August 29, 2013

Technology Makes Following Sports Better Than Ever

The Loop > Magazine > Issue 9

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By Steven Aquino

Most of the nerds I know on the Internet have another hobby, something separate from coding, writing or designing that they’re heavily interested in. Some are passionate about coffee, while others geek out over comic books and sci-fi movies. And others still are musicians or they play video games.

Myself, I’m a huge sports fan. For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed watching games, keeping tabs on player transactions, poring over statistics, and playing sports-themed video games. I even played Challenger Baseball, the Little League equivalent for children and teens with disabilities. When I was a kid, I was renowned for knowing where nearly every NFL player played his college ball, as well as having an encyclopedic knowledge of baseball history. (My recall of NFL alma maters has wavered a bit as I’ve grown older, but I’m proud to say the encyclopedic knowledge remains.) Without a doubt, sports occupies the largest area of interest for me outside of technology.

Some of my earliest memories of following sports go back to when I would visit my uncle on baseball’s Opening Day in the mid-1980s. There’s always an air of romanticism around Opening Day—for baseball diehards, it’s a time of new beginnings, hope, and a clean slate—and I loved spending the entire day with my uncle, relishing every moment of the just-born season. It was during those formative years that I caught the sports bug and that baseball became my first love.

While I surely enjoyed the bonding time with my uncle watching baseball, my interaction with the sport was limited to just that—watching it on television. I’m fortunate in that I’ve spent my entire life living in a region that houses two teams—the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants—but following the league at large was limited to seeing the opponents of the local teams and the occasional national game on ESPN. Moreover, the Internet didn’t exist in the capacity it does today, so there were no websites to visit for up-to-the-second news and numbers. Thus, my only viable avenues for following that sport (and sports as a whole) were limited to TV (or radio) and the yearbooks and guides that publishers like The Sporting News put out each and every year. In fact, going to the bookstore to buy these magazines were events in and of themselves. Always an exciting time.

The Internet along with smartphone and tablet apps in particular have been game-changers when it comes to following baseball. With apps like MLB At Bat, I have the ability to stay updated on every game, every day of the season. Being a National League guy—where real baseball is played, no designated hitter here—my favorite team in At Bat is set to the Giants. I get push notifications sent to my iPhone whenever a Giants game is about to begin, when it ends, when the lead changes, and when a noteworthy play happens. I can watch in-app video highlights of those plays, and even live-stream the game if I so choose. Furthermore, At Bat allows me to view stats, standings, team schedules, and more. Even better, being the aforementioned baseball history buff, I can watch full broadcasts of select classic games dating back to 1952. I can do all this from my iPhone or iPad, whenever I want it. It’s amazing.

However, MLB At Bat isn’t the only place to get my baseball fix nowadays. There are other great apps as well, like Race to the Pennant, which offers a daily look at team standings. Though not entirely useful early on in the season, I keep Race to the Pennant on my devices in the event I want to quickly grok how well (or how bad) the Giants or others are doing. Likewise, a website such as Retrosheet is a wonderful resource for finding box scores and play-by-play accounts of games, past and present. And whenever I plan to attend a game in person, I can use MLB’s At the Ballpark app on my phone to buy tickets, get directions to the venue, find my seat and amenities, and so on. It can’t be said enough: It’s truly amazing to have this wealth of knowledge sitting in my pocket.

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