Saturday, December 20, 2008

On Shoe Throwing

Couple of random thoughts while hoping the stat computer will reboot . . .

Iraqi journalist throws shoes at President of United States. Segments of world see it as apropos protest move. President says no big deal, and it's the price of democracy.

Consider these angles:

First, the shoes were also thrown toward an Iraqi leader. What happens if that leader was Saddam Hussein? Pretty sure it never happens out of fear of the repercussions, and if it does, said journalist gets more than broken ribs in the hustling out of the building. Pretty sure he gets . Maybe some of his family, too.

Second, is it a sign of growing Iraqi freedom that a dissident could throw shoes, or just a growing lack of respect for those in power. See, the flip side of saying that the action is part of a free country is the understanding that someone thinks you're "weak" enough that they won't die for throwing the shoe.

Last, what in the world does it have to do with college athletics? How often do your fans throw things at players, officials, etc.? Usually happens when they are really, really mad.

I digress with a true story. Fan at an NCAA tournament game throws shoe onto the court. Event security heads up into the section where the shoe came from. This should be a pretty easy collar -- look for the kid with one shoe. Crafty, these students. The whole group had discarded one shoe. Game management can't easily find the offender, but smiles on the inside. He'll wait them out. Why? 'Cause it was snowing outside, and there was no way the whole group would go outside in the cold with just one shoe.

Back to the subject at hand. Today, the fan base is more than willing to throw shoes. And at least three of the seven words George Carlin said you couldn't use on television. In the past three days, I've answered extremely scatological screeds over streaming video. I'm not doubting the end users were having problems, but more times than not, they are not on the provider side.

Perhaps I'm early in this academic year to make this prediction, but I might have the logic winner of the complaint email. We and our video stream "suck" (his word, not mine) because we can't get the Windows Media files to play on his high-end Mac (clue one -- you need Flip-for-Mac to watch WMF on any Mac). Here was the payoff pitch -- ESPN can figure this out, why can't you?

Lemme parse that for a moment. ESPN spends millions of dollars -- I mean tens of millions -- on backbone, infrastructure and technology. They reap millions of dollars -- the same tens, thereof -- from advertising. This in turn allows them to have a very, very nice free product -- free to the end user, I might add. AT&T and Verison are paying a pretty penny to "give" you ESPN 360. NBC sunk a similar chunk into Silverlight for the Beijing Olympics. And it was beautiful; hugely successful.

Folks -- It's $9.95 a month. We've got two people on the stream itself. We've got a pretty robust distribution system. And, routinely around 250-300 viewers each men's basketball game; about 450-500 on PPV football. Next month, we'll do 100-200 on gymnastics. Out of that, we get about five percent with trouble. We can help some. Our service provider helps others.

This is not an exact science, and while we're pumping out a lot of content, we're not a network operation. A lot of that content, I might add, that wasn't available before.

It's not perfect. It's getting better as the technology spreads out to more people. It will be the future. Reminds me of hooking together manual phone couplers in the late 1980s to create a radio "network" from a bank of phones in our offices. Today, it works a lot smoother with ISDN and satellites -- but you know what, it can still break and go out.

I know -- fans are passionate. And they're prone to throw shoes when they're upset. We'll just keep ducking.

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