IN A SANTA MONICA bar late on the afternoon of June 24, the conversation turned to Clayton Kershaw, who six days earlier had thrown a 15-strikeout no-hitter against the Rockies. Even in the 24-minute news cycle, the subject of the best Dodgers arm since Koufax had yet to reach its expiration date. Everyone agreed that it was no worse than the second-best game ever pitched. The problem was that no one had seen the game's end.
L.A.'s recent ascent in the NL West notwithstanding, there has been much to complain about with baseball's Best Team Money May or May Not Be Able to Buy: an unreliable bullpen, a bloated, underperforming $62 million outfield and, if you're feeling especially shrill, the made-for-hot-take histrionics of Yasiel Puig. But nothing chaps Dodgers fans quite like the team's impasse with local pay-TV carriers, which has made games available to less than 40% of the nation's second-largest market. It was this reality for which the most profane bursts were reserved.
This is 2014, of course, and there are ways to cushion such inconveniences. The newest would be unveiled in less than 24 hours.
SHORTLY BEFORE 5 P.M. CDT on June 25, in a sprawling studio in Chicago's West Loop, the staff of 120 Sports gathered for the launch of an unprecedented digital network that will marry live conversation, live data and live look-ins. It was the last of these that had the attention of the crowd of 50 or so gathered around the set. One eye they offered to host Michael Kim, the highly respected former ESPN anchor, as he welcomed viewers to the show; the other they fixed on their smartphones. They were not being rude. In San Francisco the Giants' Tim Lincecum was three outs from throwing a no-hitter against the Padres. The adrenaline level in the studio, already on an opening-night jag, surged. 120 Sports was not yet 15 minutes old, and history was within its—and your—fingertips.
Things move fast in the sports and the digital realms, and 120 Sports—a partnership between SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, MLB Advanced Media, Silver Chalice Ventures, Campus Insiders, the NHL and the PGA Tour—is designed to merge those two communities in a never-been-done-before way. More than once 120 has been described as "sports at the speed of Twitter," and the platform will indeed mimic real-time conversation by merging original programming in 120-second bursts with statistics and social media in a single-screen experience, on 120sports.com and SI.com and on 120's iOS and (as of July 14) Android mobile apps. The eight-hour live conversation—brought to you by presenting sponsors Geico, Nissan, Transamerica and Verizon—will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern every day, with frequent appearances from SI personalities, including Peter King, Tom Verducci, Grant Wahl and Seth Davis. Throughout the night there will be a steady stream of highlights and live look-ins from each of the major pro sports, with the exception of the NFL, and most major college conferences. All of the site's features are designed with an eye toward personalization to accommodate your preferences. "The big winner will be the sports fan," says Paul Fichtenbaum, the editor of the Time Inc. Sports Group, "and we're excited that SPORTS ILLUSTRATED will be fully integrated into an experience that will change the way viewers get their news."
AT 5:22 CDT, Lincecum induced a weak ground ball from Will Venable to close out MLB's second no-hitter in a week. What viewers of the live look-in didn't see were the fist pumps and high fives in the control room at 120 HQ. "That was awesome," announced 120 president Jason Coyle, so amped that he was still pacing his office as the 120 audience watched Lincecum's live postgame interview from the AT&T Park clubhouse. "That's the kind of moment we're made for."