Monday, November 7, 2011

What's it Worth to Ya?

"You get what you pay for."

That truism has been brought home to me today as I've spent several hours trying to figure out how to apply a new URL to my current blog.

Hopefully you've noticed that I've come up with a new title for my little collection of essays, which hopefully is a bit more attention-getting and - gasp! - trendy, called "Life is a tool."  And as it happened, "LifeIsATool.com" was available!  From my years in IT customer support, I know it's a relatively simple process to get a new website name and stick it onto a current site.

Unless, apparently, you're using free software from Google.

Getting Googled

Granted, I paid a premium for the new URL - twice the going rate at other domain companies.  But I paid the extra bucks because I assumed getting it through Google, which hosts my blog for free, would mean that all the back-end stuff would be synchronized, meaning it would be a simple matter of pointing my new Google-procured URL to my Google-hosted site.

But no, that's apparently not how Google works.  They tell you that's how it works, but in reality, you get sent in circles, bombarded with tech-speak in poorly-worded instructions, and just when you think you're getting somewhere, your computer freezes up.

Twice.

At least you're not paying for all of this lack of service.  The blog is free, the template and graphics are free, the hosting is free, and if I wanted it, the e-mail and calendar applications are free, too.

Customer support is even free, if I have the time to scroll through countless pages of how-to's from other bloggers who've already fought through the kinks and black holes of Google's vast interfaces.

I did find a phone number, which I'm going to call just as soon as I reach the brink of utter futility; that point being somewhere between realizing I'm even less of a tech world denizen than I've already resigned myself to be, and seething with resentment that Sergey Brin and Larry Page seriously don't like me.

But hey - I'm getting what I paid for.

What You Don't See When Watching Pro Football

Meanwhile, however, I came across an article on the Wall Street Journal's website about "All-22" footage that kinda made me chuckle.  Not being a sports fan, and certainly not a fan of professional football, I'd never heard of All-22 footage, but apparently it's the exclusive birds-eye video view of the entire playing field recorded during every National Football League game.

Twenty-two refers to the number of players allowed on the field at any given time.

It's never been made fully available to the general public, and even today, NFL executives who want to watch them in their entirety must travel to a private NFL facility in New Jersey to do so - no streaming video over the Internet for fear of hackers.  The reason?  Ostensibly, since the videos capture every play and what every player is doing on the field, proprietary team strategies could be purloined for nefarious purposes by opponents, the media, and, most dangerously, the fans.

Consider, for example, the value Lonnie Marts, a former linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, ascribes to the secretive All-22 footage.  "If you knew the game," Marts claims, "you'd know that sometimes there's a lot of bonehead plays and bonehead coaching going on out there."

And Charley Casserly, a former general manager in the NFL, told the Journal that if the league's legions of television fans had access to All-22 footage, who knows what damage that could do to the reputation of owners, managers, players, and even the league.  Ignorance on the part of fans is bliss, compared to how tens of millions of couch-potato fans would react if they were able to watch everything taking place on the field, in all its glory - or mayhem.  After all, sports talk radio dishes out enough vitriol against the league and its teams as it is.

Which brings me back to getting what you pay for.  If you're like me, and you have rabbit ears and a new-fangled digital converter (hey - don't knock it; if there weren't a market for these gizmos, Best Buy wouldn't sell 'em), you don't pay anything to watch the NFL on television.  But even if you have cable, a dish, or satellite TV, and pay for enhanced sports programming packages above your basic rates, you're still not paying what the NFL's best seats in each stadium are worth.

After all, being at the game in person would mean that you'd have a better chance of seeing where all 22 players are on the field, and what they do during each play, than if you had to rely solely on network TV.  No, you probably still wouldn't have the vantage point All-22 cameras have, but if you're a football fan, how much more valuable is witnessing the game in person is compared with watching it on a glassy screen in your living room?

So, when you watch professional football for free - or nearly free, you really are getting what you've paid for:  all the plays, yes, but limited views of them.  All four quarters of a game, yes, but not the full spectacle, warts and all.  Which means the fans with the most credibility are the ones who were in the stands.  Which also means all the water-cooler banter, tweeting, FaceBook posting, sports talk shows, and verbal sparring matches during commercials might actually be worth about as much as I'm paying Google to host my blog.

But then again... you haven't paid anything to read this essay today.

So how much is what I've written really worth?
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