SLIDESHOW

5 Wicked-Hot — and 5 Way-Cold — Sports Technologies

Technology is changing the way fans watch and interact with sporting events. In some cases it's changing the sports themselves.

The Best and Worst Sports-Related Technologies

Many technologies can enhance a fan's enjoyment of sports. Some others are just plain annoying. Before we get to the bad, here are 10 sports technologies we love.

Also see:

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High-Tech Stadiums

Sure, old-time ballparks like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field have their charm, but fans are being treated to some really cool, interactive technology at state-of-the-art arenas such as the new Yankee Stadium and Cowboys Stadium. Both facilities make use of Cisco's StadiumVision, which "allows fans to interact with the event experience by taping and accessing instant replays on a handheld device and sharing it with other participants, or with anyone on the Internet," as Network World reports. The Cowboys stadium also features the world's largest HDTV and 3,000 HD displays featuring customized game footage and real-time information.

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Streaming Internet Video

Let's say you're a Boston Celtics fan who lives in Scotland. Or a Celtic Football Club fan who lives in Boston. (It's a Scottish soccer team, trust me.) Twenty years ago, watching all the games would have been a near-impossibility. But now, with league- and team-sponsored video services, fans can catch live, high-quality game feeds no matter where they live, with an Internet connection and a fast enough computer.

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Games on Demand

The luxury of watching any game you want isn't restricted to your laptop. All the major U.S. sporting leagues now offer cable packages that let you watch every single game, all season long. MLB Extra Innings, NHL Center Ice, NFL Sunday Ticket, and NBA League Pass offer the most diehard fans a way to see their favorite teams and scout out the competition. You can even watch live action from a half-dozen games at once with a split-screen format. One quibble (at least with the NBA service, which I purchased last season): not enough games in HD.

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Electronic Pin Locators

You won't see Tiger Woods using one, but amateur golfers could shave a few strokes off their scores with new devices that calculate one's distance from the pin. One such device called the Leica Pinmaster shoots a laser at the pin to measure distance, helping you decide whether to use the six-iron or the seven. With any luck, lost golf balls will someday be a thing of the past as well, with new gizmos that help duffers find balls hit into the rough or woods.

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Fantasy Sports Web Sites

These days, it seems like every football fan cares about two teams: the hometown boys and his (or her) fantasy squad. When rotisserie leagues were organized with pen and paper they were, frankly, more busy work than fun. But fantasy sports have ballooned in popularity thanks in part to Web sites like CBSSports.com and Yahoo, which offer live scoring, an easy-to-use draft application, injury reports, and detailed statistical analysis and player comparisons. Most importantly, the sites' chat forums offer a convenient place to hone your trash-talking skills.

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Five Sports Technologies We Hate

OK, we've looked at the best sports-related technologies. Now let's examine five that change the fan experience for the worse.

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Online Ticketing Systems

Yes, it's nice that the Internet lets sports fans buy tickets from the convenience of their living rooms, and without having to deal with annoying telephone systems. But too often, fans end up getting shut out or feeling ripped off.

If you're lucky enough to buy tickets, Ticketmaster rewards you with the privilege of paying "convenience fees" and building charges that can make a $30 ticket cost $40 to $45. And if the event sold out on Ticketmaster, your next option is going to a ticket broker that can sell tickets for more than face value.

It's no surprise that fans are suspicious of Ticketmaster's relationship with ticket resale sites – since Ticketmaster happens to own one of the most prominent, that being TicketsNow. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against the companies and a recent settlement forced them to "curb deceptive tactics and pay $50,000 for consumer fraud enforcement and education," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Ineffective Doping Tests

Fans want to believe sports are free of doping, or at least that professional leagues are making an honest attempt to catch cheaters. But while some athletes get caught, the evidence in front of our eyes suggests anti-doping technology is at least two steps behind the offenders. Without steroids, you probably wouldn't find many NFL linebackers who are 6'2", weigh 270 pounds, hit as hard as Hulk Hogan and run nearly as fast as Carl Lewis. Even worse, pro football and baseball don't even bother testing for the commonly used human growth hormone, because no urine test exists and players have lobbied against blood testing.

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Crazy Swim Suits

At this year's world swimming championships, 43 new world records were set – not because swimmers suddenly became more talented but because they got better swimsuits. Just as steroids have tainted the baseball record book, swimming competitions have become a joke because of full-body, speed-enhancing swimsuits made from polyurethane. The suits are water-repellent, reduce drag, improve buoyancy and use a corset-like grip to maintain optimal body position in the water.

Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and set seven records at last year's Olympics. He finally lost a race this year, to a swimmer wearing a suit even more advanced than the Speedo full-body LZR Racer that helped Phelps rewrite the record books.

Good news, though: the world's top swimming organization has banned the space-age suits, effective Jan. 1, 2010.

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Text Your Vote In!

Unfortunately, technology has given TV sportscasters and stadium management new ways to annoy fans and distract them from the game. You can hardly watch a game or sports show anymore without being asked to text your vote in for some meaningless, sponsored award. Cast your vote for "Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year"! (offer available only for Sprint customers). And if you're at a stadium, and text a comment for the privilege of seeing it appear on the JumboTron – congratulations! You're just given the team permission to send text spam to your phone.

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Twitter

When you're a sports fan, you tend to think only the best of your favorite athletes. He's a great player – must be a great guy, right? That seems true until you read the athlete's Twitter feed.

The seemingly lovable Glen "Big Baby" Davis recently used his Twitter feed to blast the Boston Celtics for not offering him as much money as he desired, with whiny posts such as "Why is this taking so long!!! I really don't understand!!!!" and "Anybody know what's going on with the Celtics? Cause I don't!" The NFL even had to tell players not to use Twitter during games.

Twitter can be quite useful to sports fans, offering an easy way to track the latest news without obsessively conducting Web searches and refreshing the ESPN.com home page. But we can do without the Twitter feeds narcissistic athletes devote to their favorite topic – themselves.

Also see:

Computer modeling helps build solar-powered stadium

Dallas Cowboys deck out new stadium with Cisco video technology

Sport's networkiest moments

See related stories:

iPhone Sports App Reviews

Sports Downloads

MyFantasyTeams - Professional Edition