Google Glass presents an absurd number of possibilities for spectator and participation sports

When the iPad first came out, I didn't want to take mine out in public. Now, I didn't get it at launch or anything like that, probably a month or two later. But even so I didn't want to be that guy out in public using a piece of technology that at the time was some luxury nerd device—one that many didn't see the purpose of, beyond just "something different." 

Imagine what it's going to be like when Google Glass hits the streets. This isn't something you just pull out of your bag in a coffee shop either; you, presumably, wear these all the time. At least when you're not too self-conscious. The thing is, while I may have been skeptical at first, they (or a Google Glass-like device) may shake up the world even more-so than the iPad, possibly much more.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, or can't remember because these were mentioned a long time ago, here's a look at the Google Glass launch video. More of a hypothetical than a demo, but you get the ideo: visual/contextual data right in front of you.

Now, time for some brainstorming. How could these be used in the world of sports? We'll split them up into two categories. And, we're only being semi-realistic. Some of this may be years off, or not possible for whatever reason. But I'm just going to have fun with it.

Spectator sports

Universal: these could be applied to every sport mentioned below.

  • Instant replay. It would be awesome if Google Glass could loop me in on the television feed, but at the very least it should be able to show me what I just saw:
     
  • Where's my seat? Whether arriving for the first time or returning from grabbing that 7th-inning-last-call beer, sometimes it'd be nice to have something to point me in the right direction, possibly a little waypoint arrow on top of it?
  • And, of course, stats. I should be able to look at a guy or say his a name and have his basic stats appear right in front of me.

Baseball

  • Pitch trajectory. When watching on MLB Gamecast, it will show something like what you see below, the path of the ball laid out horizontally. Imagine if, while sitting in the box seats, you could switch something on and see each pitch traced. How much would you appreciate that Clayton Kershaw 12-6 then?
  • K zone. Same premise as before, but whether overlaid on my vision or flashing in my periph, I want to see whether that outside fastball actually caught a piece of the plate.
  • Batted ball spray chart. How cool would it be, to be sitting at a game, make a voice command and then see—actually see—how a guy's been hitting over the last two weeks? Each ball he's put in play, mapped out on the field. The same would also be great for that reliever they're bringing out of the pen you've never heard of—what type of contactact have guys been making off of him? Imagine, this on the field, maybe even with each ball's trajectory traced through the air.

Football

  • Tell me this wouldn't be nice at the stadium.
  • This would be years out, but what if Google Glass's camera and software could not only place graphics on the field, but also track the action and diagram the play? It'd be nice.
  • Of course, fantasy points. Whether at the game or watching on TV, I want my team's (and my opponent's team's) points laid out in front of me.

Basketball

  • Like the batted balls spray chart I mentioned for baseball, it would be phenomenal to be sitting at a game and have a guy's night mapped out in front of me on the floor.

    Or maybe you're looking more for tendencies than performance. Imagine something like the New York Times beautiful season-long shot chart laid out right in front of you, on the floor of AmericanAirlines Arena.
  • It's worth noting that the NBA is starting to experimenting with player-tracking cameras. Not only could you see where they're taking shots, but also the situations they're taking them in. Where does Kevin Durant get his open looks? Oh.

    Again, this would all be laid out for you, right on the actual NBA court you're looking at. Could be amazing.

Hockey

  • It's worth noting that they have shot charts too. Could be right on the ice.
  • Maybe?

    FoxTrax, most ridiculous piece of broadcasting technology in the history of sports?

Participation sports

Forget about competitive balance. Where you say "that takes the fun out of it," I say "Yeah, you're probably right. But it could be used as a training tool."

Golf

  • Lots of opportunity here as you already see something similar with the classic range-finder but what if you could track the distance to every obstacle, or mark where your ball would land, wind factored in, if you hit your longest straight drive of the day. Or what if, before each round, you went out on the range and hit three balls with each club and calibrated your glasses for the day? I could use it.
  • Putt preview. Tiger Woods Golf fans know what I'm talking about. Show me the line I have to hit and I'll do my best.
  • Just this grid and distance would be nice too:
  • What about just  tracer-tracking your ball like a videogame, and highlighting potentially-lost balls after they land? God, that would save me a world of trouble.

Skiing/snowboarding

  • That Tiger Woods contour-highlighting putting grid would also come in quite handy in situations when visibility or lighting is poor. My knees would appreciate not having to absorb all those unexpected and unseen bumps.
  • Virtual trailmap. Show me the easiest way down, or the hardest. How do I get to the right lodge again? 
  • Or, sync it up with the mountain's ski report—and add in lift line monitoring—to make my day at the mountain as enjoyable as possible.

Fishing (Warning: I don't fish)

  • If it isn't already readily-apparent, show me the pockets of slow-moving water—just the right place to land that fly.
  • For that matter, remind me again how to tie the type of fly I should be using in this part of Montana.
  • If possible, sync it up with my onboard fish-finder to show me where exactly I should aim my cast.

Hunting/shooting (I don't do this either)

  • Highlighting clays, flying birds or potential targets moving in the brush would be a world of help.
  • Once it tracks that target, Google Glass could also help a hunter hit it. How far away is it? How's the wind blowing? Based on that information, where on the target should I aim?
  • Also, Google Glass could potentially estimate the size and weight of an animal, making sure it's within regulations.

Bowling

  • Like everything else on here that has a score, Google Glass could always have that in front of you. On top of that, it could also display the layout of the pins remaining if you can't tell whether or not there's one or two lurking beyond the pins up front.
  • Like other things mentioned here, it could also show you where to aim, especially when picking up that crucial split.

This probably isn't even three percent into the number of ways this could be applied to participation sports.


I once joked on Twitter that Wu Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." is now "D.R.E.A.M.": developers rule everything around me. Google—or whoever nails down this technology first—is going to have quite a product to work with, but if they don't draw developers to their product then they have nothing. Google Glass presents a truly unbelievable canvass for developers and companies.

We talk so much now about sports fans can enjoy games just as much (if not more) at home in front of their magnificently gigantic HD TVs. Well, Google Glass has the potential to change all that—to change the sports industry dramatically. We are a long ways from seeing some of the things I mention above but the opportunity is certainly there for developers, and the companies who support them, to take advantage of it.

Steve Sabol: A pioneer in illustrating the narratives behind a brand

The fact that social media is just a medium is one of the most-forgotten notions behind what's become a revolutionary technology. It has, undoubtedly, changed forever the ways in which we communicate and who we're able to communicate those things with—but has it fundamentally changed the things we communicate, and how those things make others feel? I don't think so.

It's impossible for us to deeply care about something we don't know anything about. We can't fully understand decisions if we don't know the rationale behind them and we can't truly appreciate acts of greatness if we don't know the work that went into putting individuals into positions to achieve them.

And that's what we have today in social media marketing: attempst to fully illustrate the narratives behind the brands, players and teams we support. But again, that's always been the idea, and no one did it better than Steve Sabol. No, he wasn't the creator of NFL films—his dad Ed was—but he turned it into the artful marvel we've come to know today through masterful film-making and, of course, amazing narratives. From USA Today:

"My dad has a great expression," Steve Sabol told USA TODAY Sports last year. "He always says, 'Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me the truth, and I believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever.' "

Sabol's work has forever changed the sports industry and the content available for its most passionate fans to consume.

I've mentioned it on this publication before but the Green Bay Packers winning Super Bowl XLV is my favorite sports moment, for numerous reasons. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled up NFL Films' America's Team for that year's Green Bay squad on my iPad and fallen asleep to it. It was the complete story behind how one of the very best moments in my life as a lunatic sports fan came to be, down to every backstory and intricate detail.

My favorite part of it was a particular Sound FX clip from what I believe was the Super Bowl's deciding moment. After the Packers went up early, the Steelers stormed back and were driving for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter. Here we are (watch the first minute):

Without that fumble, the Packers may not win the Super Bowl. Without Clay Matthews telling Pickett to "spill it," there is no fumble. Without him recognizing the play early, he doesn't yell "spill it." Without countless hours of film study, he doesn't recognize it early. It's one play, and on TV all those details go completely unnoticed. But with the fine work of NFL films, it's so much more.

How does this apply to the world of social media marketing? A lot of what's done nowadays (or what should be done), emulates what Sabol did in exposing and underscoring the important narratives. Need an example? Look at the amazing work adidas is doing with Derrick Rose and #TheReturn.

With the motion-picture-esque shots and dramatic score, these look quite a bit like NFL Films, don't they? 

The thing is, it doesn't take a superstar and a major marketing campaign for these things to work either. Take, for example, what the team at Goodwin Sports Management is doing with Portland Trailblazers rookie guard Damian Lillard:

Wherever there's passionate fans, there's a thirst for a well-told narrative. Social media has certainly changed the ability to distribute these but the premise has been there since Sabol perfected it.

FOX's in-game music: what the hell was that?

Part of my job at LexBlog, a company that works with lawyers and law firms on social media, includes communicating with attorneys on blog designs. As anyone who's worked in web design knows, it's not the easiest process. I've never designed a site myself, but simply managed the project and acted as an intermediary between our creative team and the client. It's an odd process because, while they are coming to you for your expertise, they also have an idea of what they want. Attorneys, being very strong-willed, often times end up getting what they want. So, often times, ideas will be pushed that aren't necessarily the best ideas, or ones with even a consensus agreement behind them, but just because of certain interpersonal dynamics at play.

Now, I've seen some odd ideas and requests, often-times derived from things viewed on other sites. That said, none of ideas I've come across were as bizarre and unnecessary as FOX's decision to add in-game music to their Seahawks - 49ers broadcast. Why do I relate the two? Because running cheesy over-dramaticized music came out of nowhere and the over/under on how many people thought was a good idea is right at 1.5. This, as I said, is much worse than anything I've seen.

The video:

I feel like a full investigation should be done into who, exactly, thought this was a good idea and who else let them unleash this on the general public. What was the thought process behind it?

"Hey, you know how movies have, like, music in the background?"
"Yeah...?"
"Well, why don't we do that? Why don't sports have music all the time? I mean, NFL Films even does it sometimes."
"Sir, that's a little different. I mean, this is live. We're not going to have near the amount of editing or coordination required to have this not look ridiculous."
"Can't we just try this and see what it looks like? I mean, it's worth a shot."
"it's really not though...I mean, it's live football. This has no chance of working out."
"Let's just try it. It could add something."
"It won't though, I mean—"
"We're doing it."
"But—"
"Start picking out the music.

With Stevie Johnson, Twitter displays power to convey pure emotion

If you're like me, you have at least one Facebook friend who's about to break up with their significant other, is in the process of doing so, or reeling from a recent breakup. You know this because they post about it constantly—could be awful Snow Patrol lyrics or passive aggressive quips better sent to the person they're meant for than hundreds of friends acquaintances who could probably care less. In today's age, when some individuals need someone to talk to, but can't figure out who, they turn to everyone instead. Shouting into a crowd of people who will hear, but not listen, is better than not telling anyone at all.

Such is the case for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who turned to Twitter after dropping a would-be game-winning touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While melodramatic Facebook status updates from acquaintances are obnoxious and a bit annoying, Johnson's shout at the sky through Twitter brings out genuine compassion.

The tweet:

I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...

Yes, I see the irony in feeling less for people I once knew going through real trauma than someone I don't know dropping a sack of leather filled with air but, as a sports fan, it's unique to witness such unfiltered emotion from the athletes we follow. These guys aren't supposed to be like us. They're physical specimens, admired by tens of thousands and likely own as many cars now as I will in my lifetime. So when they do act like us, and we see it, it resonates.

Dan Shanoff has some excellent comments on the subject:

Johnson did not post to Twitter actually thinking it was a line to God; he posted to Twitter because it was the most public way he knew to express the overwhelming emotions he felt following the game. He could share with everyone how he was feeling -- how conflicted he felt, not just about his actions, but about his faith. I don't see him as "blaming" God for the missed catch, as some have said. I see it as much bigger: Johnson questioning, if not even within the brevity of 140 characters, his own faith. That's some heady stuff.
 
In its own way, it is one of the most profound statements ever uttered by an athlete.
This, exactly, is why you let athletes be themselves on Twitter. We see their greatness through so many other channels. Hell, we can even sense Johnson's frustration, his total disappointment, on television but the look of disbelief he gives behind the helmet is nothing compared to the comments he put on Twitter after the game.

This is why social media is powerful, especially for athletes. Fans don't want more of what they already see. We want more. We want honesty and pure transparency. Stevie Johnson gave us just that.