More Fair Than Real Life

Microsoft has a great marketing campaign going for their new NFL Fever game for the Xbox console. They have developed a highlight show, "NFL Fever on Monday Night," that simulates/previews the upcoming Monday night game.

Microsoft claims that the AI has successfully predicted three games so far this season. (Update: they predicted the Pats' Superbowl upset of the Rams as well). This begs two questions: How will Xbox and their competitors shape the sports betting industry in the future? And will Vegas bookies have simulations running on Xbox or Playstation 2 consoles in a back room somewhere to determine betting lines? I would…

Furthermore, if gaming companies can create such a realistic experience with videogames, do we need the athletes anymore? Why not just run simulations based on top-secret randomly generated player statistic information? This is the most democratic sport experience for a fan possible. You a Cubs fan? Rejoice — you could actually win the World Series next year…

Neat Niches

Courtesy of BenettonEver sat in front of the boob tube and thought "jeez, 200 channels and absolutely NOTHING on…"?

For years, TV programming has seemingly deteriorated, as first cable and then satellite increased the number of available channels and diluted content. Those days may be nearing an end.

The Internet, thought to be the next culprit flogging the carcass of television, will actually breathe some life into its not-quite-dead body. Now you can focus all of your development money on quality programming, because nobody will watch the chaff. I can continuously find quality content, and it can come from anywhere…

Watch for some really cool sports filling niche market programming, such as Sepaktakraw from Malaysia (see also no.10). You thought volleyball players were great athletes? Try taking away the use of your hands.

That's right. Sepaktakraw is comparable to playing volleyball on a shorter net, but using only head and feet. And they still get the huge spikes. Can you tell me that IMG doesn't have their eyes on this one?

The Artist Formerly Known as A.I.

What makes Allen Iverson so good, I ask you. Is it because he is the greatest athlete? The quickest? The best leader?

Before you can answer, I press on: the answer to all of the above is no. Iverson is the best basketball player on the planet today because he is the most creative.

"Creativity…" you mutter, "…isn't that for artists and such? Iverson is talented and he's fearless — I mean, he should have been in a body cast for most of last season — but the closest he comes to creative is with the tattoos and cornrows, and frankly that's one big cliche as far as I'm concerned."

No, really, I reply, the secret to Iverson's greatness is his creativity, his ability to improvise. The tattoos are just another means of expressing the creativity lurking inside.

What is professional sport media all about? It's about the creation of the mythic hero. When Iverson was still seen as the bad boy of the NBA, there was little chance he would be a sport media star, since the gangsta doesn't jibe with the traditional notion of the mythic hero. This past season, the NBA desperately tried to sanitize his image and Iverson himself reached new levels on the court — suddenly all was well. Here was the warrior, a tiny body slammed to the hardwood about a half dozen times every evening, as routine as the teevee fan at home slamming the fridge door with a coldie in hand. Here was something worth aspiring to, a modern hero.

Never a word about his creativity. Never a mention that this man is an artist as well, as Braveheart was referred to as a warrior-poet. Those aspects of his brilliance are always neglected, since they don't mesh well with the image of mythic hero. Artistry is too, well, artsy. Half of Iverson is being ignored.

Courtesy of 'U8TV'

Of course, the mythic hero star system exists outside of sport as well. The entertainment industry in general is rife with those worshipped for their physical gifts (beauty, athleticism) rather than their whole person. But brilliant producers such as Moses Znaimer (CityTV, etc.) and Zev Shalev (U8TV) have sensed the shifting tides and begun to make the media more about the individual and less about the star system. That is, it is less about "I watch because I want to attain your [unattainable] level" and more about "I watch because I can relate to you in some way."

How long will it take for sport media to become more human? Do we want it to become more human? Can you relate to any professional athlete? Who will become the Znaimer or Shalev of the sport media industry?

Who will recognize Iverson's creativity?

Who will recognize yours?

Sport and War

For centuries, sport has held at least a latent purpose as a military tool, from the ancient Greek training of warriors to the command-and-control symbolism of American football. There is no reason to believe that it will be any different with virtual sport. Here, Bob Mandel attempts to reconcile the tension between mind and body in virtual combat games following the tragic events of September 11, 2001.

"Show Me The E-Currency!"

Today was my first look at online professional sport — in the form of ACsports.com. They appear to be targeting the hardcore teenage sports gamer, and include features such as becoming a cybersport "agent." Forrester Research predicts the Internet sports industry will be worth more than $7 billion by 2004.