, and many industries, including the sports industry, have begun to tinker with the possibilities. So be patient, bide your time, and check in every now and again to see just how close you are to witnessing Troy Polamalu jump right on into your living room on that next interception.

2) 3D Gaming: The time is now

One technology that will always be able to use sports as a platform for success is the video game industry. Every year there are multiple games for each major professional sport, and they fly off the shelves at $50 a pop or more. Thanks to Nintendo, the Wii quickly became an overnight sensation and triggered a domino effect from Microsoft and Sony, who have established themselves as players in the motion gaming space. But the video gaming industry is not one to stand still; 3D gaming is in the crosshairs and baby steps are being made to bring the idea to market. So although it might take a while before you can affordably watch your favorite characters on The League compete for the Shiva in 3D, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be some options for delivering a curveball or tossing a TD pass in 3D on your gaming device soon. In fact, rumors are that Nintendo’s portable 3D gaming device, called the Nintendo 3DS, will be available in the United States this March. You can check out a video that was taken at CES demonstrating the abilities, but parents, be forewarned: many are concerned that this type of gaming in the hands of young kids could cause stunted eye development. In other words, it might be prudent to wait on some studies before investing in 3D gaming for youngsters. In the meantime, there’s always Jerry Rice & Nitus’ Dog Football.

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