Monday, February 21, 2011

Let the Parity Ensue! Can 2011 Be the Year of the Underdog?

Tidbits and observations from the realm of sport

Huge win for the Gryffindor Lions who now pull solidly into a 5th place tie of the NHL’s Western Conference after their 4-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Awesome Calgary uniforms aside, it was great to see outdoor NHL hockey return to Canada where it belongs. Some worry if outdoor games will lose their cachet. If the NHL doesn’t change one thing, the answer is yes. Fans are often noting the Winter/Heritage classic games have poor sight-lines and are separated from the action but are worth the high price for “the experience.” As time goes on, the “experience” factor will soon fade away. Get fans as close to the action as they get in an arena.

It was nice to see NASCAR stick to their guns for once rather than just fenagle with rulings to make things better for marketing. (I say 'for once' because I'm still not sure how half a spoiler is ok in the truck series). In all three of the NASCAR series over the weekend, the winners in Daytona logged a whopping 0 (zero) championship points. Some people think of it as silly, but it’s not. Nationwide driver Trevor Bayne winning the Daytona 500 is an odd situation, but he does not intend to contend in Cup; and not awarding points for Michael Waltrip or Tony Stewart is exactly what needs to happen to start discouraging Cup drivers from ruining the ladder series.

I guess we shouldn’t really be surprised by anything that Bernie Eclestone does these days; but really I have to say I’m shocked that, even with someone who loves money as much as he does, he is still trying to get the F1 Bahrain GP rescheduled. I just don’t think he understands human nature; once a government starts killing its citizens, no amount of time is going to allow that blow over; at least not until that government regime is gone. Hopefully the race’s so-called “postponed” status is actually an indefinite moniker but is just stated as is to not have the series jump into something political... then again am I giving Bernie too much credit to hope that?

The sound of ‘ping’ means Spring has begun! Ok, it’s still cold in many places, but this weekend was the official start of the NCAA baseball season and that means I have an excuse to put that cartoon anteater on here. College baseball is right next to basketball in terms of post-season parity and also awesomeness of the post-season format. Unlike Major League Baseball, it doesn’t take forever to complete (champion will be crowned in June) and there’s no Yankees or Red Sox. In fact, college baseball more than any other major NCAA sport has the most parity in terms of underdog contenders who win. In the last decade, 8 different teams have won the College World Series, from 6 different conferences and 6 different states. It also introduces us to some of the best mascots around as teams like the Dirtbags, Waves, Golden Eagles, Ragin Cajuns, Aztecs and the Anteaters are serious contenders, even as underdogs.

Congrats to the Baltimore Grand Prix! They have now gone 5 days without copying/pasting on twitter. They’ve not stopped tweeting to accomplish this, they’ve gone back to a great patter of interacting and finding new stuff to say. A nice breath of fresh air, and one we can only hope continues.

Get the popcorn, because this is going to be good! If you were watching the Daytona 500, you may have seen a trailer for the new Cars 2 movie. But that’s not what the popcorn is necessarily for. The movie’s premise calls for the main character (a stock car) to compete in a Race of Champions against formula, sports-prototype and rally cars across the world on road/street courses. The movie will no doubt be great and entertaining, but may not be as near entertaining as all the bitching/whining/complaining that will soon flood Formula 1/LeMans/IndyCar message boards.

Speaking of message boards, IndyCar fans should head over to this new Tomas Sheckter Q&A forum. Tomas opened this up after Paul Tracy did one earlier. Just like Tracy, Tomas is being incredibly candid about everything. What was it like to drive for Eddie Cheever or John Barnes and why he left Panther, but my favorite so far has to be a hilarious story about pretending he wasn’t himself at a hibachi restaurant after the 2002 Indy 500, and understandably so.

Lastly, thank you NCAA basketball for always keeping things interesting as we head closer to your post-season, underdogs are very much alive! This past week four of the “Top 5” ranked teams lost. This means we’re heading into March without a clear favorite. #4 San Diego State now holds the best record being the only team with only 1 loss… but has a rematch with the Jimmer (#7 BYU) who gave SDSU their 1 loss. that's right the Mountain West has not one, but two teams in the Top 10 as we head towards March Madness, underdogs unite! Then there’s all the many conference races…

Let’s attempt sorting Conference USA: Southern Miss (USM) is technically on top by virtue of having the best overall record but has a loss at Marshall and lost twice to Memphis (both happening in the final seconds). Memphis has been just outside of being ranked but has lost games to Marshall and Tulsa. Tulsa hasn’t played USM or Marshall yet and beat Memphis but then lost to UTEP… only to return and beat them later. UTEP was the conference leader until they recently lost to Southern Miss this weekend and also previously got beaten by UAB whose losses are Tulsa, Memphis and USM... So who is #1? Its times like this you need to be incredibly thankful football is the only sport that determines its champions by opinions and rankings…

The #6 seed Green Bay Packers win in the NFL, "2nd Cup race ever" Trevor Bayne wins the Daytona 500, Aztecs and Cougars Top 10'ing in NCAA Basketball, Anteaters and Red Storm ranking in NCAA baseball; now if we could just get Penske/Ganassi to get a little competition in IndyCar we could truly have a year of underdogs. I'm calling it now, Cubs win the World Series... yeah ok maybe not all underdogs.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As the Technology Turns...

With the many changes in the technological world, and especially social media, it’s often that people venture forth in the many new venues available. You can’t expect everyone to automatically be experts at all the new tools available, but as someone whose daily job is in marketing; I don’t think it’s too much to expect marketing types to understand basic marketing tools and best practices.

There are some true visionaries in the world of motorsports: The Racer's Group with their 137 Porsches in Grand-Am, by leaps and bounds has left everyone in the dust. TRG for 2 years straight has given fans live video interviews with all the TRG drivers and team personnel as the race goes on. They’ve accomplished this by bringing an extra laptop into their pits, some headphones and marrying a live UStream video feed with a chat box where fans can submit questions. In effect TRG has not only done a great effort to connect fans to their team/drivers, but it’s a great, free of operational cost, marketing opportunity for team and sponsors.  

Then of course there is the other end of the spectrum, where we’ve recently poked fun at the 3rd person speak coming out of Scott Dixon’s twitter account. Sadly Dixon’s account may now only be the 2nd or even 3rd most annoying “practice” coming out of motorsports marketing.

We, as fans, now have to deal with constant un-disguised name-dropping of sponsors. It’s one thing to name-drop like a NASCAR driver’s post-crash interview when on TV, or even do the occasional name-drop on twitter; but it’s another to try and pretend like everything you do in life revolves around oil-changes and tire changes. The reason doing it is not a “best practice” is because you are assuming your consumer is an idiot and won’t see that you are actually marketing.

The other variation are the people who think repetition = success; if they didn't respond to my email, I'll just send them another. Mark Cuban once wrote about exactly why this is stupid:
"For those of you who are not smart enough to figure it out,  it is not perseverance to resend an email to someone, anyone, multiple times. Its LAZINESS . Lazy people think they are working hard when they hit the send key. That’s not work.  That’s wasting time. That’s the lesson of the day.  Sending the same email over and over again not only shows you to be lazy and annoying, but it gets you sent directly to spam."
These are the companies that sends you emails every day selling their whatever, or the credit card company that sends you the same mail every week; just throwing money at the problem on the hopes that they'll get you with the same thing over and over. In all cases of over-saturation, it simply serves to annoy 99% of the recipients. You see this all the time from people who don’t quite understand current mediums and tools.

Case and point (actual tweets of @BaltimoreGP):                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
21-JanWe are looking for interns to help us in a number of different areas! Check out the Contact Us section on our website for application forms
1-FebCheck out our ticket options!
2-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix
2-FebThe Engines Won’t Roar Without You! Become a volunteer at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
2-FebCheck out our ticket options!
2-FebAll businesses wanting to work with the Baltimore Grand Prix should be looking at our website in the Vendor section. we are taking BIDS
2-FebAre you interested in hands-on work in the developing, planning and running of the 2011 Baltimore Grand Prix?
3-FebCheck out our ticket options!
3-FebCheck out our promo video and GET EXCITED!
3-FebDID YOU KNOW?! The Baltimore Grand Prix will be held on Labor Day weekend 2011! (September 2-4)
3-FebDo you want to see the Baltimore Grand Prix? Check out our ticket options!
3-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!
3-FebCheck out the ticket options!
4-FebWe want to give all vendors an equal bidding chance! Electrical, plumbing and power washing companies wanted! Please RT
4-FebWe are currently looking for companies specialized in electrical, plumbing and Power Washing! Be part of the Baltimore Grand Prix!
4-FebCheck out The Baltimore Grand Prix ticket options!
4-FebThe Engines Won’t Roar Without You! Become a volunteer at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
4-FebCheck out the Baltimore Grand Prix ticket options!
4-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!
4-FebCheck out the Baltimore Grand Prix promo video and GET EXCITED!
5-FebThe Engines Won’t Roar Without You! Become a volunteer at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
5-FebWe are currently looking for companies specialized in electrical, plumbing and Power Washing! Be part of the Baltimore Grand Prix!
5-FebCheck out the Baltimore Grand Prix promo video and GET EXCITED!
5-FebCheck out The Baltimore Grand Prix ticket options!
6-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!
7-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!
7-FebCheck out the Baltimore Grand Prix ticket options!
8-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!
8-FebThe Engines Won’t Roar Without You! Become a volunteer at the Baltimore Grand Prix.
9-FebDo you want to learn what it takes to make an event like this happen? Fill out the intern application!
11-FebDo you know Adobe Creative Suite? Graphic design interns wanted! Experience with web design is a plus!
13-FebDo you know Adobe Creative Suite? Graphic design interns wanted! Experience with web design is a plus!
14-FebCheck out the Baltimore Grand Prix promo video and GET EXCITED!
14-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!
15-FebDo you know Adobe Creative Suite? Graphic design interns wanted! Experience with web design is a plus!
15-Feb has info for the businesses interested in working with the Baltimore Grand Prix!

We get it, you want people to buy tickets, you need volunteers, you need business partners and plumbers, but look, twitter is a medium to stay in communication and increase information depth, its not a stock-ticker, or a commercial buy on television or radio. We f’n get it already. It’s not that we don’t want you to get your interns and welders and succeed; many people including myself plan to be at your race in your city Labor Day weekend; I can’t wait to see cars racing past Camden and the Inner Harbor, and still hope that you’re getting Charm City Cakes to do a cool IndyCar cake.

But man, you started so well back in 2010 giving us updates about the track map, linking to IndyCar and ALMS news, and even re-tweeting relevant people from all the different series associated with your upcoming race weekend. Dear Baltimore Grand Prix… you’ve suddenly started doing it wrong. All you're doing right now is giving us all the impression that you have no staff at all to run this race. At least give the copy/pasting a rest, for the sake of all us that follow you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Edmonton City Centre's New IndyCar Track.. and old

So today Edmonton's IndyCar race promoter, Octane, unveiled the new track layout for the race. The layout, worked on by the promoter and NZRConsulting (Tony Cotman) is pretty awesome, especially when in comparison to the old track. It has 2 very long straights, and 3 clear passing zones with possible others.

The buzz is out there; Mike Cockrall, one of the guys behind saving the race, even posted on a familiar forum that he's gotten 150 comments, all positive about the new track. Awesome!

Another site posted a fuzzy screen-capture from Google Maps with numbers to show the locations of circuit turns but it's pretty difficult to read. Since the airport is clear from Google and because the overlay is worth fan's interest to see the track comparison without eye-strain; I decided to start from scratch and even spent more time on it this go-around, and I present to you now:

Ye Official GrabBagSports Super Exclusive, you totally couldn't make by going to GoogleMaps searching 'Edmonton City Centre Airport'  pulling screenshots then merging images and adding arrows, text and nifty Photoshop effects, Edmonton City Centre Track Map:

So what say ye fans? Do you like the new track? the old track? Any ideas?

My Top 5 Racing Video Games

My latest Tecmo Bowl post was so much fun (for me at least) and it made me realize how much I love playing sports video games. So I decided to start a Top 5 series where I list my favorite video games of all time for each sport.

[Disclaimer: I do not play a lot of video games and never really know about the newest, coolest stuff. But it would be awesome if you comment and tell me how terrible my picks are. Or maybe just let us know your Top 5.]

For my first edition, I will stick with this blog's #1 topic: racing. As our readers know, I am not a racing guy. Over the years, though, I have managed to get addicted to quite a few racing video games, even if I wasn't very good at all of them. So here we go...

My Top 5 Racing Games

5. Cruisin' USA - This was the first arcade game that I remember where we could sit in the driver seat and have a more realistic experience. You could change the radio station! The only problem is I never really played much past the first couple of "continue" spots.

4. RC Pro Am - Fun Nintendo game using remote control cars. I'm pretty sure I remember that you had decent opportunities to fix up your car. The courses were fun and quick.

3. Pole Position - Classic arcade game. The only console available in our town was at our movie theater. I spent an hour before and after so many movies as a kid, having to replace my high score! The stupid theater would reset the scores. I'd go to show my friends how I had the #1 spot, and it never failed... "ASS" or "XXX" would be sitting in my top score spot and I'd have to do it all over again. One day I want to get one of these for my house.

2. Rock and Roll Racing - Zolof BLASTS into FIRST! How awesome was this SNES game?? Even the stupid songs ("Born To Be Wild"??) would get stuck in my head. We spent so many hours playing this stupid game.

1. Mario Kart - All systems. Hands down the best racing game, even if I'm absolutely terrible at it. Anyone who played with us during Blogathon knows what I'm talking about. Even if I lose, I feel like if I knock someone off of the course with my Flame Runner, then I've done my job.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: The Tecmo Super Bowl Prediction

Well, here we go again.  It's Super Bowl Sunday and I know you're all sitting there hitting refresh, going, "When is he going to post his Tecmo Super Bowl prediction??  I have to know who will win tonight's game!"  Well, your wait is over.

For today's game, I chose to play as the Packers.  I don't really care who wins the game, although I think it would be neat for another QB (Roethlisberger) to have three Super Bowl rings.  I just want to see if people will bring his name up any time they are talking about how amazing Tom Brady is.  However, two years ago I played as the Steelers for my prediction game, so I wanted to try something new this time.

1st Quarter

The Steelers got the ball first and put together a decent drive, including a 34-yard Bubby Brister pass to Eric Green.  This would be Brister's only completion of the game!  This first drive ended with a Jerry Holmes leaping interception, giving the Packers the ball at their 30.

On the first offensive play, Don Majkowski completed a 70-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe. Packers lead 7-0.

Brister's first pass of the next drive was also picked off by Jerry Holmes.  After a couple of runs, Majkowski hit Sharpe again for a 25-yard score to end the first quarter.  14-0.

2nd Quarter

The Packers started the second quarter with a successful onside kick.  A 35-yard touchdown to Sharpe prompted me to bench the WR for the rest of the game, a move I needed to make to resist the temptation to throw to him every time.  21-0.

Defensive lineman Matt Brock began to dominate on the next possession, blowing up plays in the Steeler backfield on almost every snap.  He ended the game with six tackles for losses and five sacks, more than he had in any of his first four seasons according to his card shown here.  Mark Lee intercepted Brister, and Majkowski led a Sterling-free drive that ended with a Michael Haddix one-yard touchdown. 28-0.

After a bad onside kick, the Steelers finally managed a Gary Anderson field goal at the half.  28-3.



3rd Quarter

The Packers opened the second half with a 60-yard completion from Majkowski to tight end Ed West.  Haddix, in "excellent" condition, followed with a 30-yard touchdown on a screen pass. 35-3.

On the next Steelers possession, Brock kept the pressure on Brsiter, causing him to throw his fourth interception (to Mark Murphy).  Haddix then scored on a 70-yard screen pass to end the quarter.  42-3.

4th Quarter

After a Brock safety put the Packers up 44-3, Green Bay began to get the ball to Sterling Sharpe's replacement: Jeff Query.  Query started the possession with a first down run and then caught a 40-yard touchdown.  51-3.

The Steelers likely experienced deja vu on the couple of series, as Brock caused another safety and Query immediately caught another TD pass, this time for 60 yards.  60-3.

Following a failed onside kick attempt, Merril Hoge broke away for a 50-yard run to score the only Steelers touchdown of the game.  60-10.

The Steelers tried an onside kick, giving Green Bay a short field and allowing running back Darrell Thompson to score on a 50-yard run of his own. 67-10.

Brock ended the game by sacking Brister and causing a fumble, which was recovered by Green Bay.



Passing Leaders
Majkowski -- 90% | 388 yards | 7 touchdowns | 0 interceptions
Brister -- 12% | 34 yards | 0 touchdowns | 4 interceptions

Rushing Leaders
Thompson 7-71
Hoge 4-35

Receiving Leaders
Sharpe 3-128
Green 1-34


The Packers will win the Super Bowl and I will move to 3-0 in Tecmo Super Bowl predictions.

Chicago Cubs