Future of Sports Coverage

I was watching the Amgen Tour Of California today and I approve.

What's really cool is that today was the toughest climbing stage of the race. On the profile maps there was a horrendous descent of about 30km. When I saw that, I thought, wow, I'd love to climb that. Then I noticed it was Silicon Valley's Mount Hamilton which I already have climbed! Yea me!

Based on my previous experience with this mountain, I was quite keen to see the stage and so I checked out the Adobe "TourTracker" found on the main page. This TourTracker is a Flash monstrosity, but it is undeniably cool. It shows lots of things at once providing a kind of idealized cycling coverage. They show a scalable satellite map of the route with real time updates as to where the main field and any breaks are. They also show a stage profile so you can see where the important components of the race are with respect to the climbs. They also show a box listing who's in any breakaway. There is also the running text commentary feed and even a little chat application to make your own text commentary. As if that wasn't a huge leap forward in bike race watching technology, there is live streaming video!

There was some whinging about the choppiness of the video feed, but for me it was good. I should say that the frame rate was good. The picture quality was excellent allowing me to recognize riders that would have just been a blur on television. Another interesting trick is that they let you choose which camera you wanted to watch. Basically you could watch the camera that the producers thought told the story best or "the other one". They even had a picture in picture option that did actually work.

Another thing I liked is that they have nice little video recaps of the stages which allowed me to get caught up. Reminded me of Il Giro in Tre Minuti (The Tour [of Italy]) in 3 minutes) which was very worth watching even in Italian.

And that brings me to the point that could be improved. The commentators are awful. I won't bore you with why, but it did give me an interesting idea. Why not let me choose the commentators? There was a good tense breakaway of two guys, one of whom was German. I'd loved to have changed the channel to hear the German coverage.

This idea is actually bigger than that though. It doesn't apply to just cycling and it doesn't just apply to professional sports announcers. I have just realized that modern technology is laying the foundation for *anyone* to be a commentator. OLN/Versus used to show those ads with ex Tour racer, Bob Roll, practicing calling races in his underwear so that he might one day be able to call races (which he obviously has done). I claim that at this point, anyone who has ever dreamed of being a sports announcer can simply do it.

Here's how. Just get an internet radio feed. I'm not sure how this would work as a practical matter, but in theory, all the technical pieces are in place. It would not be hard to get the MythTV guys to figure out a way to delay sports broadcasts by a couple of seconds and then sync them with coded signals from internet radio.

I personally don't really want to call races, but I would appreciate an explosion in merit-based sports announcing. Imagine flipping the channels until you found voiceover coverage that suited your personality (or native language). The present state of the art of bike racing coverage is very good. The future looks incredible. I'm not just saying that because I have low standards based on ABC's erstwhile coverage of Le Tour, such that it was. The spectators ABC was courting apparently tuned in only to see crashes. That's nice, let those morons have their own coverage.

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