College football season just ended. NFL playoffs kicked off this weekend. We’re just getting into conference play in college basketball. And yet what am I excited about? The 2010 baseball season – 3 months away.
As you most likely know, I’m a Chicago Cubs die-hard and don’t have an opportunity to watch too many of their games on TV. I subscribed to the MLBtv package in 2008 to watch games online, but let’s face it: I’m on the go a lot. I’m not always home to sit and watch a game online and many Cubs games are on during the day while I’m at work. But my iPhone is attached to my hand.
Last season the best of both my worlds – Cubs baseball and iPhone app-philia – collided in MLB’s AtBat. I did not for one second hesitate to purchase this app. $9.99 is a pretty small price to pay to listen to every single Cubs game on WGN Radio (the Cubs’ local station) with MLB’s Gameday Audio, included in the app. It also includes live play-by-play, box scores, in-game video clips of top plays, and pitch data. It had a tremendous effect on my experience of the game. Let me tell you – there us a HUGE difference between seeing Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning written on a screen as “In play, run(s)” as I follow the free Gameday play-by-play online, and hearing Pat Hughes call: “He’s going back, he’s at the wall, GRAND SLAM!!!!” and Ron Santo scream for joy. I remember one game where the Cubs were playing the hated division rival St Louis Cardinals, where I had the game broadcasting through the iPod speakers in my apartment, and Aramis Ramirez hit a game-winning home run in the 11th. I jumped up and down screaming in my apartment, singing “Go Cubs Go” with all the fans at Wrigley. I felt like I was there. The app took me into the game. What more can you ask for, besides actually being there?
So, honestly, I can’t wait for baseball season to begin so I can start using this app again. I promise, MLB didn’t put me up to writing this. I just love the app that much.
Which brings me to my point: why is the NFL lagging so far behind in digital media? Where’s their iPhone app? As crappy as the Chicago Bears’ 2009 season was, I still would have loved to listen to games on local Chicago radio and watch in-game video highlights. I did get to follow play-by-play and stats via ESPN’s ScoreCenter app, and of course followed the conversation about the games via my fellow Chicago sports fans on Twitter. But live action participation is always better.
Organizations like the NFL should always keep the goal of enhancing the fan experience of the game at the top of their priorities, and digital media distribution of sporting events through a mobile application on a platform as popular as the iPhone is one way to achieve that. The NFL needs to get up to speed and get an iPhone app out by the start of the 2010 season. Believe me, we will pay for it.