LINCOLN LOGS ON
No ticket, no TV? It's no problem this Saturday for Web-savvy
Top-ranked Nebraska opens its season on Saturday at 11:30 a.m
CDT, hosting Silicon Valley's own San Jose State. Don't look for
the Big Red on the small screen, though. Fans from Wahoo to
Yahoo! are being advised that unless they have a ticket at
Memorial Stadium--site of 234 consecutive sellouts--the only way to
watch this game will be on-line. "When we found out that nobody
wanted us on TV," says Chris Anderson, a spokeswoman for the
Huskers, who as members of the Big 12 share in TV contracts with
ABC and Fox Sports Net, "we decided to be cutting edge."
The almost certainly forgettable afternoon on the field (the
Spartans were 3-7 last year) will thus be remembered as the
first video Webcast of a Division I-A football game by a major
sports site. Internet users across the planet need only to log
on to either foxsports.com or huskers.com. Pictures from six
cameras will be supplemented by the call of Nebraska announcers
Warren Swain (play-by-play) and Adrian Fiala (analysis). To
download the images, you need either of two plug-ins: RealPlayer
for modem speeds of 56K and up, or Quicktime. "We've had a lot
of success with our Internet radio broadcasts already," says
Anderson, noting that the Huskers normally receive hits from
approximately 25 countries during their radio Webcasts. "We're
hoping for about half a million page views this time around."
George Hirsch, publisher of Runner's World, sees the paradox.
"There is a tremendous upsurge in the popularity of marathons and
certain road races," says Hirsch, "at a time when interest in
running domestically has in fact diminished greatly."
One reason for the increased participation in big events, says
Hirsch, is that popular races such as the Chicago Marathon and
the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., both to be staged
on Oct. 22, offer on-line race registration. (A runner can, of
course, still sign up by mail or phone.) "A year ago I would have
said that on-line registration is the future, but now it's
definitely the present," says Hirsch. In fact, a runner can't
participate in some races unless he knows how to log on. As
Hirsch notes, "This year the Big Sur [Calif.] Marathon used only
Speed now is almost as important in entering a race as it is in
running one. The 1999 Marine Corps Marathon filled its field of
18,000 in seven months. This year it expanded to 25,000
competitors and used Ann Arbor, Mich.-based doitsports.com to
process its on-line registrations. Within four days the field was
full, despite the on-line registration site's being shut down for
nearly a day because of a crush of hits from marathon hopefuls.
Race officials say that 52% of the entries came on-line.
"You've got to be prepared for an onslaught," says Dave Alberga,
CEO of La Jolla, Calif.-based Active.com, which handles on-line
registration for more than 14,000 events. "Routinely, we process
three thousand registration applications per day. When we handle
San Francisco's Bay-to-Breakers 12K, the largest road race in the
country [70,000 runners], we process one registration per
The former COO of Ticketmaster, Alberga is fast turning
Active.com into the Ticketmaster of participatory sports
registration. Active.com processes applications in 60 sports.
Last year the fledgling dot.com registered 300,000 people for
events. This year that number has quadrupled, and it should
quadruple again in 2001. Entrants are billed $1 to $2 as a
service charge. "We don't look at it as a runner saying, 'Those
rat bastards charged me an extra two bucks,'" says the
38-year-old Alberga. "We think that given the convenience--no
envelope to stamp, no check to write, learning that you've been
accepted within minutes rather than weeks--the runner is
grateful for how much time we save him or her."
Going the same distance in less time. Who better than a runner
to understand that? --J.W.
to the swift with the mouse.