Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

TurboTech: The Wisconsin Episode

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Every once in a while, developerWorks’ Scott Laningham and I get together via Skype to catch up on the latest in technology.

This week, Scott’s on a remote, cheese-head “workation” somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin.

And despite being surrounded by trees and lakes, he found his way to an Interwebs connection, along with a gasoline generator, so we could do one of our “TurboTech” episodes.

I was afraid one of the rhinos that John Swanson thought he spotted in a separate “This Week on developerWorks” episodes recorded with Scott in the great outdoors might sneak up on Scott while we were mid-recording, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

In this episode, Scott and I opined on social media’s role at the London Olympic games, along with a deep space exploration of the latest Mars rover (“Curiosity”) landing on the Red Planet. We also mentioned several forthcoming IBM events stretching from Orlando to Vegas to Singapore.

Me, I’m just glad Scott’s generator didn’t run out of gas. That would have brought a whole new meaning to the phrase of having another episode “in the can!”

Written by turbotodd

August 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm

The Rory McIlroy-Fest

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(Photo by J.D. Cuban, for Golf Digest.) These are the clubs that new PGA Championship champion, Rory McIlroy, had in his bag as of three years ago, according to Golf Digest. With his new victory, he can probably afford quite an upgrade, and this just in time for the Ryder Cup in Medinah, where he’s clearly destined by European captain Jose Marie Olazabal to play a central role on the European squad.

The PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, ended with a non-climactic finish yesterday afternoon.

I was playing some golf of my own up in north Texas with my father, so I got to watch the final round of the PGA once I returned home to Austin.

And when I watch the final round of a major, I can tell you I typically watch the whole round, start to finish, which is at least four hours.

I also had to place myself in a news blackout starting around 3 PM CST.

Driving south back to Austin, I realized the radio news might give the winner away, so I turned Puccini’s “Tosca” on my iPhone and listened to it while navigating the slow southbound traffic.

Once home I warmed up the DVR and settled in, and I quickly realized the last round was about to become another Rory McIlroy-fest. If you saw what he did in the U.S. Open at Congressional last summer, you realize all Rory needs is a little winding up in those high performance gears before he starts golfing like a phenom, and that’s what happened yesterday afternoon on Kiawah Island.

Yes, Carl Petterson, and Adam Scott, and even Tiger Woods, weren’t completely out of the mix after finishing the third round and moving on to the fourth and final round in the late morning.

But Rory was like a fine BMW sedan whose upper end just needs a little punch of the gas to speed up and settle in to the highway, leaving everyone else in its dust.

Also, it wasn’t just one part of his game that was making the difference, as is often the case with a championship caliber player.

Rory’s drives were threading the waves of the Ocean Course, his mid-irons were mostly finding their targets with great precision, and when they weren’t that close, his putter was picking up the slack.

He simply looked like Tiger Woods in his hey day — and as we saw at Congressional, when he gets wound up like that, he simply can’t be stopped and is playing a whole different level of golf than we mere mortals.

For all those who’ve been watching the Olympics in London these past two weeks, and marveling at the performances of all the great athletes…well, that’s kind of how many of we golf fans feel when we watch Rory (or any great player) turning it on in a round like that.

By the way, Rory broke yet another record, one that belonged to Jack Nicklaus: The largest margin of victory in a PGA Championship (his was seven, and McIlroy’s yesterday was 8, at 13 under).

In the PGATour.com’s wrap-up, Tiger Woods summed up McIlroy’s potential as a player like this: “When he gets going, it’s pretty impressive to watch.”

Uh, yeah, ya think?  But I guess coming from the former world number one, those are still potent words.

So, congratulations, Rory.  You were a tour de force in a major once again, and if you play anywhere that well in the Ryder Cup, the U.S. has that much less of a chance in taking back the Cup.

Regardless, Medinah’s going to be some seriously compelling, but nerve-wracking golf.

Written by turbotodd

August 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm

A New Pulse

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We’re getting down to the wire on these London 2012 Summer Olympic games.

First off, bonne chance to the U.S. Women’s soccer team, who will have another go at the Japan women’s team, a powerful side that beat the U.S. last summer in the Women’s World Cup finals in penalty kicks.

Kick-off should start around 1:45 CST, and can be found on NBCOlympics.com.

I also wanted to send a shoutout to the ThinkPad, which is celebrating its 20th birthday.

Though IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo a few years back, it was 1992 when IBM introduced its first IBM ThinkPad laptop — I remember it well, because I was an early and proud owner of one of those first machines.

To celebrate the ThinkPad’s birthday, Lenovo is introducing some new machines, including a tablet aimed at business professionals and which runs Windows 8, the Thinkpad Tablet 2.

This new machine will have a 10.1-inch screen and is a mere 9.8mm, and it includes a new Intel Atom processor.

Because it will run Windows 8 Pro, it will be able to run those legacy Window apps you can’t afford to be putting in your desktop recycling bin!

And for you news junkies out there who use Pulse on your iOS or Android devices, there’s some new news on that front: Pulse is now available on the web. 

Click to enlarge. The new web-based edition of the Pulse news reader makes it easy to quickly check in on the latest stories broken down by your favorite topics.

The Web version will include most of the features you see on your mobile device, although the list of news sources will now be on your left, with the stories appearing in an elegant grid layout.

Nice way to catch up all the news you can (and cannot) use with a quick glimpse.

I added the “sports” category to my web edition, among others, so let’s hope there’s a nice big picture about the U.S. Women’s soccer team victory over Japan a little later in the day!

You can find your new Pulse here.

Written by turbotodd

August 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Golfing For Gold

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To my fellow lovers of the links: All this London Olympics fervor has been slowly sinking in, and as I watched Jim Furyk hand Keegan Bradley the keys to the WGC-Bridgestone kingdom on the 18th green this past Sunday, it reached a fever pitch: Golf is coming back to the Olympics.

A brief bit of history is in order: The last time golf was featured in a Summer Olympic Games, Henry Ford’s Model T had not yet come off a production line.

Yes, it’s been that long.  1904, in fact.

Canada’s George Lyon was the last Olympian male to take a gold medal in golf.

When golf returns to the Summer Olympics in 2016 in Rio after a 112 year hiatus, it will be a much welcomed return for golf fans around the globe.

The International Golf Federation (IGF), which is the governing body overseeing golf’s return to the Olympics, proposed a 72-hole stroke play tournament for both the men and womens’ events in 2016, with a 3-hole playoff in the event of a tie.

Eligibility for the tournament would be determined by IGF rankings, with the top 15 players being eligible regardless of country, and then the next 45 players representing countries that didn’t already have two representatives.

And if you’re curious as to the designer, and designer, for the Rio Olympics course, check out this article on 48 year-old golf architect Gil Hanse, a “traditionalist” course designer known for his work at TPC Boston and Castle Stuart in Inverness, Scotland.

***

As to the FedExCup Standings thus far, after Bridgestone, Tiger Woods is still in the lead.  The next several behind him include Zach Johnson, Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan, and Bubba Watson, all of whom are pretty much neck in neck.  Bradley jumped up to 7th place after his victory.

This week’s PGA Championship at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, has some big stakes — and I don’t just mean the PGA Championship trophy.

The Ryder Cup is just around the corner in Medinah, and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III will not only be playing the PGA — he’ll be scouting his captain’s picks.

PGATour.Com has Phil Mickelson “on the bubble,” and explains players like Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, and Hunter Mahan will be right on his tail.

The PGA Championship is the season’s last official major, but with the Ryder Cup looming ahead, there’s still plenty of great golf to be enjoyed before football season takes over (and baseball winds into the playoffs).

***

Turbo recently invested in a TaylorMade “Rocketballz” driver to fill out his golf bag, and based on his experiences thus far, swears that everything they’re saying in the TV commercials thus far is true!

As for my own game, I have to admit, the Taylor Made Rocketballz driver I recently bought has been a godsend.

I played a course in Frisco, Texas, this past weekend that required some serious needle threading off the tee box. Normally, I would be paranoid about such tight drives, and would panic hit them left, right…everywhere but center.

But with a minor swing adjustment where I keep my elbows closer to my body through my swing, I hit 13 out of 14 fairways this weekend (Note: I didn’t have to use my driver on the par 3s, thankfully 🙂 ), with most going straight and long…I’d say an average of 15-25 yards longer than normal.

Straight and long, the most beautiful phrase in golf.

However, I’ve plateaued in my mid-iron game, and could also use some help around the greens, so I’ve decided to take a golf school vacation.

I’ve been thinking about it for years, but it’s time to commit. The Academy of Golf Dynamics is located right here in Austin, and despite the 100+ heat, I’m hopeful the three-day course will help me work out those few kinks that are really keeping me from consistently lowering my score.

Their Web literature indicates that most players who follow their guidance and do the follow-up work achieve a 25% reduction in their handicap.  I spoke with one of the instructors there on the phone, and he explained the summer workshops don’t quite fill up as much as the spring, so if I’m willing to beat the Texas heat, I’ll get more than my fair share of personal instruction.

I’m certainly going to give it a try.  Golf is something you can never master, but it IS certainly something you can always improve upon. And for those of you who play consistently, you know that improving and hitting those masterful shots you always knew you could hit in your mind is what keeps you coming back for more.

So, I’ll be sure to take some notes in case any of you out there are considering such an investment and let you know how it goes.

Right after the three days of the workshop, my 70 year-old, 10 handicap father (I’m a 13), is coming in to town and we’re going to take a week straight and play some of the best courses in and around Austin to see if my investment in the workshop will have paid off!

Moving forward, I’m also going to try and more consistently use an iPhone app (“Golfshot GPS”) to track my play so that I can better understand precisely where and how I’m losing the most strokes.

Business analytics on the golf course?  Hey, whatever it takes.

Written by turbotodd

August 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Let The Games Begin

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What a Friday.

The London Summer Olympic games are set to officially kick off with tonight’s opening ceremony. In the U.S., it actually starts at 4 PM EST, so get those DVRs ready to record.

I’ve been perusing the NBCOlympics.com Web site to try and get a better lay of the land, and I have to say, it’s a little overwhelming trying to figure out what to watch, what with all the social and livestreaming capabilities and endless broadcast coverage.

On the other hand, there’s a little something for just about everyone (and for me, that means soccer!)

London, I wish you all the best and will be watching from afar. Much as I love you, boy am I glad I’m not there trying to fight the crowds in person.

Uh, in the meantime, following up on that last post about waiting for the bugs to get worked out to upgrade to Mountain Lion?…well, he says sheepishly, I admit it, I have no self-control…I dropped by $20 in the Apple virtual till last night, and after about a gazillion hour download, was able to effortlessly upgrade my MacBook Air with the new Apple OS.

So far, I’ve had no pains whatsoever, and I think my machine actually runs that much smoother and faster with the upgrade.

I’ll reserve full judgement until I’ve had the opportunity to take it for a few more times around the block, but so far so good, and I haven’t even begun to play with the new toys yet.

Facebook Foes

I’m looking forward to the Facebook integration, which is expected in a Mountain Lion later update this fall.  I expect Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might be looking forward to it as well, for after yesterday’s post-earnings announcement beating that Facebook stock took, Z’s probably ready for any good news to come his way.

All this Facebook smack talk, particularly in the mass media on TV shows like “Morning Joe,” makes me wonder if there’s a hidden conspiracy afoot. Are broadcast media concerned about Facebook’s growth and stickiness because, perhaps, it’s starting to steal time spent watching their TV programs, and, thus, swiping $$$ away from their bottom lines?

Facebook revenues were up 32% year-over-year, an increase that would be perfectly reasonable in most any other business, but for social media growth expectations have become over-inflated. When a property like Facebook grows from 100 million to 800 million in a few short years, you can presume at some point the growth will slow.

On the other hand, by having a user base where over 500 million of those consumers come back daily on average, it seems to me that’s a place where plenty of marketers would want to be.

What cable channel, offers up 500 million pairs of eyeballs on a daily basis?

Oh well, perhaps it’s time to look for other diversions on this Olympic Friday.

Tablet THINK

How about this one?

To celebrate centuries of science and technology innovations, IBM has reinvented its award-winning 2011 THINK exhibit at New York City’s Lincoln Center as a free interactive app for iPad and Android tablets.

Geared to tech fans and educators, the IBM THINK exhibit app is an “innovation time machine” that shows how early tools have evolved into modern advances that create healthier populations, greener energy and safer, less congested cities.

It includes all kinds of cool stuff, including an interactive timeline that chronicles the simple act of measurement since prehistoric times, as well as various stories of progress on everything from space exploration to weather prediction.

You can find the iPad version here, and the Android version here.

Written by turbotodd

July 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

One Missed Putt

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If you go back and read the media coverage prior to this past week’s 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s in Lancashire, U.K., very few sports writers were talking about Ernie Els.

But it was exactly Ernie Els, the one-time British Open Champion and 42 year-old grinder who walked away with the Claret jug yesterday after surreptitiously ousting Australia’s Adam Scott who had led much of the tournament, and was, in fact, leading yesterday through the 17th hole, before collapsing with a missed par putt on the 18th hole in front of thousands of golf fans in attendance and millions more in the TV and Internet audience.

What made the collapse even more painful was that Els and Scott are good friends, and for Scott, this would have been his first major victory.

Despite the outcome, the 2012 Open Championship made for dramatic sports television, especially if you’re a golf fan.

Though other notables, including Tiger Woods, world #1 Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and a handful of others seemed like they might have a chance to head up higher on the leaderboard at times, it was Scott who seemed destined for victory, playing strategically, cautiously, and most importantly in golf, consistently –that is, all the way up to the 15th hole at Royal Lytham.

But then, as is the case with the game of golf, fate, the winds, and perhaps even some nerves, got in Scott’s way, and with a long birdie putt on 18, Els earned his way to his second Claret jug.

One couldn’t help but have empathy for Scott — he seemed calm and collected throughout the tournament, and no doubt played steady, eddy golf. But the closing holes of a major are key, and just a couple of minor slip-ups — overshooting the green on 17, and driving into one of Royal Lytham’s lethal pot bunkers on 18 — sealed his fate.

As for Tiger Woods, it seemed going into Sunday he might have a chance to overcome Scott early in the day. Throughout the tournament, Woods had only pulled out his driver once, instead opting for smart and more strategic placement of his drives using irons to avoid Lytham’s 205 bunkers. But in the end, that strategy shortened Tiger’s distance off the tees, and lengthened his approaches, making it especially difficult to get close to the already-hard-to-reach pins on Sunday.

And Ernie Els, well certainly his iron play kept him in the running, but it was his putter that won the day. His 12-foot putt on 18 to draw Scott one shot closer to him will be recorded in perpetuity on the great Open Championship highlight reels.

Unfortunately, so will Adam Scott’s missed 7 footer that, had he made it, would at least have given one more opportunity to close the deal in a playoff with Els.

With three majors down, and one to go (next month’s PGA Championship will be held at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina), this has proven to be a year of dramatic golf and even more dramatic majors.

It’s also likely going to be the year that golf’s key governing authorities, the USGA and the Royal and Ancient in the U.K., are going to face increased pressure to finally contend with what many call golf’s “steroid,” the belly putter, which players like Els, Scott, Matt Kuchar, and so many others have begun using that allows them to “anchor” the putter in their chests or bellies, and which many think is an unfair advantage.

Me, I’m just hoping for one last and final major in the form of the PGA Championship that is even half as dramatic as the British and U.S. Opens have been, all of which will have been the consummate set up for this September’s Ryder Cup matches in Medina!

Written by turbotodd

July 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Smarter Soccer

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The Euro 2012 National soccer championship may now be history, with Spain putting another significant win under its belt, but that doesn’t mean the sport of soccer doesn’t continue to make some significant advances.

In fact, the U.S. Major League Soccer organization, along with sports manufacturer Adidas, have announced what could prove to be a game-changing breakthrough in how sports organizations around the world use big, real-time data to help optimize player and team performance.

Image

The above screen shot taken from adidas’ Webcast earlier today announcing details of its ‘”miCoach” data tracking and analysis system for soccer demonstrates the type of data coaches using the system will be able to generate in near real-time. This particular graph demonstrates the total distance run by each of the players on a team. This type of information will help inform the coaching staff on everything from player position to conditioning.

Next Wednesday, the Major League Soccer All-Star team will take on the English Premier League’s Chelsea in what will be the world’s first “smart” soccer match.

In that game, Adidas has partnered with the MLS to have its new “miCoach” data tracker embedded in player uniforms, part of an overall integrated wireless system that, using iPads, will provide coaches with real-time data about player position and performance.

This new technology builds on the existing MiCoach Speed Cell, a small device that snaps into the bottom of the Adizero F50 soccer shoe. That device tracks pace and distance, average and maximum speed, distance covered at high intensity and acceleration.

But the miCoach technology will go a step further, so to speak, and provide coaches with a variety of real-time data: player position, power output, speed, distance, intensity of play, acceleration, heart rate…you get the picture.

And so will the coaches of both teams.

Through their ability to monitor player’s movements, heart rate, and the other key data, and be able to relay that to coaches in milliseconds, this new technology will help all involved to develop a better understanding of the physical and physiological impact on both teams and individuals in both games and practice.

Further analysis of the cumulative data will help coaches in preventing overtraining and risk of injury, and hence maintain optimum player performance throughout the season, not to mention to help shape and adjust their coaching strategies.

As both this game, and future trial runs, bear out, one can only imagine the potential of such types of new “datatainment,” enabling fan access to such data via wireless tablet devices, smartphones, interactive TV, and the like.

But with 3.5 billion and counting soccer fans around the globe, Adidas and MLS had better invest in lots of servers.

Adidas and Major League Soccer announced plans today have the MLS integrating the adidas micoach Elite System league-wide in 2013, marking the world’s first “smart league.”

Beginning in the 2013 season, all 19 MLS clubs will use the data-tracking technology from adidas, providing coaches, trainers and players with real-time performance metrics including heart rate, speed, acceleration, distance, field position and, for the first time, power.

The adidas micoach Elite System has been in development since 2010, and is the product of extensive research, science and cutting-edge technology development by adidas to create the most advanced system for elite teams across the globe.

The micoach Elite System was developed in close consultation and collaboration with many of the leading soccer coaches and clubs including Major League Soccer teams New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders FC, as well as Real Madrid, AC Milan, Ajax and Bayern Munich.

In the U.S. you can watch the MLS All-Star Game against Chelsea on ESPN2 at 8:30 EST, Wednesday, July 25th.

Written by turbotodd

July 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm

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