Where are the great sports apps?

I am a huge sports enthusiast. I love the Buckeyes (despite all their current woes!). I follow with interest the Seahawks, the Browns, USC, UW, the Big Ten, the Pac Ten, the SEC. I watch excessive amounts of college football, college basketball, pro football, and pro basketball. And of course I get sucked into Olympics, the Stanley Cup, World Cup, or pretty much any other major sports event. Except baseball, which is incredibly boring.

I spend waaay too much money on sports. It is embarrassing to add it up.

* Season tickets to OSU football games, parking pass, and all the travel and other costs associated with attending OSU games — thank goodness my folks and sister usually cover the tailgate, thanks!
* Occasional bowl tickets and bowl trips. The 2002 National Championship win against Miami was the greatest trip ever.
* Other sporting event tickets a couple times a year. Latest: Rat City Roller Derby here in Seattle. Highly entertaining.
* A stupid amount on cable/satellite service. Because despite all the promise of IPTV and sites like Hulu, if you want to watch live HD sports, you pretty much need to pay for cable or satellite. And not just the basic package either, but the packages that pick up all the ESPN channels, the Big Ten network, and the Fox Sports channels. And given all the recent NCAA football TV deals, I am sure my costs will just go up here.
* And of course I buy magazines, t shirts, jerseys, “giant foam fingers”:http://www.overstock.com/Sports-Toys/Ohio-State-Buckeyes-1-Fan-Foam-Finger/5967412/product.html, “Fatheads”:http://www.fathead.com/, and all other kinds of fan gear.

My daily web reading includes all the online sports media. The major branded sites of course, but also all the blogs covering college football, and there are some great ones — “EDSBS”:http://www.everydayshouldbesaturday.com/, “Dr. Saturday”:http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday, “Smart Football”:http://smartfootball.com/, and oh so many more. And the beat writers for local media covering the teams I care about — the “Dispatch”:http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/buckeyextra/dispatch-stories/osufootball.html, the “Plain Dealer”:http://www.cleveland.com/osu/, the “Seattle Times”:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/, the “Orange-County Register”:http://www.ocregister.com/sections/sports/usc/, the “LA Times”:http://www.latimes.com/sports/college/usc/, etc. I hit the web sites, consume the RSS feeds, subscribe to the tweet streams.

NCAA basketball pools? Bowl Pickem contests? Regular season pickem challenges? Of course, though I have never really gotten into fantasy football, thank goodness, because I would probably love it and burn way too much time playing it.

I’m not alone in my obsession or my spending. Thank goodness sports mania is more socially acceptable than other bad habits, the amount of time and money spent on sports each year is mindboggling. College football as a business took in $3.2B in revenue last year, making $1.1B in profit (“PDF”:http://www.sbrnet.com/pdf/college-football-financial-stats-by-division.pdf). There are games on nearly every day of the week now, and possibly spinning into Sunday in a big way if the NFL labor problems continue. And TV coverage is growing apace, with all the major conferences following the Big-10’s lead and spinning up dedicated networks. 50 million fans attended games last year, a “record”:http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_college/2011/02/record-setting-year-for-college-football-attendance.html — only stadium capacity limits prevents this from being even larger.

The NFL is an even larger beast in revenues — $9B in revenue (“PDF”:www.thebostoncompany.com/core/…/May11_Views_Insights_NFL.pdf). Not as many people attend the games as at the college level, but the media rights, merchandising rights, etc. are worth far more.

Expenditures don’t stop at watching games — fans will obviously buy anything having do to with their teams. I consider my collection of jackets and hats to be fairly modest. I haven’t begun to tap into the richness of the market. The range of products and services available is stunning, for example:

* “Grill grates”:http://www.ohiostatealumni.org/shop/marketplace/Pages/OhioStateGrillGrates.aspx.
* “Longaberger baskets”:http://www.ohiostatealumni.org/shop/marketplace/Pages/LongabergerTallTissueBasket.aspx. These first two make some sense given the tailgating scene
* “Pottery”:http://www.ohiostatealumni.org/shop/marketplace/Pages/OhioStatePottery.aspx.
* “Furniture”:http://www.collegechair.com/. Starting to get a little far afield
* “Credit cards”:http://alumni.usc.edu/benefits/bankofamerica.html.
* “Travel”:http://www.texasexes.org/travel/find_trip.asp. Not just physical goods!
* “Toys”:http://www.buckeyeshoppingdeals.com/fan/ohio-state-buckeyes-mr-potato-head
* “Wine”:http://www.personalwine.com/catalog/site_affiliate_index_label.php?name=texas
* “Fishing reels”:http://ardentreels.com/products/viewProduct2.asp?prodId=92.
* “Fashion Apparel”:http://www.meeshandmia.com/UniversityofNebraskaAll.html. For some definition of “fashion”
* “Perfume.”:https://masik.com/index.php/university-of-florida. What does a Florida Gator smell like? Or aspire to smell like? and how is that different than the fragrance aspirations of an LSU Tiger
* “Galvanized Buckets”:http://www.amazon.com/NCAA-Oklahoma-Sooners-5-Quart-Galvanized/dp/B003M9YPRU

My smartphone/tablet doesn’t really deliver much to me. Given all this enthusiasm, it is suprising to me that the iPhone (and other smartphone) and iPad experience for sports is so tepid, so undeveloped — no one has figured out how to extract money from me on my mobile device. My #1 app for following sports on the go is Twitter. I download a bunch of free score apps (ESPN and Yahoo Sportacular are both reasonable) which are fine, but I don’t pay a dime for any app or service. Given the willingness of people like me to pay for damn near anything, this is surprising. There are a bunch of sports checkin apps, but they don’t provide any real value — no better game info, no scores, no video, and honestly the enthusiasts just aren’t on these services.

What’s missing?

* Video. Realtime, clips. This is the biggest glaring problem. Particularly on football Saturdays. I want to see highlights of my team, highlights of other games, full videos of other games, plays of the day, video summaries of action in other conferences. During the week, video highlights of the upcoming opponent, clips from last year’s game, etc. And I want it on demand. I can get some of this flipping around channels on the TV but I can’t get it on my device. I’d pay for it but no one is offering.
* Opponent information. The tweet stream is good but I’d love more. What are all the opponent blogs says. What are the opponent mainstream press sites saying. Latest updates on injuries. Some curation/editorial would be good here. In the week we play Nebraska, where do I go to read all the pregame Nebraska material — blogs, newspapers, analysis, forums, etc? Where do i load up on Nebraska Hate gear? Where do I find Nebraska jokes?
* On site experience. There are some real challenges to deal with with respect to on-site, game day services. The load of 150K people all trying to use their phones around Ohio Stadium is crushing. If I was a carrier I’d offer a peak location package, truck in some antennas (cell and wifi), and charge more for peak location use. No idea if the economics would work out here. Beyond just connectivity, I’d like “PointInside” like features at the game. Where and when does the band perform. Where are various other pre-game festivities. Where is the best tailgating activity. Where can I grab a pedicab. Where are the porta-potties.
* Scores and stats. The ESPN and Yahoo Sportacular apps are fine, but they totally break down under Saturday load. There must be a way to better architect these for load. I am always super frustrated at some point on Saturday due to the lack of current reliable score info.
* Deep focus. The existing mobile apps from ESPN, etc, are all super generic, covering all sports and all teams. I’ll pay for depth coverage of college football or of Ohio State. I won’t pay for apps that cover tennis, golf, baseball, and football equally well.
* Gaming. Fantasy football is obviously popular at the NFL level. Nothing comparable really exists at the college level. Yet the level of personal identification with teams, the level of passion is probably greater at the college level. A great college game will need to leverage the intense rivalries in the game.

Sports enthusiasts have proven they will spend stupid amounts of money on their sports mania. It is surprising to me that no smartphone apps have done a good job targeting this user base and trying to separate them from some of their money. I spend more money on stupid casual games apps on my smartphone than I do on one of my main avocations in life, and this seems out of step.

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