I Went To A Mariners Game… And It Was Fun

We are 4.32% of the way through the MLB season. And your Seattle Mariners are in 1st place.

Sure, we still have about 1,395 innings to play. And a lot of things can go wrong during those innings. But for 9 innings yesterday on a rainy April evening, it was FUN to be in Safeco Field. I can’t remember the last time I said that.

I’ve “enjoyed myself” at Safeco Field a few times in the last 5 years. I’ve also “spent time with friends” there. But I can’t remember the last time a combination of optimism, anticipation, energy and crowd noise equaled a “fun time.”

But there I was, watching Corey Hart hit two home runs to lead the 1st place Mariners to a come from behind win over the arch-rival Angels in front of a sold out and loud stadium. Look at all those words I haven’t been able to use in a long time to describe the Seattle 9:
- Two home runs
- Win
- Come from behind
- Loud
- Sold out
- 1st place

I’m not going to project that the Mariners will still be in 1st place on Sept 1 and that we’ll be in a playoff race. I won’t presume that the next 1,395 innings will be devoid of heartache, injury or frustration.

But I will enjoy this time. Top of the standings, a potential Cy Young winner and some young exciting players, combining to make baseball fun again. That’s all we can ask for.

The Problem With Buying Ads on Auto Play News Videos

I get why a marketer would want to buy pre-roll ads on videos. People will sit thru your ad to get to content they’ve told you they want.

To some extent, I also get why a marketer would want to buy pre-roll ads on news videos. That’s generally time sensitive content a person REALLY wants, so they have a higher threshold of pain to watch your ad.

BUT – and it’s a Sir Mix-A-Lot sized BUT – if there are no controls in place, then your ad becomes the annoying thing that is keeping someone from watching something they care about. Your ad becomes the opportunistic and sleazy type of thing that makes someone not want to be part of your community.

Now, I know Luminosity is a great company. They have a product that really is trying to do good in the world. I’ve played with their app. I’m not sure I’m any smarter for it, but I appreciate their effort. I genuinely believe they are a good company.

BUT, here is their ad, stopping me from being able to read about a fatal mudslide that is affecting my community. In a more perfect advertising world, either the Luminosity media buyer or CNN web producer would have thought to disassociate their ads from devastating news. But they didn’t, so you get this.

luminosity_ad

Moral of the story: Auto-play is evil. Don’t do it.

Deciphering the Online Ticket Broker Algorithm

Online ticket brokers such as StubHub.com have been around long enough that they are a standard ticket buying or selling experience for many fans.

Can’t make a game – stick the tix on StubHub. Need tix for a game – grab them off StubHub.

The model is brilliant. They charge the seller 15% commission, and then they charge the buyer a 15% tax as well. Say you post 2 tickets for $50 ea, so $100 total. The buyer sees a price of $57.50 each and pays $115, with StubHub taking the extra $15. Then StubHub sends you a check for $85, keeping the extra $15. That’s a 30% commission on 2 tickets changing hands. But the program is still the easiest marketplace around.

But there’s an interesting next level to this marketplace. How do the sellers decide when to post and how much to offer?

This Thursday and Saturday, the NCAA West Regional will be in Anaheim, CA. Two of the participants, San Diego St and Arizona have large alumni bases within driving distance. The Arena holds 14,000 people and is officially sold out. On Monday morning, the lowest ticket price on StubHub was about $225 and there were about 790 tickets.

Since then, the number of available tickets has fallen to between 450-500, but never lower. Meanwhile, the price has dipped into the $150′s. So while theoretically the supply is falling, so is the price.

So who is keeping the supply set at around 500? How many tickets are actually being moved? It looks like StubHub is automatically dropping the prices by a certain % every few hours. Then when old tickets get purchased, new ones are getting posted by the brokers. That way there’s never a listed supply that encourages people to keep waiting. The incentive is to jump on the listed price before the supply dwindles more.

So I wonder if it’s StubHub limiting supply, or the brokers themselves. Based on its 15% x 2 commission model, StubHub certainly has the incentive to keep prices as high as possible. But it also has incentive to make sure all the tickets get sold. So somewhere is a Pareto optimal equation for StubHub that isn’t necessarily optimal for buyers and sellers.

I assume they don’t open up their API’s, otherwise someone would have built the “Farecast for StubHub” by now. Until they do, all you can do is keep an eye on it yourself.

Here’s Your 2014 Sounders Transactions Merry-Go-Round, In One Easy List

Using the Seattle Times as a source, here’s as close as I can get to a complete list of how your old 2013 Sounders became your NEW 2014 Sounders. For the purpose of this list, I’m mainly only counting players who actually played or are expected to play.

If you remember, we ended 2013 on a sad note. Here’s what the roster looked like as the players packed up their gear in October 2013 (Starter types listed first).
GK: Gspurning, Hahnemann, Ford, Weber
DEF: Yedlin, Hurtado, Traore, Gonzales, Scott, Ianni, Burch, Remick
MID: Alonso, Evans, Rosales (c), Neagle, Moffat, Rose, Caskey, Joseph, Zakuani
FOR: Dempsey, Johnson, Martins, Estrada, Zavaleta (Note: I’m not sure when Ochoa was released.)
Non-Factors: Lund, Bates

So let’s see what happened next:
11/19: Alonso gets a new contract with a DP slot.
11/20: Evans gets long-term deal.
These two things mean that Dempsey, Martins and Alonso are your 3 DP’s, and Evans is presumably taking a good sized share of the salary cap. So now the team needs to trim payroll.

So…
12/10: OUT: Michael Gspurning, March Burch, Steve Zakuani

12/11: OUT: Mauro Rosales to Chivas USA
12/11: IN: FOR Tristan Bowen from Chivas USA and No. 2 in Allocation Order
The Rosales deal ends up being very interesting for the Sounders. Chivas takes on an older, expensive player, gives up a younger, cheaper one, AND gives Seattle a high spot in the Allocation order, which becomes interesting later. Then later in the off-season, Chivas ownership sells the team back to the league.

12/10: IN: GK Stefan Frei TO Sounders from Toronto for 2015 1st Round Pick
12/12: IN: DEF Chad Marshall TO Seattle from Columbus for 2015 3rd round pick and Sounders Allocation placement
Remember, the Sounders got Chivas’ Allocation placement, so now they didn’t need theirs. Gspurning’s salary goes to Frei. Burch’s to Marshall (roughly).

12/12: Ford gets new deal to be 3rd string Goalie
12/13: IN: FOR Kenny Cooper to Seattle from Houston for Adam Moffat
12/16: Gonzales gets a new 1 year deal

12/17: OUT: Johnson to DC for allocation money
This has to happen because the team can’t afford Evans AND Johnson as non DP’s.

12/18: IN: FOR Chad Barrett via re-entry draft

1/6: Neagle gets extension
1/8: Hahnemann gets extension
1/9: IN: Homegrown players Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar

1/16: OUT: Hurtado and Ianni (and No 13 Pick in 2014 Draft) to Chicago
1/16: IN: DEF Jalil Anibaba (and No 8 pick in 2014 Draft) from Chicago
This is a 2 for 1 deal. Sounders have too many center backs and need to cut some more costs.

1/31: IN: MID Marco Pappa via Allocation Draft
Remember the Rosales for Bowen deal? Now, it’s become Rosales for Bowen and Pappa. Nice.

2/28: OUT: Zavaleta loaned to Chivas USA
Now, that deal has sort of become Rosales and Zavaleta (on loan) for Bowen and Pappa.

Undated: OUT: Joseph training with New England

Grand total
OUT: Gspurning, Hurtado, Ianni, Burch, Joseph, Rosales, Zakuani, Johnson, Zavaleta (Loan)
IN: Frei, Marshall, Anibaba, Pappa, Cooper, Barrett, Bowen, Okoli, Kovar
KEPT/ENDORSED: Hahnemann, Ford, Gonzales, Alonso, Evans, Neagle
NO CHANGE: Yedlin, Scott, Traore, Remick, Rose, Caskey, Estrada, Dempsey, Martins
OTHER: Ockford (Loaned out), Lowe, Periera

Got it? Make sense? Good.

Seattle City Council Votes to Stifle Innovation

(In my best Foghorn Leghorn voice.) “Well I’m shocked. I say shocked.”

The Seattle City Council faced a conundrum. Do you cater to a lobby group, whose industry (in some cities) historically has had ties to organized crime, and who supports monopoly pricing and a lack of consumer choice? Or do you embrace innovative new ways to move Seattle citizens from Point A to Point B, enabling some people to generate extra income by ferrying other people on rides they are going to drive anyway?

It’s the classic battle that we see in Seattle play itself out over and over – Stagnation vs Innovation.

And once again, Stagnation won.

Credit Bruce Harrell, Mike O’Brien and Kshama Sawant for the crisp writing in this week’s episode of “House of Ludites.” While technically Tom Rassmussen, Sally Bagshaw, Tim Burgess, Jean Godden and Sally Clark voted for the compromise that NO ONE seems to like, it was Harrell, O’Brien and Sawant that created all the headaches.

At issue is whether / how much Seattle should regulate the Ride Sharing industry, which features alternatives to taxis being spearheaded by companies like Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc… In one camp are people who believe we are entering a more Collaborative Economy. In the other camp are people who think we need to protect the taxi industry, which hasn’t made a significant innovation since installing GPS dashboards in their cars 15 years ago.

One one side we have variable pricing, ordering (and paying for) rides from your mobile device and a pseudo “pay to carpool” opportunity to decrease overall traffic. On the other side, an opaque oligopoly owned by a few people with no real ramifications for poor customer service.

The fact that there is a debate on this is laughable.

True, the companies did themselves in by refusing to release private usage data in a public forum. It was kind of an unfair ask – what company wants to release all of its competitive data. But surely there was some way they could have negotiated that data to only be seen by the 9 Council members.

But there’s the larger issue. Seattle, once again, gives ammunition to anyone who wants to claim it’s not really a city for innovation. The tech community does a lot of work to try to convince innovative thinkers to base themselves in Seattle. And when those people get to their hotel in Seattle, open their newest mobile device and try to order an Uber, they are going to be denied. We can’t keep making ourselves the poster child for Inactivity. We need to start lining up candidates for 2015 and get this Council fixed.

Helping the JOBS Act Get Through

From the entrepreneur’s perspective, more access to capital is better than less. We have a current ecosystem that involves Angels and VC’s, but there are many reasons why we should make it easier for people to make informed decisions about investing in new ventures.

There’s a hearing in the Washington senate on this Tuesday, 2/25. Here’s a good link to learn more: http://lunarmobiscuit.com/washington-state-jobs-act/

“This law will allow any Washington State company to raise up to $1,000,000 per year from Washington State residents. Any resident will be able to invest at least $2,000, with that amount rising to 5% or 10% of a resident’s income or net worth. No longer will entrepreneurs be limited to raising money from “accredited” investors.”

Seeing Sting and Julio Down By the Schoolyard

You know when you are sitting around with friends listening to music and enjoying a beverage or two, and someone says, “Wouldn’t be AWESOME if “Person X” and “Person Y” went on tour together?” And then you spend an hour debating what group of people you’d like to see collaborate on stage at the same time for a whole show.

Springsteen and Pearl Jam? U2 and Madonna? Paul McCartney and Justin Timberlake? Bruno Mars and the Rolling Stones? Usher and Toby Keith? And then you wonder sadly why it never happens.

Well somewhere high on my list was Paul Simon and Sting. And lucky for me, they showed up at Key Arena last week.

I wasn’t exactly sure how they were going to perform, but their model was fantastic and hopefully will be something other groups will replicate. For a pretty ridiculous ticket price, they combined their 2 bands into a fantastic harmony featuring both the predictability of the songs you want to hear, and the unpredictability of some weird combinations.

Grand total, we ended up with 30 songs over about 2 hours and 45 minutes. And frankly, the time flew by. The 30 songs themselves make for an awesome playlist (listen here if you’d like). But how they were executed made it even better.

They came out together, sharing vocals on 3 of their top hits, almost as if they had written them together. Then Sting did 5 of his own, Simon came back for a duet, Simon did 5 of his own, Sting came back for a duet and 5 of his own, Simon back for a duet and 5 more, and then a 4 song encore together. Basically, we ended up with 10 duets, and each guy did 10 of his own. Plus Sting did Simon’s America with one of his solo choices, which was a nice tribute to the man 10 years his elder.

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The highlights of the show were watching Simon sing on things like Fields of Gold, Every Breath You Take, or Sting taking Garfunkel’s role on Bridge over Troubled Water and The Boxer. These collaborations showed both how great the songs are, but also how much talent each man possesses to have the ability to step right in and make it seem like it’s his own song.

Almost as much fun as watching Sting and Simon, was watching how the two bands played together. They didn’t hire new people to back them up, they took their regular teams and mashed them up on the same stage. All told I think there were 13 additional people when everyone was out there. Instrument wise, I think I counted 2 drum sets, a percussion set (bongos and such), keyboard, organs, bass player, 2-3 other guitars, female vocals, clarinet/sax player, a trumpet, violin and an accordion / jack of all trades. They rolled on and off the stage depending on the song, which has to take some tight coordination.

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The bands themselves were pretty funny in how different they looked. Simon’s guys all looked like they were going to walk over to Floyd’s Place after the gig for some chicken wings and cold beer. Sting’s team looked like they would take an Uber down to the Triple Door for a glass of wine and maybe check out some jazz. But musically, they seemed pretty flawless.

It’s funny to think about two people who have achieved so much in their lives, but can also have such a respect for the other one, that their natural course of action is, “Hey man, let’s go make a few million bucks playing some gigs together.” On one hand it seems so easy. But I imagine it takes some special personalities not to get too egocentric about it.

If you live out east, the show will eventually get to Madison Square Garden. I highly recommended it.

Set List:
(Spotify Playlist)

Together:
Brand New Day, Boy in the Bubble, Fields of Gold

Sting solo:
Everything She Does is Magic, Englishman in New York, I Hung My Head, Driven to Tears, Walking on the Moon

Together:
Mother and Child Reunion

Paul Simon solo:
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Dazzling Blue, Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years, Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard

Together:
Fragile

Sting solo:
America, Message in Bottle, Hounds of Winter, They Dance Alone, Roxanne, Desert Rose

Together:
The Boxer

Paul Simon solo:
That Was Your Mother (aka The Zydeco Song), Hearts and Bones / Mystery train / Wheels Medley, Obvious Child, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al

Encore Together:
Late in the Evening, Every Breath you Take, Bridge Over Troubled Water

2nd Encore, sans bands.
When Will I Be Loved – Phil Everly

That’s Billion, With a B

Facebook just agreed to buy WhatsApp for $16 Billion. That’s one billion, this many times:

Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion

When you add the other Billion Billion Billion for current What’s App employees, it comes to $19 Billion.

Just for fun, let’s look back at some previous tech acquisitions you may have remembered:

  • Amazon buys Zappos. Sale Price: $1.2 Billion. Year: 2009
  • AOL buys Netscape. Sale Price: $4.2 Billion. Year: 1998
  • eBay buys PayPal. Sale Price: $1.5 Billion. Year: 2002
  • eBay buys Skype. Sale Price: $2.6 Billion. Year: 2005
  • Yahoo buys Geo Cities. Sale Price: $3.6 Billion. Year: 1999
  • Yahoo buys Broadcast.com. Sale Price: $5.7 Billion. Year: 2001
  • Microsoft buys aQuantive. Sale Price: $6 Billion. Year: 2007
  • Oracle buys Peoplesoft. Sale Price: $10.3 Billion. Year: 2004
  • Facebook buys Instagram. Sale Price: $1 Billion. Year: 2013
  • Google buys YouTube. Sale Price: $1.65 Billion. Year: 2006
  • Google buys Double Click. Sale Price: $3.1 Billion. Year: 2008
  • Google buys Nest. Sale Price: $3.2 Billion. Year: 2014
  • Google buys Waze. Sale Price: $.96 Billion. Year: 2013
  • Google buys Wildfire. Sale Price: $.45 Billion. Year: 2013
  • Google buys Motorola Mobility. Sale Price: $12.5 Billion. Year: 2011

For one thing, it’s fun to look at what deals happened right before bubbles. It’s also fun to see that some of these deals look like bargains now, while some were just busts.

So give or take a billion or so, Google ended up with Nest, Waze, Wildfire and Motorola Mobility for the same price Facebook got Instagram and WhatsApp. Time will tell where the money was better spent.

Another way to analyze the deal is on a cost per user basis. From what I have read, WhatsApp has 450 Million Monthly Active Users (MAU). So at $19 Billion, that’s roughly $42 per user. Obviously Facebook thinks the lifetime value of each user is more than $42, which certainly seems reasonable. So from that angle, disregarding all other benefits of the deal (synergies, defensive play, talent, etc…) it could make sense.

So what about Snapchat? We all scoffed when Snapchat turned down $3 Billion from Facebook, wondering how they could think they were 3x as valuable as Instagram. Well, I can’t tell what this means for them. Certainly they are worth more than 16% of WhatsApp, aren’t they? Or is there enough overlap between WhatsApp and Snapchat users that they just saw their entire market value dry up? Again, only time will tell.

But $16 Billion is a lot of money no matter what. I think we are all on bubble watch now.

Will Michael Sam End Up In Seattle?

So now we have the first openly gay NFL draft hopeful, Michael Sam. In some ways it’s a story that shouldn’t be a story, since everyone within 10-15 years of Sam’s age will just shrug their shoulders. But it IS a story because everyone within 10-15 years of Sam’s parents’ age have witnessed some sort of discrimination.

It will make for an interesting locker room, already an alphabet soup of sizes, shapes, races, upbringings, education, wealth, age, religion and geographic roots. For the most part, politics stays out of the locker room, as you never hear about teammates fighting over immigration reform.

It’s easy to ignorantly say that this will never work because NFL locker rooms are full of testosterone filled meat-heads. But it’s also easy to say that an NFL locker room is where it can work because these guys are focused on one thing – performance. Play well, get paid well. And anyone in your locker room who can make you play better is welcome on the field with you. It’s why guys with 6 kids from 5 women can co-exist with guys who run ministries on the side.

But it can’t work everywhere. The locker room is a delicate game of Jenga and you need all the pieces to fit well for any kind of new distraction to take center stage without causing mass disruption. And yes, this will be a distraction because the media will make it so until the people stop watching the media’s coverage of it.

No team is going to want to be the team where it DOESN’T work, so every team is going to evaluate whether it CAN work for them. And it has nothing to do with orientation, Sam will be measured the same way every player is.  Namely, “If we bring him in, will he have a chance to succeed?”

So who can make this work? I propose a team needs the following:

  1. An owner who is progressive. The ownership will be asked to comment and make statements. So we have to eliminate owners who want to stay out of the limelight.
  2. An executive team with job security. If for some reason this becomes too much of a distraction, it can’t be the straw that gets the front office fired. That eliminates any teams in the midst of multiple sub-par seasons.
  3. A strong head coach who already has command of his locker room. That eliminates all 1st year head coaches, and any coaches who had a bad year last year where the front office can use them as a scapegoat.
  4. A team with intelligent, strong and vocal team leaders. How the media circus ultimately affects practices and training will be dictated by how the team captains get the other players to ignore what is happening around them. So rule out any teams with ignorant or biased team leaders. You need a team with established, veteran winners.
  5. A fan base that cares more about winning than anything else. So rule out fan bases that care associated with areas of the country that have closed minds on similar hot button issues.
  6. A local media that won’t write sensational stories for the sake of writing sensational stories. Sorry New York.

So who does that leave?

I predict Sam ends up in Seattle, San Francisco or New England. In 2nd place, I’d put Denver, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Possibly St. Louis and Kansas City since you have a nice base of Mizzou alum there, but both of those franchises already have issues they have to spend time addressing. It’s hard to find too many other teams with all the criteria above to make this a winning situation for all involved.

We’ll know that we have come a long way when we get to September and this story has gone away, and Sam is just a rookie playing in his first game next to Malcolm Smith and Bobby Wagner.

We’re Going To Be Insufferable and We’re Not Going to Apologize For It

There’s a football game this Sunday that is kind of a big deal. A team from Seattle and a team from Denver are going to fly to New York to play it. Our fans – well the ones who have gajillions of dollars to spend on such things – are all flying out there. The two best teams, in the biggest sport in America, will play on the grandest stage in the world, in the middle of one of the most important cities on the planet.

If we win this game, Seahawks fans are going to be insufferable. And we won’t care.

We’re the city that had the best team in baseball history, yet lost to the hated Yankees in the playoffs. We had our beloved basketball team stolen from us by a spoiled rich guy who married into money. We had possibly the 2nd best team in the history of the NBA, only to have the bad fortune of facing – and losing to – the BEST team in the history of the NBA in the Finals.  We lost in our only other Super Bowl appearance because of some dubious officiating that we still complain about.

We need this.  We deserve this. We’re going to win and we’re going to gloat about it. We have been the whipping boy of professional sports leagues. When we win, we’re not going to do it classy.  We’re not going to be gracious. We’re going to shove it in everyone’s face. We’re going to use the comeback, “Beast Mode”  the same way a 6 year old says, “I know you are but what am I.” We’re going to make Richard Sherman the most Googled athlete in America. We may even petition to have the proper spelling of the word changed to “DangerRuss.”

If we lose this game, Seahawks fans are going to be insufferable. And we won’t care.

We’re somehow facing the greatest quarterback in the history if the NFL, in his greatest season, on his brother’s home turf. How messed up is that? The world is rooting for Peyton. If we lose, it will be due to some horrendous call. We already know that. Some pass interference call that only Peyton gets.

We’re going to complain, we’re going to scream. We’re going to have polls about who we hate more, the Broncos, Steelers, Thunder or Yankees. We’re going to overload every comment thread and forum with how much we got screwed. How Eli walked yard by yard with Peyton to explain how the crazy winds work in the Meadowlands. How the NFL needed a feel good story in their worst PR year ever. How the real gods and football gods conspired to get back at Pete Carroll for his USC misconduct.  We already know why we’re going to lose, and we won’t be shy about sharing it.

 

God I hope we get to be insufferable winners…

 

 

 

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