Why Geeks Should Care About Sports

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I grew up in a sports town. It seemed like in Kansas City, everyone was a Chiefs fan. When I moved to New York and got into the tech scene, I was surprised to find that there was more of a 50/50 split of people who enjoyed sports. As both a geek and sports fan, I think non-sports loving geeks should give sports a chance. Hear me out, I’ll be brief.

Sports are Unpredictable

When we design and create programs, things are predictable. If I code “1+1″ in my favorite language, it’s always 2. If a program acts unexpectedly, it’s something we can fix in our code. Sports are the exact opposite, they are almost completely unpredictable. This unpredictably reminds me of the beauty in being surprised. That euphoric high you get when something totally unpredictable happens… and you like it. It reminds me to try and create apps that do the same thing. It reminds me that the challenge isn’t just creating something that works, but creating something that makes people’s lives better (often times in unpredictable ways).

Sports Present a Big Market Opportunity

It seems like the statistics world has had a love affair with sports lately. The tech world hasn’t totally followed. I haven’t seen the excitement around sports tech that has been around food tech or music tech. It’s a big enough market to warrant excitement, the Dallas Cowboys alone are estimated to be worth $2.1 billion dollars. Manchester United is a publicly traded entity with a market cap of over $2.2 billion dollars. Yes, these are two of the biggest teams, but they’re just two teams in two leagues. As far as tech in space, Bleecher Report (a blog started in 2007) sold in August for “just under $200M“. A big and fun market? I’m in.

Sports Tech is Ripe for Disruption

Recently the Wall Street Journal published an article about the San Francisco 49ers poaching talent from Silicon Valley startups. One of the most insightful quotes of the article comes from the 49ers General Manager, Trent Baalke. He said, “We know the evaluation process and the scouting process. We don’t know the technical aspects. We don’t know what’s available and we certainly don’t know how to build it.” I absolutely don’t believe this is an isolated issue just within the 49ers organization or within the NFL. As a geek, few things excite me as much as an industry that’s saying “We don’t know what to do with technology, but we know it’s going to important. Help?”. This may not be the general feeling through every league now, but I think it’ll get there.

I’ve laid out my case. Willing to give sports a shot? Give me a fist-bump at the next Brooklyn Nets game, start a petition for the Jets to play Tebow or (maybe more realistically) go build awesome stuff at Sports Hack Day in Seattle in February.