In (cyber)space, no one can hear you sweat
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on May 18, 2001
For hardcore fans, spectator sports usually come down to numbers: Batting averages, quarterback ratings, goals vs. saves, and the all-important winning percentage.
At the same time, what computers do best is manipulate numbers.
So when the World Wide Web was piggybacked onto the newly liberated Internet just over a decade ago, it was little surprise that among the earliest Web sites were those devoted to sports.
Today, sites such as that of the all-sports cable channel ESPN (ESPN.com, of course) are among the most-visited on the 'Net. Also, most major newspapers will tell you that their logs show that day in and day out, sports stories get the most traffic on their Web sites.
But in addition to getting the latest scoop on the Padres' rotating cast of outfielders or on Broncos' quarterback Brian Griese's continued development, the Internet is a real treasure trove of sports information and even fun.
If ESPN.com is the CNN of the online sports world, CBS' SportsLine gives them a good run for the money as best sports site. With constantly updated sports news and the ability to create your own sports home page (with a calendar and news coverage tracking your favorite teams), SportsLine is a top-notch portal. They feature the same kind of contests and online polls as ESPN.com, have featured columnists, and break out each sport into a separate sub-section.
If forced to choose between the two, I'd go with ESPN.com. But if ESPN.com is down or sluggish due to traffic, I'd be hard pressed to say I'd missed anything by going with SportsLine.
CBS SportsLine offers free fantasy leagues where you can test your skills as a baseball manager ... or general manager, actually, since this is about choosing players and not flashing bunt signs or sending in a relief pitcher.
In fantasy baseball, you form a league with your friends, and then choose players for your team from among all those in either the National or American League (purists, anyway, limit themselves to one league or the other). Then throughout the season, you track the statistics of the players on your team whichever team's players have the best statistics wins the championship.
While fantasy baseball (and football) certainly pre-date the World Wide Web, in the old days you had to pore through the sports page each morning and update the leage's standings by hand. Letting the computers of CBS Fantasy Sports do that work for your certainly makes running a fantasy team more fun you can concentrate more on trades and picking up players on waivers, and less on doing long division. (And I'm ever thankful that the individual leagues are accessible only by their members I don't need the general public seeing how firmly entrenched in last place I already am.)
CBS Fantasy Sports offers free leagues in baseball, football, hockey, basketball, golf and racing. It's paid for by the advertisements that appear on each page whenever you log in.
While Nike and Titleist and the others battle it out over who's high-tech composite golf ball will carry the furthest, and Eli Callaway and other manufacturers try to come up with yet another driver to knock the snot out of said high-tech balls, some folks are getting back into the game's once-beloved traditions.
The folks at Hickory Golf, for instance, are devoted to playing golf with the rules and technology from the turn of last century.
This site is absolutely gorgeous, and if you really love the game of golf (and not the yuppie scene most golf courses have turned into over the last decadde), then you'll love it here.
There are tips here on acquiring playable hickory shaft clubs (which began to be phased out in favor of the new metal shafts in the early 1930s), and on how to restore your clubs once you've found them. There's a full illustrated guide to traditional clubs explaining what a cleek, a mashie and a niblick are.
The folks running Hickory Golf even track an admittedly short list of tournaments in which only hickory shaft clubs can be used, and list a handful of U.S. courses that still cater to hickory clubs (i.e., haven't dramatically lengthened their par 5 holes in response to the abominations of Callaway, Nike, et al).
There don't seem to be any courses west of Nebraska on the list, unfortunately, but I'll still carry my old hickory shaft MacGregor putter that thing still is the center of attention every time it gets used.
The official site of LifeSavers candy, Candystand is also one of the best places to find and play online computer games. You'll need the free Shockwave browser plugin to play them, and if you're using a dial-up modem you may find the downloads unbearable long, but the games are slick, fun, highly playable and best of all, they offer prizes for high score.
While the specific games offered change periodically, there are always quite a few sports games included. As I look now, I see football (QB Challenge), baseball (Bullpen Blast, Home Run Rally), bobsledding, tennis, basketball, bowling and more.
Warning: This site is very addictive if you visit, don't blame me if you're on there for hours.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
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