Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin played eight seasons in Seattle and won a Super Bowl championship. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Plenty of professional athletes fancy themselves as tech geeks in some fashion or another, whether they’re into gadgets or video games or they like launching startups and Twitter tirades. Doug Baldwin is the type of thoughtful, nerdy and genuinely interesting guy that made him — just like he was as a receiver for the Seattle Seahawks — a go-to guy for GeekWire. With the that Baldwin’s playing career with team had come to an end, it was hard not to remember how many times we tossed it to No. 89 ourselves. We sought his perspective on everything from how technology was changing the game he loved to how important it was to give back and serve the greater good of the community. Check out some of Baldwin’s GeekWire highlight reel below: Gamer geek Doug Baldwin plays “Madden” at the Museum of Pop Culture in 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) GeekWire founder John Cook caught up with Baldwin during the first-ever Madden 17 Championship Tournament in March 2017, an event hosted by the Seahawks at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture. Baldwin discussed his love for video games, his Madden rating, virtual reality, and more. “Games for myself and for a lot of the guys in the locker room, it’s an escape,” Baldwin said. “We spend so much time, so much effort, so much mental space on the game that we love, video games gives us that mental space to kind of check out for a little bit.” Instinct over data At the at what was then Safeco Field, Baldwin joined former Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors for a discussion about technology and what impact it had on their careers. For all the advances in data collection and augmented and virtual reality being used to try to enhance player performance, Baldwin said he still leaned on the gut instincts that got him to the level he achieved. He said no amount of data or virtual reality or anything else will change the fact that he has to make the decisions on the football field. “Maybe it’ll help me in terms of repetition, but when I’m on the field, I’m not thinking about that,” Baldwin said. “It has to be second nature.” Life after football Last fall when GeekWire traveled down to Renton, Wash., for a weeklong project, we set up shop not far from where the Seahawks have their practice facility. Baldwin was the obvious choice to join us for an , not just because he’d been a friend to the site in previous years, but because he’d shown his commitment to Renton, too. Baldwin’s efforts to help the City of Renton build a new community center showcased how much he appreciated his own upbringing, and how it taught him to serve those around him for the greater good. “When people ask me, ‘Why do you want to do this?,’ well, I’m a part of something,” Baldwin told GeekWire’s Todd Bishop and Taylor Soper. “I’m a part of the human collective and I want to be a part of it that’s going in a progressive manner and doing things in a positive way. That’s why I do it.” While his Seahawks career may be over, we here at GeekWire know we’re not alone in Seattle and across the Pacific Northwest in hoping that Baldwin continues to feel that way about a region he has had such a positive impact on. He wasn’t shy about saying, after he was done playing, that he wanted to get away from his football persona and take on new challenges and opportunities, and find a platform, for social justice reform or something else. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The Seahawks said Thursday that Baldwin was one of the Seahawks’ best players on the field, but that his “legacy in Seattle, however, will be much bigger than the passes he caught or the games he helped the team win.” “There’s this parable, it’s called the parable of talents. Some of you may know it,” Baldwin said on the GeekWire Podcast. “I think that I’ve been blessed with a number of talents, and I don’t want those to go to waste. I don’t want to bury them and not risk them to create more.” GeekWire and Seattle are ready to see what Baldwin creates next.
The ZERO1 Youth helmet. (Vicis Photo) Football is still America’s game for young people, drawing more than a million high school athletes each year. But concerns over the lasting effects of concussions have caused youth participation in the sport to dip in recent years. Vicis, a Seattle startup, wants to help preserve the game for younger athletes with a high-tech helmet that recently ranked first in Virginia Tech’s . But many youth programs are finding it difficult to pay the $495 price tag, sparking questions of fairness: should the safest helmet only be available to those who can afford it? Five Seattle-area football programs that they would be using the Vicis helmet earlier this month, but several are from the region’s wealthiest areas, such as Bellevue and Mercer Island, Wash. Just down the street from , the Ballard Jr. Football program that aims to raise $50,000 to pay for the helmets, which are designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions. Neighborhood news site MyBallard the fundraising effort, which has taken in more than $8,000 so far. “We’re definitely not in the best position to pay for [the helmets] or fundraise for them in our community,” said Andrew Muller, the Ballard program’s league president. are fundraising for helmets. These kids are the future of football. What better way to celebrate your Contract Renewal than to help Seattle youth football team?!!?
The ZERO1 Youth helmet. (Vicis Photo) Football is still America’s game in American high schools, drawing more than a million athletes each year. But concerns over the lasting effects of concussions have caused youth participation in the sport to dip in recent years. Vicis, a Seattle startup, wants to help preserve the game for younger athletes with a high-tech helmet that recently ranked first in Virginia Tech’s . But many programs are finding it difficult to pay the $495 price tag, sparking questions of fairness: should the safest helmet only be available to those who can afford it? Five Seattle-area high school football programs that they would be using the Vicis helmet earlier this month, but several are from the region’s wealthiest areas, such as Bellevue and Mercer Island, Wash. Just down the street from , the Ballard Jr. Football program that aims to raise $50,000 to pay for the helmets, which are designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions. Neighborhood news site MyBallard the fundraising effort, which has taken in more than $8,000 so far. “We’re definitely not in the best position to pay for [the helmets] or fundraise for them in our community,” said Andrew Muller, the Ballard program’s league president. are fundraising for helmets. These kids are the future of football. What better way to celebrate your Contract Renewal than to help Seattle youth football team?!!?
Russell Wilson in action during a Seattle Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Deion Sanders may have been “Prime Time” during his playing days in the NFL, but Russell Wilson is a prime player when it comes to Amazon. The Seattle Seahawks QB has taken stock in the guys who helped him become the highest paid player in the NFL by actually purchasing Amazon stock for his offensive linemen as a “thank you” for protecting him every Sunday. Monday that Wilson sent a letter to 13 linemen, informing them that he was gifting them each $12,000 in stock in the Seattle-based tech giant. Wilson spent a total of $156,000 — a week after signing a contract extension with the Seahawks that will pay him a reported $140 million over four years. TMZ Sports shared a from Wilson in which he told his teammates that they “go to battle together” every Sunday and that he would not be where he is today without them. Wilson said he wanted to give the men something that would have a lasting imapact and help them prepare for life after football. “One of the ways I prepare is by investing in companies and ideas that I believe will grow and change the world,” Wilson wrote. “One of these companies is Amazon.” It’s an interesting choice in Seattle-area tech investments given that the team Wilson plays for is what it is because of the Microsoft billions made by the team’s late owner, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. And Wilson himself has helped the NFL and the company for the league — the Microsoft Surface. But maybe with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos did the trick in luring Wilson’s investment dollars. Or, the fact that Bezos , Wilson’s attempt at a social media startup, may have helped. “You have invested in my life … this is my investment into yours,” Wilson said in his letter.
The new Esports Arena & Gaming Lounge at the University of Washington in Seattle. (UW Photo) Game on at the University of Washington. A state-of-the-art at the UW’s Husky Union Building is up and running after an official ribbon cutting on Thursday and a week of events that helped usher in a new era of competition and learning at the university in Seattle. The 1,000-square-foot gaming center makes the UW the largest public, higher education institution in the nation to have such a dedicated facility and the first university in the state of Washington to have such a space. Aimed at casual and competitive gamers, and funded in part by the Student Technology Fee, the arena provides access to 40 high-end gaming computers, two VR systems, a casting station for live streaming to Twitch and popular, unlocked PC games. The lounge will also serve as a space for sponsored tournaments. The ribbon is cut on Thursday at the grand opening of the UW’s Esports Arena. (UW video screen grab) “With the Esports Arena we have this actual physical location to match and represent our culture, our community here,” said Will Nguyen, UW student epsorts director. “People can really come together and it brings it to this next level, where it’s not just some people talking over the internet.” The intention is for the physical space, and the opportunity to play, to go beyond just gaming for students and provide the learning potential necessary to connect with companies in the Seattle area. (UW Photo) Justin Camputaro, director of the Husky Union Building, said in Seattle alone there are more than 23,000 jobs in interactive media. “What I have learned is that these games are very different from the days of Atari and Pong, or even Nintendo days. It is a lot about teamwork, it is about strategy, it is about mathematical computations, and understanding how the teams and the players works together,” Camputaro said. “There is a true educational element behind this gaming, when you dig in and start to understand that it is really really powerful. This is more than just playing a game.” A growing number of institutions are now as the industry is growing at a phenomenal rate. last year on the growth in esports scholarships among colleges and universities and how it could get as big as traditional sports on campus. The Esports Arena is located on the basement level of the HUB at 4001 E Stevens Way N.E. Check this for rates and hours of operation.
Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO, records an episode of the Numbers Geek podcast earlier today at his office in the Seattle region. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) With even more than normal, Steve Ballmer might not have seemed like an analytical guy to casual fans watching his LA Clippers come back from a 31-point deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff matchup earlier this week. It was the biggest comeback victory in NBA playoff history. But as listeners to , the former Microsoft CEO has a passion for numbers, as well. Earlier today, before recording a future episode of the show about the upcoming annual report on the U.S. government from Ballmer’s nonprofit civic data initiative , we took the opportunity to have him analyze the stats from the Clippers’ historic win. Listen to this short bonus episode below, or subscribe in your favorite podcast app, and continue reading for highlights from his comments, along with a copy of the box score from the game. “We were down 73-50 at halftime and we won 135-131, which tells you we outscored the opponent by 27 points in the second half, scoring over 40 points in (each of the final) two quarters, which is essentially unheard of,” Ballmer said. But “the thing that really flips is the shooting percentage” in the second half, he said. The Clippers shot 66.7 percent from the floor in the second half, and ended up shooting 56.5 percent for the game, vs. 53.3 percent for the Warriors. The Warriors “had a major rebound advantage at one point” earlier in the game, but by the end of the game, the Clippers were at 34 rebounds vs. the Warriors 38 rebounds, “which was a big deal,” Ballmer said. He added, “I would say the most important thing to take a look at, at the end of the game, was how many turnovers both teams had. Both teams had a lot of turnovers, 22 for the Warriors, 19 for us. I worry sometimes about us two ways. Turnovers and rebounding, sometimes offense, but mostly turnovers and rebounding. And we wound up pretty close to the Warriors on both sides. They had a couple more rebounds. And they also had a couple more turnovers, which means we both got about the same number of possessions. We just put the ball in the basket better.” Of course, this was just one game. The series resumes Thursday night at Staples Center in LA with the teams tied at one game apiece. Also check out , with audio from Ballmer on the baseline at Staples Center. We’ll be back soon with another episode of the show.
Russell Wilson discusses his new Seattle Seahawks deal on Wednesday. (Seahawks image via Facebook) Russell Wilson took time away from counting his newfound riches on Wednesday to thank the Seattle Seahawks for making him the highest paid player in the NFL and to reiterate his commitment to bringing championships to the city where he plans to end his career. Along the way, the star quarterback and the team’s general manager, John Schneider, invoked the name of Seahawks owner Jody Allen and her late brother, Paul Allen. Seahawks fans waited into the wee hours of Monday night for a deal to happen before a deadline, imposed by Wilson, passed. He and the team ultimately agreed to a worth a . In the news conference Wednesday, streamed by the Seahawks (below), Wilson said that the idea of a no-trade clause — exhibiting that he really wanted to be in Seattle — is what sealed the deal. And he and Schneider credited Jody Allen, among others, for making that happen. “We want him to be here for life,” Schneider said when asked about the clause. “It’s something that I needed to discuss with Jody … it’s part of a negotiation.” Hear from QB1 about his contract extension
Via Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is never short of courtside enthusiasm while watching his LA Clippers compete, as we documented on . But on Monday night, he took it to another level, as he witnessed a bit of NBA history as his team overcame the largest deficit ever in the playoffs with a 135-131 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers trailed by 31 points before mounting a comeback to stun the defending NBA champs at home in game two of the opening round series. Ballmer has owned the team since 2014 and they failed to even make the playoffs last year. It wasn’t looking like they’d be around long this year after a 121-104 loss on Saturday. But the founder of has got to be geeking out over the stats this morning: The Clippers’ comeback win was UNBELIEVABLE
Russell Wilson on the homepage of the Limitless Minds website. (ThinkBig-GoFar.com Image) We already know Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has “no time to sleep.” It looks like his latest company will shed some light on that mindset. Wilson, a busy entrepreneur when he’s not on the football field, launched another venture on Tuesday in the form of , a business coaching consultancy that looks to tap the Super Bowl champ’s competitive thinking and mental conditioning and bring it all into the corporate world. GeekWire about the plans for the business last summer. The startup was founded by Wilson, mental-conditioning coach and Trevor Moawad, business partner DJ Eidson, and Wilson’s brother, Harry Wilson. The goal is to help organizations develop the skills to handle adversity under pressure, in competitive environments. “Mental conditioning and mindset training have been a critical part of my performance on the field throughout my career,” Wilson said in a news release. “Trevor is the best in the world at developing these skills for athletes and coaches. Throughout our relationship, we realized that the skills we work on can benefit many more people. I’m thrilled to pair Trevor’s expertise with Harry and DJ’s business acumen to help more people identify and develop these skills within themselves.” The Limitless Minds founders, from left: Harry Wilson, president; DJ Eidson, chief marketing officer; Russell Wilson, chairman; and Trevor Moawad, CEO. (Limitless Minds Photo) Wilson has worked with Moawad since meeting him just before the NFL Draft in 2012. Moawad’s centers around themes including visualization (psychologically experiencing a situation), understanding the power of your voice, focusing on one thought, and , or the idea that overly positive or negative thoughts aren’t beneficial to an optimal mindset. “The ability to develop a consistent mentality is universal. Period. It will remain a core tenant to success in any field, whether it happens by accident or with intentionality,” Moawad said. The startup is another in a list of attempts by Wilson to establish himself as a force among NFL entrepreneurs. His previous Seattle-based celebrity media company TraceMe pivoted to become , a sports prediction app. His resume also includes , his production company, and , a high-end fashion retailer.
The Seattle Mariners like to say that their fans are “True to the Blue,” but the new look and some of the amenities at T-Mobile Park, the team’s newly named hometown stadium, could lead people’s allegiances to take on a magenta hue. T-Mobile, the Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier, took over naming rights during the offseason for what had been Safeco Field for 20 years. Next Thursday, fans will enter T-Mobile Park for the first time for the Mariners home opener. GeekWire got an inside look on Wednesday, as workers busily hung new signage, painted, prepped a preview menu and tended to the grounds. Giant pink and white T-Mobile Park signs are now hung above the home plate entrance (above the statue of Mariners great Ken Griffey Jr.) and elsewhere. But the sign T-Mobile customers will want to look for is on the left field side of the stadium, along South Royal Brougham Way. At the T-Mobile Customer Entrance, the carrier’s customers will gain fast-track entry through a gate with magenta accents — all they have to do is show the attendant their phone. Gimme a P A R K. New T-Mobile signage gets lifted into place on Wednesday in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The special entrance at T-Mobile Park, which allows faster access for customers of the wireless carrier. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The ability to to use fast track and avoid the lines at other gates — presumably full of AT&T and Verizon customers? — is good for any event at the ballpark and is a practice that T-Mobile also employs at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Once inside that particular gate, fans will be in close proximity to The ‘Pen, Powered by T-Mobile. The reimagined experience near the bullpen behind the left field wall and wrapping around behind center field, is probably where guests will see the most magenta. Steel support beams were being painted magenta on Wednesday and will serve as indicators of where mobile charging stations are located. Each beam will have 32 outlets. Fans trying to use their phones, at least if they’r eon T-Mobile, will also see benefits. “In regard to coverage, we’ve increased capacity in and around T-Mobile Park by three times,” said Krystal McIntosh of T-Mobile. “So there should be no problems uploading, streaming, showing all of your Instagram stories when you’re here at the game.” Magenta signage points the way down to The ‘Pen where fans can watch a pitcher warm up or explore more food and drink options. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) A painter turns a green beam magenta to highlight the location of wireless charging stations at T-Mobile Park. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) T-Mobile also had an interactive Home Run Challenge set up on the plaza beyond center field in which fans are invited to step up to the plate and hit a ball off a tee into a screen. The animation — which makes it look like you’re hitting the ball toward the Space Needle — tracks the power of your drive. And, because it all ties back to T-Mobile, the challenge lets you hit in 4G and 5G settings. I hit four balls on Wednesday and in 4G they were weak grounders back toward the infield and in 5G I hit towering home runs. T-Mobile’s Tech Experience will also extend outside the ballpark, at least through opening day, as the company is taking over the corner of Edgar Martinez Drive South and 1st Avenue South, next to Henry’s Tavern. And T-Mobile Tuesdays, in which customers already get free stuff and deals as a gesture of appreciation, will extend to T-Mobile Park when the Mariners play at home on that day of the week. GeekWire’s Kurt Schlosser takes the Home Run Challenge at T-Mobile Park. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A “Welcome to T-Mobile Park” sign is attached below the press box behind home plate. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) T-Mobile didn’t just get into the game when it decided to go after naming rights in Seattle. The company was already a sponsor of Major League Baseball, and just extended that deal another four years. , T-Mobile continues to be the Official Wireless Sponsor of MLB, as well as the title sponsor of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby during All-Star Week. Customers can also get a free full season of MLB.TV through their T-Mobile Tuesday app from March 26 through April 1. Elsewhere in The ‘Pen, where Seattle hip-hop star Macklemore will perform on Thursday before the game against the Boston Red Sox, fans can get their hands on a new signature cocktail called the Magenta Mojo. T-Mobile partnered with the Mariners and enlisted of Seattle’s Rob Roy to come up with the drink, which of course is just the right color for the new park. Built to be refreshing and “disruptively light,” Apte said the drink will help fans “stay in that good-sportsmanship mood.” It will sell for $12.50, and if you want a blinking magenta ice cube tossed in, the price jumps to $15.50. The Mariners and T-Mobile also hosted a menu preview to show off new vendors and food items that will be available at various points around the park. Crowd Cow co-founder Joe Heitzeberg grabs a burger featuring his company’s beef during a menu tasting at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The Grand Salami Sandwich is a tribute to Fave Niehaus, Hall of Fame broadcaster for the Mariners. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Seattle chef and restaurateur Ethan Stowell is a partner with the Mariners and he was on hand Wednesday, as was a new burger with his name on it, featuring a hyper-local beef patty from , the Seattle-based startup and online marketplace for quality beef products. We also sampled bites from burger chain Li’l Woody’s, Fat’s Chicken and Paseo. And the tastiest fare may have been the new Grand Salami Sandwich, a tribute to beloved Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus that will be available at the ballpark’s Sultan of Sandwich. Speaking of food, we did ask whether T-Mobile CEO John Legere would show up at the park to host an episode of his weekly show in which he plugs his company and shares a cock pot recipe. There will be at least one, we were told. Old Safeco Field signage is ready to be taken away on the mezzanine at T-Mobile Park. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Meanwhile, as the smell of burgers and fresh magenta paint filled the air, signs of the old Safeco Field — including some signs — were still visible around the ballpark as workers scurried to get the name change in place before the team returns next week. Trash cans along the mezzanine still had the Safeco logo. Other directional signs marking seat sections and so forth had been removed but not yet been carted away. But above the stands in left field, on a sunny and warm day that definitely felt like baseball weather, the iconic clock tower sign, with Seattle’s skyline rising behind it, had been changed to T-Mobile Park. The time had come.
Everett Memorial Stadium north of Seattle is now Funko Field. (Flickr Photo / Chase N) The Seattle Mariners will be playing in a hometown stadium with a new name this season, and so will the team’s Class A affiliate up north. , the Everett, Wash.-based makers of pop culture products, announced that Funko Field will be the newly named home for the Everett Aquasox minor league baseball team. Funko bought the naming rights for the next six years, and will add signage around the stadium and branding on ballpark staff uniforms. The that the deal will cost the company up to $1.1 million and required approval of the Everett School Board. (Funko Image) “Funko has been a prominent fixture in the community since moving to downtown Everett,” Brian Mariotti, chief executive officer of Funko said in a news release. “Our commitment to the community and our employees has never wavered. This partnership is a terrific opportunity to further engage with our fans and neighbors by cheering on the home team together.” The company said Friday home games will be designated “Funko Fridays,” and will include promotions and giveaways for AquaSox ticket holders. The Herald said a 15-foot figurine will be featured in right field. Funko is well known as the creators of Pop! collectibles, the figurines with wide eyes that capture the likenesses of characters across the pop culture spectrum. The company went public in 2017 and near $825 million in 2019. called Funko stock “a steal” in recent comments. Funko Field opening day is June 21, when the AquaSox meet the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. In Seattle, the Mariners will be playing at T-Mobile Park staring on March 28. The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier bought naming rights after a 20-year-deal with Safeco Insurance came to an end.
(MLB.com Image) The Seattle Mariners have a bunch of new faces on the field, a new name on the stadium and an increasingly new way to get tickets to a game as the Major League Baseball franchise is following others in the move to mobile ticket technology. The Mariners announced a mobile-only ticket promotion on Friday called Ballpark Pass. The offering was tested in a limited run last season and this year will allow fans to get standing-room access to all home games at T-Mobile Park for $99 a month. The team is following other Seattle franchises, including the Seahawks and Sounders FC, toward the migration to mobile delivery of single-game tickets this season. Season ticket holders have already been offered that option, but they can still opt for a book of printed tickets. Fans who purchase a single-game ticket this year will no longer receive a print-at-home PDF. Options now will be mobile (through the ), snail mail or will call. The latter options will include handling fees for each order. If you’re one of those kids who still likes to hold onto a game ticket as a souvenir, you can still get printed tickets when you buy at a Mariners Team Store or the T-Mobile Park box office. According to the team, about 60 percent of single-game buyers are already opting for mobile. The Mariners ticked off ease of use, speed, security, and reduction of paper waste as the reasons why. Learn more about the Ballpark Pass promotion .
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gives a thumbs up at an event at Zillow Group in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Russell Wilson won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday but he’s still staying busy off the field in Atlanta this weekend. The Seahawks star quarterback has been making the rounds all week, jumping from media interviews to sponsor events to high-profile parties before today’s big game. Top of mind for Wilson is , a new sports prediction app that he’s been touting to reporters this week. The free-to-play app debuted a few months ago and offers real cash prize payouts to users who can make the most accurate prediction on. For the Super Bowl, it is offering a $250,000 grand prize to anyone who correctly predicts all 16 questions on the line. They range from specific in-game predictions — which team will have the longest field goal? — to off-the-wall questions such as: What color shirt will Adam Levine be wearing when he takes the stage for his halftime performance? Tally mimics gamification and engagement concepts from HQTrivia, a live mobile game which went viral last year. The app last month expanded beyond sports and ran predictions games for The Golden Globes, The Bachelor, and even President Trump’s national address on immigration. Prizes go to users who rack up the most points, which are awarded on a probability scale — if you predict something with a low chance of happening, you win more points. There’s also a jackpot — $250,000 for the Super Bowl — that goes to people who ace all the predictions. Tally funds the prize payouts, which are issued to winners via PayPal within three days. The company’s CEO, Jason LeeKeenan, said the app is not related to sports betting, which has caught the attention of investors and technologists expecting more legalization across the U.S. after a key Supreme Court last year. “We see this as a really friendly version of fantasy,” he GeekWire in November. Tally is an evolution of TraceMe, a celebrity content app that was the original premise of the company . TraceMe shut down , laying off staff and closing its Los Angeles office as it shifted focus to Tally. TraceMe had aimed to connect celebrities with “superfans” through its app via , community features, and more. But according to LeeKeenan, who now heads up Tally, the company overestimated the addressable market for TraceMe, which a $9 million round last year from investors such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, and Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Speaking of Bezos — the Amazon chief is also in Atlanta this weekend. He and Wilson were spotted making a friendly exchange at the NFL Honors awards ceremony Saturday night. Sports reporter Darren Rovell posited that Bezos could be a potential new owner of the Seahawks, whose previous owner Paul Allen . Is Russell Wilson talking with his future owner tonight in Atlanta? Jeff Bezos has made the trip (
Former Sounders FC defender James Riley uses TorrX’s ball pump. (Photo via TorrX) TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: Inflating a soccer ball or football with the exact amount of air doesn’t seem like a huge deal. But whether it was the controversy that arose from “” or the damage an overinflated soccer ball can have on a teenager’s head, accurate gauge pressure is actually quite important. That’s why is finding early traction with its high-tech ball pump that has a built-in gauge and LED screen, making it easy to quickly inflate or deflate a ball to a precise pounds per square inch (PSI) measurement. Customers from around the world at all levels of soccer, from Major League Soccer to NCAA to leagues in Europe, are using the pump. The Seattle-area startup is focusing initially on soccer, but basketball, volleyball, rugby, and water polo teams have purchased its product. The company has validation from athletes like , a former Seattle Sounders FC defender who is building a youth soccer coaching program. “I have seen a lot of products come and go during my college and MLS career, but I really believe TorrX is the pump of the future because it is so accurate, easy to use, and durable,” he said in an email. Former U.S. Olympian and World Cup hero , who is now an assistant coach with the Santa Clara women’s soccer team, also vouched for the pump, particularly with . “I absolutely love my TorrX because it confirms that the weight of the ball will be age appropriate and absolutely spot on,” she told GeekWire. “As a coach, and parent, having the proper air pressure in the ball reassures me that the players and my kids will be safe. Anything we can do to help lower the number of concussions, the better. If the weight is right, as advocates for the game and its players, we can feel good sending our kids out to play. And at the end of the day, the experience on the field should have them leaving the field better and happier than when they got there.” Tom and (Photo via TorrX) , a veteran entrepreneur and City of Kirkland councilmember, came up with the idea for Torrx with his co-creator Sally Otten. “The TorrX checks a number of boxes for the user,” he said in an email. “First, it was designed to virtually eliminate the stresses that lead to needle breakage. In fact, this was the primary problem that seeded the effort to create the TorrX. Second, the TorrX enables easy access to a new level of accuracy in ball sports. Now, there is really little excuse for a ball that is under or over inflated. Coaches/referees/league or match management can now become much more specific about what constitutes a perfectly inflated ball for their sport and be sure the standard is easily adhered to.” The pump can inflate 50 soccer balls on one charge. It designed to get better over time, with algorithms that learn how to get the PSI more and more accurate with each use. The pump is currently available on but TorrX is exploring other sales channels. The company is bootstrapped and employs less than ten people in the Seattle region. Highlights from the week in sports tech Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton . Mobile alerts helped my colleague Kurt Schlosser , but he also relied on a $150 per month cable subscription. Perhaps the NBA’s idea will find traction. Speaking of the Mariners, the only way fans can watch next week’s game against Texas on May 16 will be via Facebook. The game won’t even be on TV. It’s part of Facebook inked with the MLB. Retired NBA star Chris Bosh showed up at the launch of NASA’s Mars InSight lander from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — GeekWire space and science editor Alan Boyle . Fornite has become a cultural phenomenon. Now the video game is being blamed for keeping pitcher David Price off the field. The NBA and Intel Capital a new collaboration. Topgolf continues to stay innovative, with Lyft, which will have designated pick-up and drop-off zones at the high-tech golf driving range facilities. ESPN inked a deal with UFC , ESPN+. Former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard , Rival. NFL rookie QB Sam Darnold to enhance film sessions. looks at how video and new tech is changing track and field. Can blockchain technology ? The inventor of the yellow first-down marker was into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper
I didn’t know that Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton was against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday until the game was practically over. But the fact that I caught the excitement of the rare baseball feat in real time, and how I shared it with friends, is another fun example of what it’s like to be a sports fan in 2018. The game from Toronto’s Rogers Centre started at 1 p.m. PT, and rather than lie on my couch at home or sit in a bar to watch a regular season game, I worked through most of it. On the way home, after 6 p.m. PT, I received an alert on my phone from ESPN, that Paxton hadn’t allowed a hit through eight innings. The alert came in at 6:17 p.m, and looking back at my history, it seems I missed one at 6:05 p.m. that said he’d made it through seven innings. Now, I don’t get a lot of alerts on my phone related to sports. I don’t need to be constantly updated on everything that’s happening across a host of leagues. I don’t subscribe to a Major League Baseball package that lets me watch every game on my phone when I should be paying attention to my wife. I just like “breaking news” style updates on teams that I care about. This qualified as something I wanted to see happen live. Alerts on Kurt Schlosser’s iPhone on Tuesday from ESPN about Seattle Mariners pitcher James Paxton. (GeekWire screen grab) So, Rather than get dinner started for my kids, I told them “there’s a good baseball thing happening that I have to see,” and I headed for the basement TV room. Here’s where I try to justify paying a painfully expensive Xfinity bill every month — $150 of which is just for cable TV. I’ve avoided cutting the cord because in moments like these I like the reliability of knowing just where to go on TV to watch history play out. It didn’t have to be a silly “sportsball” thing, it could have been something of actual import — name your breaking news flavor. Being in the news business all these years has fed that appetite — I think kids call it FOMO. So I picked up the fancy Xfinity remote control that lets me speak to it to change channels and I said “Root Sports,” knowing just where the Mariners game would be broadcast. I didn’t turn to Twitter or Facebook for running commentary from feeds I follow; I didn’t launch the ESPN app to watch animated baseballs sail across the screen in a gamecast version of the events. I texted a few friends. “Mariners game! Now!” because my kids weren’t providing the level of shared excitement that I needed with three outs to go. As Paxton took the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning, and recorded the first and then second outs, I stood up and pointed my phone at the TV. With two strikes on Blue Jays batter Josh Donaldson, I hit record for a video. With a 50-inch TV on the wall, I watched the sixth no-hitter in Mariners history through a 5 1/2-inch iPhone screen. .’s last three pitches:98 mph100 mph99 mph THAT’S how you finish a no-no. — MLB (@MLB) As third baseman Kyle Seager recorded the final out and Paxton was mobbed by his teammates on the pitcher’s mound, I ended the video at 44 seconds. I sat back down on my couch, briefly explained what a no-hitter was to my kids, turned off the TV and uploaded my video to my private Instagram. “Niiiiiiice,” I wrote, next to punching fist and Canadian flag emojis. Back upstairs in the kitchen, prepping for taco Tuesday — as was the plan before a push alert delayed things — I checked my phone here and there to make sure people were enjoying the video clip I sort of ripped off from Root Sports, Major League Baseball and the Mariners — if you can steal something you paid $150 to see. Official videos and images from the team began to fill my Twitter feed. Friends answered texts. Social media endorphins subsided. Game over. A post shared by (@mariners) on May 8, 2018 at 8:41pm PDT
TAYLOR’S TAKE ON THE WEEK IN SPORTS TECH: A new football league controlled by fans is the latest endeavor to make use of blockchain technology. The begins play next year and will allow fans to be apart of everything from play-calling to hiring general managers. The FCFL will feature eight indoor football teams playing one hour-long games in a production studio on a 50-yard field. Games will air on Twitch, the Amazon-owned streaming platform whose video overlay technology will allow fans to call plays in real-time. The league is also using helmet cameras, embedded chips in balls, drones, and other tech. The league this week that it has partnered with , a Seattle-based blockchain consulting group, to implement a first-of-its-kind blockchain token system. Fans will be able to earn Fan Access Network (FAN) tokens built on the Ethereum blockchain; the more tokens collected, the more power they’ll have to make decisions. , co-founder of FCFL, told GeekWire that his team wanted to use blockchain for three reasons: Voting transparency: “We’re letting fans dictate the careers of coaches and players, and the plays on the field,” he said. “We need to be able to provide true transparency in the voting process so there are no questions about the results.” Tokenization: “We’re building a ‘real-life video game’ so it’s a natural fit to have tokens in the game,” he said. “We’re tokenizing voting power in the league so the more FAN tokens a fan owns/earns, the more voting power the fan will have.” Digital collectibles: “We’re going to be tokenizing the players in the league and creating non-fungible digital ‘collectible tokens’ for each player, similar to trading cards,” he said. “We’re working with New Alchemy on some interesting ways to incorporate the collectible player tokens into fantasy sports games for the league.” New Alchemy is also an investor in the league, making a “low seven-figure” investment, Farudi said. Farudi and his colleagues tested an initial version of FCFL last year , an Indoor Football League team, and letting fans control plays with an app. FCFL is the latest evolution, expanding the format to an entire league with partners like Twitch and IMG Original Content. Highlights from the week in sports tech Amazon bought up more live sports rights, this time to stream the U.S. Open in Ireland and the U.K. on Prime Video. The NFL is investigating what it alleges as widespread fraud related to its $1 billion concussion settlement, reports . Amazon-owned Twitch from the NBA’s new 2K esports league. reports that MLB and the NBA are in talks to divest their stakes in DraftKings and FanDuel. Seattle startup Vicis for safe football helmets. Seattle esports betting startup Unikrn made another acquisition, to create the first “crypto gaming platform.” Another Seattle startup, IdealSeat, to integrate its ticketing intelligence platform. University of Pittsburgh awarded two projects for its first : tech that improves swimming technique, and a bio-screening platform that measures a user’s nervous system. Did you sign up for ESPN+? In case you missed it, on ESPN’s new $5 per month streaming service. Mobile Sports Report is out with . Blockchain-based startups are . Thanks for tuning in, everyone! — Taylor Soper
Amazon’s first Thursday Night Football stream plays on its website homepage in September. (Screenshot via Amazon) While National Football League teams have made the usual offseason changes aimed at improving their competitive chances next season, the league itself is staying with one big player — Amazon. The NFL announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement to once again partner with Amazon Prime Video for streaming rights to “Thursday Night Football.” The tech giant will stream 11 games (broadcast by FOX) to a global audience during both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Last season marked the first year of the streaming partnership between the league and Seattle-based Amazon, which took the reigns after Twitter’s one-year shot at the effort. Last year’s deal was for a reported $50 million, and rumblings on Thursday indicated that the NFL may have upped that price as competition from other services such as YouTube and Facebook was strong. Amazon re-ups NFL Thursday night streaming deal for 2018, 2019. Slightly surprising – figured league would want a new partner, and YouTube is very interested in live sports. — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Looks like same deal as before (though I assume NFL will have extracted some kind of rate increase) – games streamed to Prime members worldwide. One new tweak – will also be available (presumably for free) to Twitch users. — Peter Kafka (@pkafka) Had heard from a few folks over the last few months that YouTube was a strong contender for this deal. Also a little surprised the NFL went back to Amazon. — Kurt Wagner (@KurtWagner8) Surprising in that many thought NFL would continue its digital speed dating after previously working with Amazon and Twitter. Plenty of other potential parties inc YouTube and Facebook. But NFL staying w Amazon for this for next 2 years. — Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) “Amazon was a tremendous partner for ‘Thursday Night Football’ in 2017 and as we continue our mission of delivering NFL games to fans whether they watch on television or on digital platforms, we are excited to work with them again for the next two seasons,” Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer for the NFL, said in a news release. PREVIOUSLY: Amazon will deliver to more than 100 million Amazon Prime members worldwide in over 200 countries and territories, on the Prime Video app for TVs, game consoles, and connected devices, which includes Amazon Fire TV, mobile devices and online. Across 10 games last season when on the technology behind the effort, Amazon attracted more than 17 million viewers, or an average of 1.7 million per game. Games will also be available to Twitch viewers, the live-streaming interactive video platform that is a subsidiary of Amazon. Amazon also partners with the NFL for the Prime original series “All or Nothing,” which is produced by NFL Films. The third season of the docuseries will launch on Friday with a closer look at the Dallas Cowboys. Amazon’s first “Thursday Night Football” game of the upcoming season will be during week four when the Los Angeles Rams host the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 27. Games kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET.
Chris Bosh and his wife, Adrienne Bosh, pose for a selfie with an Atlas 5 rocket in advance of today’s Mars InSight launch. (Adrienne Bosh via Twitter) While retired NBA All-Star basketball player Chris Bosh , he and his wife Adrienne are taking a time out to witness the from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Based on their tweets, the Boshs are having a great time and firing up the space crowd as well. More importantly, they’re inspiring their children to reach even higher than a basketball rim: I’m behind the scenes of the launch