Lack of cell and WiFi service another black eye on Indians’ Opening Day

iphonenoserviceThe landscape of how we watched sports has been forever changed by the Internet and social media. Twitter in particular has made sporting events even more of a communal experience, especially with fans spread throughout the country (and the world for that matter).

I love being able to see what people inside of a stadium or an arena have to say about the game as it happens. Getting injury updates instantly from sideline reporters tweeting out info has become par for the course. Take last night’s NCAA Men’s Basketball National Title game for example. Inside of the Georgia Dome were hoards of media, many tweeting out their thoughts and observations of that fantastic action between Louisville and Michigan. Whether it was CBS’s Jeff Goodman, SI’s Seth Davis, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, or the local flavor of 92.3 The Fan’s Anthony Lima, the tweets were insightful and entertaining, adding to the game-watching experience.

Hours earlier, one of the biggest events of the year in downtown Cleveland, Opening Day for the Indians, took place. More than 41,000 fans packed Progressive Field to see the Wahoos take on the Yankees. But again, not every Tribe fan can be there. I lived in Chicago for nine years and did my best to get to a bar and watch the game or had I would buy the MLB package on DirecTV or Digital Cable if I could get it. With Twitter now, my friends in Chicago, New York, LA, and Seattle can all get not only watch the game with one of these services or the MLB At-Bat iPad app, but they can get in on some good insight and back and forth with people inside of  Progressive Field. People like me.

Because of my affiliation with Waiting For Next Year, I often tweet during Browns and Indians games that I either watch on TV or attend in person. On top of that, I’m usually receiving texts and/or emails from my friends who I am not with. Again, its the communal experience at its finest. Two of the bigger Tribe fans I know – my brother and my close friend Brian – live elsewhere, but so many times the text/twitter/email abilities make it feel like they are next to me.  I love interacting with readers of WFNY and my Twitter followers who either agree with me or take me to task on something I may put out there.

Then there is the other side of it:  uploads. According to a article, at this year’s NBA All-Star game, uploads — sending out pics and tweets — actually exceeded downloads. In addition to using their phones to reads tweets and emails, fans inside Houston’s Toyota Center were sharing their in-game experience and promoting what was happening on the court, generating buzz for the league and its teams.

The home opener is probably the biggest Twitter day for a baseball team. Yesterday was Cleveland’s turn. I had my phone fully charged to 100% because as a veteran of sporting events in the smartphone era, I know how quickly the battery can drain. Even before I entered Progressive Field, I couldn’t send out an email. My first two tweets came back in error, saying there was a network issue. And again, this was an hour before first pitch and I was walking through the plaza between The Q and Progressive Field.

This season, I moved into a new group of shared season tickets. I took a picture with my son in the new seats to send to my wife.  The text didn’t go through. I tried email. That didn’t work either.  As the game started and Ubaldo Jiménez reverted back to his 2012 form, I wanted to see what the Tribe beat writers were saying about what they were seeing with him. I tried Twitter, but couldn’t get it to work.  I went into my settings to search for a WiFi network inside of the Stadium. Their wasn’t an open or free one available. Our own Scott, who works three blocks away from Progressive Field, had his signal jammed up at his office!

So I went old school, put my phone in my pocket and left it there. The good news was that there was no emergency with my family, because there was no way my wife or anyone else for that matter was getting in touch with me. While my phone showed full bars, you could not make an outgoing call or receive an incoming call if you needed one.

This seems to happen every Opening Day at Progressive Field and then it usually goes away for a while, and pops back up on Friday night and Saturday night games during the summer when the crowd reaches 25-30,000 fans. That is obviously no excuse. In today’s information-now world, to not have even a semi-strong cell phone service available in the middle of a midwestern downtown area is a gigantic failure.

The issue goes on eight Sundays a year down at the Lakefront for Browns games as well. Anyone who has a Verizon phone knows what I am talking about. Like yesterday at the Tribe opener, texts, tweets, and emails go unsent and unread for hours. Phone calls do not come in or go out.

The Indians asked their fans yesterday to Tweet out their smartphone pictures with the hashtag #TribeTown and then they would put them on the scoreboard. I didn’t see more than two or three images go up, because nobody could get their phones to work. Every in-game tweet, Instagram Photo, Twitpic upload, etc, is all free marketing for the Indians. They are one of the most progressive franchises in terms of their use of social media, yet inside the stadium, their users couldn’t get a signal. This will improve when the crowds get smaller, but you miss a golden opportunity on Opening Day of all days.

I emailed the Indians Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, the man behind all of the Indians public relations, Bob Dibiasio and asked him for his take on why the cell phone service was so poor yesterday and why the Tribe does not offer free public WiFi inside of Progressive Field. He said, “we do recognize the cell and WiFi service is a concern of our fans; we are working with MLB to address the issue of connectivity not only here in Cleveland but in all MLB ballparks.”

The NFL has been more out in front of this issue. The handheld FanVision technology is available to all Browns fans and works inside the stadium on a WiFi connection supplied by the team. Patriots Owner Robert Kraft is leading the charge to put free WiFi in all NFL stadiums while taking advantage of its abilities in terms or not just replays on a FanVision handheld device, but with the ability to order food and drinks from your seat from a smartphone app.

Said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last May:

“We believe that it is important to get technology into our stadiums. We have made the point repeatedly that the experience at home is outstanding, and we have to compete with that in some fashion by making sure that we create the same kind of environment in our stadiums and create the same kind of technology. …We want to make sure our fans, when they come into stadiums, don’t have to shut down.”

Browns President Joe Banner and Owner Jimmy Haslam have hinted that there will be improvements to the First Energy Stadium WiFi connection in 2013. I just would like to see it get to the point that my phone battery doesn’t die in two hours despite not being able to get any sort of data connection to work.

It doesn’t seem to me to be that hard to solve. Lima, who was at the National Title game last night, told me this morning that he used his phone and the free public WiFi connection inside of the Georgia Dome last night with no problems. He also had zero problem receiving or making calls. That was in downtown Atlanta, with 75,000 plus in the same building. Then again, I attended last year’s Kansas/Kentucky National Title game at the Superdome in New Orleans and could not get a signal to work there either.

I know this sounds like a trivial issue to some, but this is 2013. We are all slaves to our smartphones. The Indians push their social media agenda about as well as any team in pro sports, yet they have to recognize and take care of a problem that is right in their backyard.

Literally and figuratively.

  • Porkchop

    Playoff scoring is different dude. Teams are awarded runs based on a complicated algorythym, that includes 1. total number of likes a picture of you and your bro’s at the game gets within the first 10 minutes of posting, 2. Number of times your observation that “the pitcher looks a little shaky” is retweeted, 3. Number of times your clever pun about Mark Reynolds “wrap” is retweeted. 4. Degree to which your child becomes more obese and as you shove food into his mouth as a means of distracting him from the fact that you are ignoring the parent child relationship to see what Clark Kellog really thinks about Trey Burke sitting with two fouls, (this one is subjective and monitored by in crowd “scorers”) 5. Length of time it takes you to notice that your wife/girlfriend has left you for the peanut guy because his throwing a bag at her to pass to someone next to you is the first validation of her existence as you were busy checking to see if Pujols has gotten on base yet. Amount of fire damage done to the stadium when your son gives up plaintively begging for the slightest bit of parental involvement and makes a bomb using a nacho cheese powered device he learned how to make on his unparental controled smartphone.
    Like I said, you really need to get with the times. Baseball is so much bigger than throw the ball hit the ball catch the ball.

  • mgbode

    you forgot RUN! hit, run, catch, throw / hit,run,catch,throw / hit,run,catch,throw

    of course, if you are Choo in CF, then you can ignore the 3rd item

  • Harv 21

    reminds me of one of my fav Louis CK routines,

  • Natedawg86

    Fail to plan, plan to fail

  • MrCleaveland

    People aren’t allowed to play with their pacifiers at the movies and at the theater, but that doesn’t seem to diminish their enjoyment of the experience.

    No theater-goers are protesting that they can send out photos of Act I, and movie-goers appear to be able to wait until they leave to tweet their thoughts to a waiting public.

    Man, toughen up, people.

  • mgbode

    actually, this is a fantastic sidebar. it was not long ago that (due to DVR) people got upset when others spoiled the ending of sporting events for them (much like movies that may be viewed by others later).

    sport owners may want to thank Twitter for saving sports from continuing on the path of no-commercial watching freedom that almost all other television programming took.

    now, it is standard to discuss as the game is ongoing, so people do not worry about spoiling the game for anyone.

  • That’s why downtown Cleveland was dead for so many years – no one knew where to meet up so they just went home.

  • Garry_Owen

    So, sabremetrics?

  • So should the team not promote advanced use of social media with fans anymore due to the fact that there’s an older generation who thinks its gotten “out of hand?” Not being combative, just asking. The crux of this piece wasnt “I need my cell phone.” It was “you guys want us to talk about the team but we can’t.” I guarantee TD wasn’t “face down in his crotch” ignoring his son.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Choo been playing well!

  • Grif_E

    Hooking up wireless coverage for 40-100k people is a tricky and expensive proposition. The tech industry has had problems servicing merely 1-2k in a given area for their events up until recently. There are technologies coming down the pipe that specifically deal with overcrowded spectrum like you’d have at a x-large convention or a sporting event, so addressing it immediately doesn’t even make practical sense unless you have a unique sponsor that you wouldn’t have captured ordinarily for your usual sponsorships that wants to throw money at it.

    It would be nice if MLB got their crap together and had a national sponsor for this sort of thing, but I won’t hold my breath even with that quote in the story.

  • #TalkingCleveland

    Every single person on here killed me with laughter!!! The thing I love about baseball since you all call yourself true baseball fans, need I remind you the relaxed pace of the game … in between innings … seventh inning stretch, pregame stuff. Sounds like a lot of jealous people on here who either have no friends in their contacts or have no followers or friends on social media networks. no one is staring at their phones the entire game and even so if thats how they choose to spend their time at the ballpark, well that’s their option and choice. Also the whole not the stadium but the area doesn’t fly with me bc Quicken Loans Arena is right next door and Ive never had a single issue their cell reception or data usage. What about the people going to these games on the professional side and wanting to like the guys from WFNY stated, wanting to update statuses. And really at the end of the day it comes down to the fact many parents, single parents or not that attend the game kid free have no reliable access to them bc calls can not get through. or if their teens get lost inside the stadium etc etc … there’s plenty of solid reasons for this issue to be fixed, social media may seem trivial but there are far greater reasons as to why this needs to be worked out…i did notice that the higher up areas the phones were working for people though.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    First thing who you callin’ older sonny? Second thing I don’t care to know about TD being “face down in his crotch” and I hope for his son’s sake that never happens.

    But to your point it was a black eye for the Indians considering how goo-goo ga-ga they are about Social Media but I’m sure they’ll get it corrected. I mean if they can overcome “What if?”, Chris Perez’s social media savvy not to mention the cries over concession prices and the like I’m sure they’ll clear this hurdle.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    P.S. If TD is face down in his crotch does that mean every count starts two balls and no strikes for him?


  • How am I supposed to find out which restroom doesn’t have a line 30 minutes deep without the intronet?

  • Allow me to contribute like a lot of the other commenters:
    Get off my lawn, damn kids! Back in my day they made us sit in the stands and mill down lumber to make the bats the players would use while they were hitting. And we still had to buy a ticket!

  • MrCleaveland

    Allow me to contribute like a lot of the other commenters:

    Life without iPhone service is a dreary, meaningless existence. I am incapable of enjoying anything without my phone.

    I love my phone more than sex, more than love, more than money, more than my dog, more than everything.

    And I need my phone like a junkie needs his crack. I cannot function without it. I begin to shake and break out into a sweat.

    Besides, the world deserves to know what I’m thinking at every moment, just as I deserve to know what everyone else is thinking at every moment.

    Ah, my phone. My sweet, lovely phone. I love you so much.

    Why don’t you love me?

  • Jay

    Come on man! I understand that in the grand scheme of things, sending pictures & texting via cellular communications devices is relatively new. All I’m saying is that in this day & age, it’s a bit crazy that you can’t even receive a phone call while in the stadium, let alone send texts/pics in downtown Cleveland. One of the fastest growing technological cities in the US. I don’t think we’re soft, I just think it’s a product of the times. And where were you going where it took a week to get photos back? Marc’s had the one hour photo! 🙂

  • mgbode

    Choo has been batting well.

  • I am on both sides on this one. I think we’re all too addicted to our phones. I know I am at times far too attached to mine. That being said, technological inadequacy isn’t a solution to a social ill. If anything it is embarrassing for a city that aspires to be better than it is today to not be able to handle one of (maybe?) 20 crowds the city has to deal with on an annual basis. It is a problem for a city that is aspiring to host the NBA All-Star game.

    So while I know it is easy to make fun of people’s unimportant and wholly unnecessary instagram habit as they make duck lip faces into their selfie hashtags feed, trailing other cities in terms of technology is hardly a cool thing to do. It doesn’t make us more interesting or quaint. It doesn’t give us a moral high ground.

  • You guys are a riot today.

  • mgbode

    this day & age is sort of the point.

    10yrs ago – cell phones were just becoming common for everyone to own

    5yrs ago – data plans were introduced at rates people were willing to pay

    past 2-3yrs – data consumption has gone up so much that sending pictures, tweets, playing online games, etc. is just standard practice. the bandwidth has gone through the roof and cities and companies have been consistently burned trying to “plan for the future” with their networking stations that have no chance at keeping up with demand.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    u say potato i day potahto!

  • MrCleaveland

    I am alone. I am utterly alone and without human companionship, or even human contact.

    I am stranded. No one can reach me. No one can find me.

    I am mute. I am powerless. I can reach out to no one.

    I am ignorant. Myriad events take place without my knowledge. The world turns without me.

    Yes, I am sitting in sold-out Progressive Field and there is no phone service.

    Might as well watch this stupid ballgame.

  • MrCleaveland

    Well, it WAS a debacle.

  • Garry_Owen

    Well, I’m a man. I’m forty!

    I remember when 1 hour photo was a new thing. And it was awesome!

    I guess my point is that one of the product of the times is that we have all become massive d-bags that get irate when we can’t send silly photos and make calls whenever we feelz the need.

  • mgbode

    I think the biggest black eye is giving up 25 runs in 2 games to a team missing 4 of it’s best 5 hitters.

  • JK

    Life is about convenience and that is a true inconvenience

  • mgbode

    he has lost 2 games for the Reds this year with his fielding

  • mgbode

    “Cleveland. One of the fastest growing technological cities in the US.”

    I so wish this was true. I love the Northcoast, but cities like Denver and Seattle and Portland took the secondary technology leads (with Nashville and Pittsburgh-ugh coming close to joining them). That is to go with the standard bearers in San Jose, Austin, Raleigh, Phoenix, and the Bay area.

  • MrCleaveland

    I just read this again, pork. That is hilarious!

  • TelecomMom

    The events in Boston this week show the importance of having excellent cell coverage especially at peak times. Regardless of whether it’s staying connected for the fun of it or for getting in touch with loved ones during an emergency. It is now a crucial part of our lives.