The Overwatch Videogame League Aims to Become the New NFL

Stefano Disalvo is a professional athlete.

He has the physical gifts of a professional athlete, the dedication and drive of a professional athlete, the monomaniacal schedule of a professional athlete. He wakes up at 6:30 in the morning and spends some time reviewing game tape of his own performance before calisthenics begin around 9—jogging, frisbee, soccer—followed by practice, seven straight hours of it, where his team plays against some of the finest competition in the world, testing new strategies. Then a team meeting at night to discuss the day’s mistakes and how to correct them, after which he will spend another few hours practicing alone or interacting with his fans or studying his rivals or, sometimes, all three. Then bedtime, before doing the same thing again tomorrow.

It’s likely you’ve never heard of Stefano Disalvo. You probably haven’t heard of his team either. You maybe haven’t heard of his sport, and even if you have heard of his sport, you wouldn’t know him as Stefano ­Disalvo—he’s known as “Verbo,” one of the top players in the world at a videogame called Overwatch. He’s 18 years old, and he has just signed his first major professional contract: He’ll get a nice salary, a robust health insurance plan, free housing, and a 401(k). And beginning this month, his team, the newly formed Los Angeles Valiant, will be one of 12 competing in a first-of-its-kind global esports league, a grand experiment involving some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment who believe Overwatch can rival traditional sports in audience and revenue. If this league succeeds—if its players, coaches, franchise owners, and front-­office executives can overcome a skeptical audience, a complicated and sometimes baffling game, and big problems of inclusion and harassment—then gamers like Disalvo, who have mortgaged their entire adolescence for this one shot at glory, could be among the first athletes to get very rich playing videogames, in front of people, for money.

Welcome to the future of sports.

If you are, like me, of a generation where videogames were not a spectator sport except for maybe gathering around the arcade to watch someone who’s really good at Street Fighter, then you could be forgiven for not knowing all of this was going on. The phenomenon of esports—people playing against each other in live videogame competitions—is still so new that there isn’t even consensus about how to spell it: I’ve seen esports, e-sports, E-sports, and eSports.

I should say, actually, that esports are relatively new—that is, new for some of us. But for the professionals who play, who are almost uniformly between the ages of 17 and 26, it’s something that’s been around for most of their lives and something they take for granted. When Disalvo was a 16-year-old high school student in Toronto, he already knew he wanted to be an esports professional. He knew this mostly through a process of elimination: He had tried every other thing, and none of them felt transcendent or even interesting. He played hockey and tennis, he swam. He took all the classes you’re supposed to take, and when ­people asked him what his favorite subject was, he’d say lunchtime. “I was trying to find something that I loved doing,” Disalvo says. “I honestly didn’t really enjoy anything.”

There was one thing he did enjoy, though, a secret he kept from almost everyone: He loved playing videogames, and he was extraordinarily good at it. And when he saw players winning tournaments for games like League of Legends, he decided that he wanted, more than anything else, to do that.

A basic problem, though, was that League of Legends already had a well-established and very competitive esports scene, and the path to becoming a pro in that game seemed very narrow. However, in November 2014, Disalvo saw that Blizzard, the company behind such massive franchises as Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo, was developing a new game. It was called Overwatch, and it looked to be a first-person shooter. Knowing that most of Blizzard’s games eventually generate big esports scenes, Disalvo decided to switch. “New game,” he says. “Everybody’s starting at the same level. It’s not as if I have to catch up to all the other professional players.”

Stefano Disalvo, better known as Verbo, is one of the world's top Overwatch players.
Damon Casarez

I was surprised to hear this, as I’d assumed that pro gamers began playing a game because they enjoyed it and then gradually became good enough to turn pro. But Disalvo decided to make Overwatch his young life’s work before he’d ever even played it. “I saw the esports potential,” he says with a shrug. “I didn’t care if the game was fun.”

He got access to the Overwatch beta and committed himself to mastering the game. He stopped eating lunch with his friends, using that time to finish homework so he could go home and play Overwatch for seven hours straight. He didn’t go to parties, he didn’t go out with friends, he didn’t date, he wasn’t in any way social.

If you’re thinking that Disalvo fits the stereotype of a friendless, socially awkward gamer, disabuse yourself of that notion. He’s an affable and confident young man who’d been a swim instructor, a lifeguard, and an excellent hockey player. He has a good sense of humor, and when he laughs, he looks startlingly like James Franco. In other words, if he’d wanted to date, he probably could have. But he didn’t, and his classmates didn’t know what to make of it.

Playing the beta, and before Overwatch was even officially released in May 2016, Disalvo began competing in amateur tournaments. He started playing even longer hours, and his studies suffered. His mother demanded he focus on school, but he announced he was going to be an esports professional. His mother said no, he was going to college. He said no, he was skipping college to go pro in Overwatch. Looking back, he’s not sure how that standoff would have been resolved were it not for a job offer that came two weeks after his mother’s ultimatum. A professional esports outfit wanted him on its Overwatch team, and it wanted to move him to Southern California to live and train with his teammates.

Armed now with an official contract, Disalvo went back to his mother, and she eventually agreed to let him leave school early, on the condition that he would finish his diploma online. Most of his classmates were mildly puzzled by his sudden disappearance. There were rumors about California. Were it not for a yearbook article about his new career, it’s possible that his classmates would still be asking: Whatever happened to Stefano Disalvo?

Mei is one of dozens of heroes in Overwatch.

Blizzard Entertainment

Jeff Kaplan, who oversees all things overwatch at Blizzard, says that when developers began work on the game in 2013, they felt the need to create a world wholly apart from the trio of worlds that the company already offered: the high fantasy of Warcraft, the space opera of Starcraft, the gothic horror of Diablo. What would be the most unexpected, most fantastical place they could take gamers next?

The answer, they decided, was Earth.

The team ultimately began working on a game that would be Blizzard’s first entry into the popular first-­person-shooter genre, and they would set it on Earth, sometime in the not-too-distant future.

But when they began researching other earthbound first-person shooters, they found a surplus of what Kaplan calls “cynical, borderline post­apocalyptic dystopia.” In other words, morbidly dark, gritty, and depressing. Lots of blood and gore. Games you’d feel a little weird about if you played them in front of your kids.

This led the team in a different and sort of radical direction: optimism. “We wanted it to be a future worth fighting for,” Kaplan says. “So it’s a bright, aspirational future, and when conflict happens you have to go out and defend it, because this world is so awesome we can’t let anybody ruin it. So it really led us to a place of hope.”

The basic premise of the game is that AI robots, designed to usher in an economic golden age for humanity, try to take over the world. To respond to the crisis, the United Nations forms Overwatch, a team of fighters and adventurers recruited to quash the robot rebellion. The Overwatch forces defeat the robots, and then end up battling each other.

These characters—they’re called “heroes” in Overwatch lingo, and there are 26 of them as of this writing, though Blizzard tends to update this a lot—are the beating heart of the game. As opposed to many other first-person shooters, where your avatar is just a kind of anonymous good guy or bad guy, the heroes you play in Overwatch have personality. They have persuasive origins and very human hopes and fears and complicated relationships with the other heroes. There’s Mei, for example, a climate scientist who was stranded in her research station in Antarctica and has since become this gallant adventurer who never­theless still wears these huge, nerdy round glasses and an adorable poofy coat. Or Bastion, an anthropomorphic machine gun who’s friends with a tiny delicate bird that he gently cares for. This game doesn’t just have backstory, it has lore, which is all explicated in animated web movies and comic books that are intended to drive “deep engagement,” to borrow the language of Blizzard’s quarterly reports.

Overwatch super fan Marcus Silvoso dressed as the healer hero Lucio.

Damon Casarez

Overwatch super fan Dorothy Dang as the tank hero D.VA.

Damon Casarez

The game is team-based, six versus six. If you’re playing Overwatch, you are playing with and against other real people who are connected to the internet and seeing and hearing the same things as you. You can play as any of the 26 heroes, even swapping from one hero to another during the course of the game. Mostly, the game is played as a series of timed rounds: The attacking team has four minutes to capture certain areas or move a payload (think: the pigskin going downfield) while the defending team tries to thwart them. Once time’s up, attackers and defenders switch roles for the next round. Whichever team captures more areas or moves the payload farther wins the game, and if a player is killed in action, they have to wait 10 seconds (sometimes more) before rejoining the fight.

The formula—refreshing optimism plus interesting heroes plus shoot-’em-up action— was an immediate hit. Overwatch became Blizzard’s fastest-growing game ever, a best seller that, after a little more than a year, has 35 million players and generates more than a billion dollars annually.

Nate Nanzer, who was Blizzard’s global director of research and consumer insights leading up to Overwatch’s launch, says the game’s popularity comes, in part, from gamers’ love for the heroes, noting particularly the significance of a lineup that “looks like what the world looks like,” by which he means racially diverse, multinational, and equitably gendered.

The other thing Nanzer noticed early in Overwatch’s development cycle was a surge in interest in video­games as a spectator sport. Esports originated largely in South Korea, with the game StarCraft: Brood War, roughly 20 years ago, and eventually found its way onto Korean television. Then it jumped to Korean internet streaming platforms around 2003, which is when North American gamers began getting clued in. The popularity of gaming streams eventually gave rise to Twitch, a platform that launched in 2011 and specializes in videogame livestreaming. By 2014, when Amazon purchased Twitch for almost a billion dollars, the total number of minutes that people spent every year watching other people, mostly strangers, play video­games on Twitch was 192 billion. By the end of 2016, it had risen to 292 billion.

Even while Overwatch was in beta, fans and entrepreneurs were already organizing Overwatch tournaments, broadcasting matches live on Twitch. It was completely grassroots, seriously hardcore, totally decentralized, and kind of a mess. Nanzer wondered what would happen if Blizzard could take control of the tournaments. “If we structure a league the right way and put the right investment behind it, we can actually monetize it in a way that’s not too dissimilar from traditional sports,” he says.

Enter Overwatch League.

Blizzard announced the venture in November 2016 at Blizzcon, the company’s annual convention. Overwatch League would be the world’s first esports venture to follow the North American sports model: franchised teams in major cities, live spectator events, salaried athletes. Along with all the revenue opportunities offered by sports leagues—ticket sales, media rights, licensing, and so on—there were also opportunities for “team-based virtual merchandise.” For example, fans might be able to buy a “skin” so that when they’re playing Overwatch at home, their hero will be wearing the jersey of the Los Angeles Valiant.

“We are literally building a new sport,” says Nanzer, who was appointed the league’s commissioner last year. “We’re trying to build this as a sustainable sports league for decades and decades to come.” And while you might think, at first glance, that such an ambition is outrageously optimistic, the expertise recruited may change your mind. The co-owner of the Boston Overwatch franchise, for example, is Robert Kraft, who also owns the New England Patriots. The owner of the New York franchise is Jeff Wilpon, COO of the New York Mets. Philadelphia’s Overwatch team is owned by Comcast, which also owns the Philadelphia Flyers. Blizzard hasn’t made public the cost of a league franchise, but the reports are $20 million, and when I asked Nanzer about that number, he neither confirmed nor denied it, saying: “You know, if you hear the same rumor over and over again, you can figure out what that means.” So, OK, $20 million.

“There’s going to be kids who can say ‘I play professional Overwatch for the same guy that Tom Brady plays for,’” Nanzer said. “That’s pretty cool.”

Perhaps the most high-profile executive recruit for Overwatch League is Steve Bornstein. One of the early architects of ESPN and a former president of ABC Sports, he left his most recent job as CEO of the NFL Network to become Blizzard’s esports chair. When asked why he made the change from traditional sports to electronic, Bornstein borrows an old Gretzky quote: “Skate to where the puck is going.”

“When I left the NFL, the only thing I saw that had the potential to be as big was the esports space,” he says. “What fascinated me was just the level of engagement, the fact that we measure consumption in billions of minutes consumed.”

And it’s growing, especially among younger people, which is not something that can be said of traditional sports. For the cord-­cutter and cord-never generations, sports tend to be behind what is, in effect, a giant paywall. The big, exclusive contracts that leagues sign with the TV networks mean there are few other ways to access sports content—which seems annoying or downright bizarre to ­people accustomed to getting their entertainment for free on YouTube.

The kill cam says, This is how you were killed, so let's avoid that in the future.

Every major sport in the US has seen the average age of its viewership increase since 2000. The NBA’s average fan is 42. The average NFL fan is 50. The average MLB fan is 57. What’s more, these audiences are limited almost entirely to North America. The Overwatch League, meanwhile, will begin with nine US teams and three from abroad—Shanghai, Seoul, and London (with more, I’m told, on the way)—and its average fan is a demographically pleasing 21 years old.

There’s no better symbol for Blizzard’s confidence in the game’s potential than the place it chose for its new home: Burbank Studios, Stage One. If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s the very same soundstage that Johnny Carson used when he brought The Tonight Show to California. Every match of Overwatch League’s inaugural season will be played here, while the teams work with Blizzard to bring matches to their respective hometowns in future seasons.

The studio’s centerpiece is the long dais up front, big enough for two entire Overwatch teams—six players on the left, six on the right. Each player will have their own personal pod (Blizzard’s term for what appears to be a simple table), and each pod is separated from the adjacent pods by a space of a few inches, because apparently some players can get a little excited during a match and bother their neighbors with their table-tapping or knee-banging or fist-pounding. Every player is issued a standard desktop computer and a standard monitor (144 hertz), though many players like to choose their own keyboard and mouse. Above everything are three enormous LED screens, approximately 20 feet by 11, that will be showing the audience the in-game action, as well as intermittent close-ups of the players themselves, their faces, their twitching hands.

The studio’s centerpiece is a long dais, big enough for two entire Overwatch teams—six players on the left, six on the right.

Damon Casarez

Kitty-corner to the players, stage right, is an elevated desk for the on-air talent—the hosts and analysts and interviewers. Backstage, these folks get their own hair and makeup room, one of the few places still serving its original Tonight Show function. Next to the analysts’ desk is a room for the “shoutcasters,” which are what play-by-play commentators are called in esports. The term was coined in the earliest days of esports, before high-speed broadband made video streaming possible; the feeds were audio-only, and commentators used a Winamp plug-in called SHOUTcast to broadcast their voices. The name lives on, though. There’s even a paper taped up on the door that says shoutcasters.

Taped to the next door, a piece of paper says observers, which strikes me as sort of sinister, like the Eyes from The Handmaid’s Tale. The Observers are actually cinematographers who operate in the game’s digital space. If you’re watching an Overwatch match, you might be watching it from the point of view of one of the players or from the point of view of one of the Observers, who float around the players and capture the in-game action as it unfolds. Imagine a camera operator at a hockey match skating around on the ice with the players and yet magically not interacting with them in any way. The Observers are like that.

Directly across the hall from the Observers is where the technical stuff happens, all the wizardry needed to create a professional-looking sports broadcast: a whole room for instant replay, two rooms for audio, two control rooms with walls of flatscreen TVs. All told, it takes between 80 and 100 people to broadcast one match of the Overwatch League. Some of the people who work here say there’s a special significance in the league’s broadcasting from The Tonight Show’s old home. It’s an obvious metaphor: new media replacing old media. It all reminds Steve Bornstein of the moment in the early ’80s when he came aboard the fledgling ESPN, then only three months old. He says all the critics at the time argued there wouldn’t be any interest in a whole channel devoted to sports. Who would ever watch that?

Shoutcasters provide real-time game commentary for both in-studio and streaming audiences.

Damon Casarez

My first time playing Overwatch was astounding to me for two reasons: first, for the sheer amount of onscreen information I was asked to digest at any given moment, the bullet tracers and grenade explosions, the bright blossoming energy shields and walls of ice that were sometimes mysteriously erected and then shattered, plus the head-up display overlaying various timers and health bars and glowing mission objectives, and sometimes floating yellow plus-sign things (which I eventually figured out meant I was getting healed by someone, somehow), plus all the pretty little environmental details like streetlamps that flicker a bit of lens flare onto your screen when you accidentally aim at them, the wooden chairs that splinter and the wine bottles that shatter when they take stray fire, not to mention the outlines of your teammates and all the enemy players who (for reasons that will become clear momentarily) tend to jump around constantly, spasmodically, almost insectoidally—all of this happening at the same time in a way that felt not only disorienting, not only mentally taxing, but more like New York City air-traffic-control-level overwhelming.

The second thing I was astounded by was the number of times I died.

It was a little surprising to me how quickly, simply, and even sort of eagerly my character bit it. I was playing a hero called Reaper, whose whole basic deal is to be an updated video­game version of the Undertaker character from WWF wrestling, circa-1990s, but with guns—a pair of shotguns that, instead of reloading, he tosses to the ground and replaces by grabbing two new ones from under the folds of his black overcoat. I’m running to get into place with my teammates, wondering what exactly I’m supposed to be doing, and also idly wondering how many shotguns Reaper can hide under that coat. (The answer, it turns out, is infinite. Infinite shotguns. He never runs out. Just go with it.) Suddenly a firefight erupts ahead of me and I run up to aid my companions and promptly get killed. Swiftly and abruptly and bewilderingly, I am dead. I have no idea why. This is when I am introduced to the kill cam.

Let me tell you about the cruelty of the kill cam.

After you die in Overwatch and the camera pans back to show your now lifeless corpse on the ground, you endure the kill cam, which shows you what you looked like and what you were doing the moment before you were killed, from the perspective of your killer. It’s like being able to watch your own face while getting dumped. As I died over and over, I would be treated anew to kill-cam footage showing just how long someone had me in their sights, how many shots they took before I even noticed, how I just stood there and sort of spun in place, dumbly looking around while my killer patiently picked me off. According to the game’s developers, the kill cam’s primary function is not actually sadistic, but educational. The kill cam says: This is how you were killed, so how about avoiding that in the future, eh?

Reaper is an updated video­game version of the Undertaker character from WWF wrestling, circa-1990s.
Blizzard Entertainment

The fact that it’s so easy to be killed means that players in Overwatch are never still for a second, which presents a cognitive challenge: You must keep track of 11 other players who are always in motion while you yourself zig and zag. Overwatch is, above all, a team game, and you have the responsibility not only to avoid constant death but also to avoid constant death while helping your team execute the proper strategy. The 26 Overwatch heroes fall into four categories: eight are primarily damage-­dealers (offensive players that specialize in eliminating enemy players); six are defensive; six are “tanks” designed to soak up a lot of damage to protect their team; and six are healers who work as in-game medics. That works out to 230,230 possible six-hero “comps” (gamer lingo, born when the gaming community took the phrase “team composition” and nouned it), and to be good at Overwatch you have to recognize each of these comps, understand what effect they’ll have on your own team’s comp, and react accordingly.

And by “react accordingly” I mean that you not only execute a certain strategy correctly, but you also, if necessary, do so with any number of different heroes. Overwatch involves constant on-the-fly improvisational skill, an almost instinctive reaction to ever-changing conditions inside the game. If you play a really great damage-dealer but the other team is running a comp that neutralizes your particular hero, you must be able to extemporaneously and at any time switch to a different hero with a different specialization that disrupts the other team’s strategy. Plus, each hero has up to four different abilities that they can deploy at various times, including an “ultimate” ability that takes a long time to charge up and, when spent correctly, can be a total game-changer. 
So that’s about a hundred different abilities from 26 different characters teamed up in one of 230,230 different combinations. It’s mind-boggling. The sheer number of variables in play seems to exceed the human brain’s ability to grasp the scale and scope of big things. Which raises a question: How is it even possible to be good at this? I decided to travel to Redondo Beach, California, to the house where Stefano Disalvo lives with his team, to find out.

I arrive at the house at 11 am on a late September Friday, and ­Disalvo is sitting with his teammates in a large living room that has been completely transformed for gaming purposes. Seven small office tables have been arranged in two rows, each table equipped with a computer monitor, keyboard, mouse, and mousepad, with a mass of cables and wires spread out around the PC towers on the floor. Actually “towers” is the wrong word for these machines, which are enormous hexahedrons that look less like computers and more like glowing, diamond-shaped relics in a science-fiction movie about the future. All but one of the curtains are closed (to eliminate glare, I assume), though the windows are open for the welcome and pleasant California sea breeze.

The house they’re sharing is a six-bedroom, 4,100-square-foot grand Spanish-style building with orange roof tiles and a three-car garage. The kitchen is ambitiously large, with a double oven and a wine fridge that is poignantly empty. Almost no one who lives here is old enough to legally drink.

The team wakes early each day, and after reviewing footage of their performance from the previous day’s practices, they eat breakfast and walk to the beach for an hour of exercise. (Shane Flanagin, the team’s PR manager at the time of my visit, says the organization takes player health very seriously: They hire physical therapists, sports psychologists, and an in-house chef, and they have a daily fitness routine. “We don’t want them to be stuck in chairs for nine hours without moving,” he says—though from what I can tell, the players, left to their own devices, literally, would be happy to remain in their chairs for even longer.) By the time I arrive, the players are seated and warming up for their first “scrim” of the day.

A scrim is the primary way a pro Overwatch team practices. The team’s coaches set up scrims with other pro teams, and the players will do three two-hour scrims a day, every day. Once the day’s first scrim begins, everything gets very serious, very fast. The players hunch their shoulders, and their eyes are about even with the top bevel of their monitor so that they’re looking down at the screen, which makes them appear, in profile, something like carnivores eyeing dinner. They give one another constant updates about what the other team is doing, what heroes are in use, what special abilities are available. Their shouted instructions and updates sound to me like soldiers speaking some kind of wacky code.

“Monkey monkey monkey!”

“Are they right or left?”

“Clear left!”

“Inside! Saloon! Saloon!”

“EMP! EMP! EMP!” which, shouted very quickly, sounds like “empee empee empee!”

In the kitchen, meanwhile, the team’s chef is busy cooking lunch. She seems to be successfully ignoring all of this.

Members of Team Valiant practice—or play "scrims"—for at least seven hours a day.

Damon Casarez

Despite living together, the players do not call each other by their real names. They exclusively use their screen names, so much so that I find it odd and even jarring to call Disalvo “Stefano.” Here, he’s Verbo, and the teammates he’s playing with today are GrimReality (which everyone shortens to Grim), Fate, envy, and KariV, who, among all of them, seems the most likely to spontaneously shout or giggle or exclaim “What the fuck!” very loudly and, I would think, distractingly, though the other players don’t seem to care or even really notice.

This is one of the ostensible reasons they all live together, so that they can get accustomed to each other’s tics and moods and can develop the kind of shorthand with one another that I usually associate with best friends or intimates. They come from very different places—Verbo is Canadian, Grim is American, while Fate, envy, and KariV are from Korea—but they need to communicate in the quickest way possible. Like the game itself, the team must operate with no lag.

Sitting in an adjoining room, the team’s manager, Joshua Kim, and one of its coaches, Henry Coxall, observe that morning’s scrim in the game’s spectator mode. They discuss failures of strategy, how one player was baited into a disadvantaged position. But they also seem very attentive to their team’s emotional state. Any blip of negative emotion from any of the players is immediately registered and discussed. Kim talks about not bringing bad emotions to “work,” and how living together presents a challenge on this front.

At 27, Kim is the old man in the house. I ask him whether it’s hard sharing a living space with a bunch of teenage boys—and, yes, they’re all boys, and with the exception of one 20-year-old, they’re all teens. The house itself bears the filthy evidence of this. The boys’ discarded shoes litter the front foyer. Their bedrooms are totally bare but for mattresses sitting on the floor surrounded by clumps of wrinkled clothes. The kitchen counters are covered with jars of peanut butter and Pop Tarts and a family-­size box of Frosted Flakes and protein powder in big bulbous jugs and a few spray bottles of Febreze.

I won’t even tell you about the condition of the bathroom.

But if this bothers Kim, he tries not to show it. “It teaches me patience,” he says.
As the first scrim ends, the players blink back into the reality of the living room, almost like they’re surprised to be there. There’s a sort of incorporeal quality to the players while they’re in the game: They play with such focus and intensity that, as soon as a match is over, it’s as if they suddenly realize they have bodies. They crack their knuckles and stretch and shake out the stiffness in their hands. They wander into the kitchen, where the chef has prepared a meal of mostly Korean fare: barbecued short ribs, glazed chicken drumsticks, and a really fantastic fried rice. The players consume all of this in less than 10 minutes.

During their break I’m able to ask the questions that have been on my mind: How do you learn to play this game at a high level? And how do you possibly keep track of everything that’s happening onscreen?

It’s Grim who first suggests the concept of “mental RAM.” The basic idea, he says, is that there is only so much the mind can process at once, an upper limit on the number of things any player can pay attention to; the key, then, is to put as many things on autopilot as possible, so you have fewer things to consciously think about. “For a lot of people who aren’t pro, aiming takes a lot of concentration,” Grim says. “It gives you less room to think about other things. So that’s why I practice really, really hard on my aiming, so I can think more about my positioning and what I need to do next.”

Grim, whose real name is Christopher Schaefer, is 18 years old and from Chico, California. He is one of the team’s primary damage-dealers. Like Verbo, Grim wanted more than anything to be an esports professional. And like Verbo, he decided to go pro in Overwatch before he’d ever played it. When he first began the game—at 16—he was “really bad,” he says. “I would spend hours at a time just practicing flicks.”

I interrupt to ask: What’s a flick?

“It’s basically starting from one point of the screen and then snapping to the enemy’s head or something. And so it’s a very fast muscle-memory movement.”

Being able to flick effectively is essential to pro play. It requires you to understand the exact ratio of mouse-movement to game-space distance, plus how to compensate if, for example, you’re moving left and your target is to the right, which will require an extra milli­meter or so of flick, and you have to possess the kinesthetic body awareness to do this with your hand and wrist perfectly almost 100 percent of the time. This is why pro players’ mouse choices are so personal and why the team insists that, with any sponsorship deal with any company that sells peripherals, players always get to choose their own mouse. Grim uses a Logitech G903 with a DPI of 800 and an in-game mouse sensitivity setting of 5. He is now, suffice it to say, extraordinarily good at flicking.

“A lot of people think that I just have natural talent,” he says, laughing. “No, no, not at all. It took a lot, a lot, a lot of practice to be able to aim properly.”

After the lunch break, the teammates return to their stations for more sitting, more scrims, more shouting.

“Monkey’s up for a jump! Monkey monkey! I’m dead.”

“Small regroup! Regroup!”

“I’m on soldier, I’m on soldier!”

“We have numbers! Let’s go!”

“Monkey monkey!”

About the monkey: One hero named Winston is a supersmart, genetically engineered gorilla who has the ability to jump really far, right into the middle of the scrum. And when an enemy team’s Winston lands nearby, he’s automatically your team’s number one target. If you take down Winston, you can really disrupt the other team’s strategy. So when he lands, everyone shouts his name. But because “Winston” is hard to say many times fast, Overwatch players started calling him “monkey.” The effect is that, for the many hours I watched the Los Angeles Valiant play scrims, as I was dutifully taking notes and thinking earnestly about how this might be the future of sports, every few minutes this whole pack of teenage boys would suddenly burst out shouting, “Monkey monkey monkey monkey!”

Overwatch super fan Joe Silvoso as the defensive hero Junkrat.

Damon Casarez

In late September, three months before the league’s first regular-season game and a mere 60-some days from the start of preseason play, Disalvo shakes his head in disbelief at the prospect of playing for the Los Angeles Valiant. “It feels like I’m part of something that’s going to be big, like very big,” he says. “There’s going to be billboards? I’m gonna be representing a city like Los Angeles? Like … what? That’s crazy.”

It’s especially crazy given that he didn’t actually move to LA to join the Valiant. His first professional esports contract, the one that achieved peace with his mother, actually came from an organization called the Immortals, one of the independent esports brands, known as endemics, that field teams in a number of different video­games. (The Immortals, for example, have teams that play Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, among others.) Endemic teams have been in esports for a long time and have been essential to its growth. They’re well known within gaming circles, but they are not billion-­dollar organizations like Blizzard or the New England Patriots, and thus they are not able to be as generous with their players.

Jake Lyon, a 21-year-old from San Diego whose screen name is the refreshingly straightforward “JAKE,” is one of the best damage-dealers in Overwatch. He earned about $2,000 a month as a member of an endemic called Luminosity Gaming—that is, until the Luminosity Overwatch roster disbanded in mid-2017, as Blizzard began consolidating control over professional Overwatch play. “In the past there’s been no security in an esports contract,” he says. “Even though we were signed to a two-year contract with Luminosity, there’s always a clause—and it’s not just them, every single esports contract looks like this—that says they can buy you out for one month’s salary. When they decide it’s your last month: goodbye.”

Lyon went on to sign with the Overwatch League’s Houston Outlaws, and he says the new league is a “huge improvement.” Contracts are guaranteed for at least a year, after which the team will have a second-year option with a prenegotiated salary. And, critically, players cannot be fired during the length of their contract, unless they’re guilty of something that would get them fired from any job.

Players are provided with housing, health insurance, a retirement plan, and a minimum league salary of $50,000, though Lyon believes that most players who are among a team’s starting six will earn much more than that. (Most teams also have a few backup players.) Plus, there’s revenue sharing and a prize pool of $3.5 million for successful teams, $1 million of which is reserved for the inaugural season’s eventual champions.

When he signed his contract with Houston, Lyon sat at his computer clicking his e-signature to the document’s relevant places, and he realized how different it was from what had come before. “Maybe this could be the way esports is going forward,” he says. “That it can be a legitimate career, and that it’s not like someone is going all-in on some fragment of a dream.”

Inside Blizzard arena, three enormous L.E.D. screens, approximately 20 feet by 11, show the audience the in-game action and player reactions.

Damon Casarez

It's hard not to notice that, as of this writing, there are no women on any of the rosters of any of the 12 teams in Overwatch League. “They are all dudes,” Nanzer says, shaking his head. It’s something he’s been thinking a lot about, and he admits that part of the problem is cultural. Gaming can be seen as acceptable and normal behavior for boys, but not necessarily for girls. (Though many studies show that roughly equal numbers of men and women play videogames casually, competitive play remains overwhelmingly male.) “There was never a question that I was going to sit and play games with my son,” he said. “But then the other day my daughter asked me, ‘Can I play Overwatch too?’ and I was like, oh shit, I gotta be better about this. I gotta treat it equal.”

And the women who do play Overwatch often find themselves to be targets of harassment. Glisa is the screen name for a 19-year-old Overwatch player who lives in Portland, Oregon. Despite being busy with her college studies, Glisa is one of the top 100 Overwatch players in terms of time spent in the game. She has so far logged thousands of hours of gameplay, and she keeps a YouTube channel with highlight reels. But sometimes she posts videos of her interactions with other gamers. She uploaded a montage recently called “Online Gaming as a Girl.”

“That was spawned after I had several different, very toxic encounters with people who brought up the fact that I was female many times and tried to use that to degrade me,” she says.

This will sound familiar to anyone who has followed the horrors of Gamergate over the past few years, and the video is hard to watch. The gamers she encounters aren’t just being a little insensitive—they are straight-up knuckle-dragging misogynists:

“You’re such a bimbo.”

“You’re probably ugly.”

“Grab her by the pussy.”

“Women’s rights are a fucking joke.”

And on and on and on.

“The internet is a very angry place,” Glisa says. After posting the video, she received emails and comments from people criticizing her “for not being able to deal with it, for being weak, for finding this upsetting.”

She was also contacted by other female Overwatch players who’d had similar run-ins. “Other women who were like, this is why I don’t join voice chat and never talk to people; this is why I use a male-style username. And that’s what upsets me the most. I don’t feel like people should have to hide who they are to be able to feel safe.” (Glisa didn’t want to use her real name for this article. She says she’s going to be applying for jobs soon, and if potential employers ­Google her, she doesn’t want them to think she’s someone who complains about sexual harassment. Which sort of proves her point.)

I ask her how it made her feel that something she loves can also be so hurtful. “Disappointed,” she says, “in life, in the universe, for being this way. Sometimes it affects me a lot more, and I leave the voice channel so I don’t have to deal with it. There are days that are just a lot harder than other days, and I try to insulate myself more from the anger.”

The sheer number of variables in play seems to exceed the human brain’s abilities.

Overwatch executives are quick to point out there’s a system in place for players to report toxic behavior, and hundreds of thousands of accounts have been disciplined for the type of harassment that Glisa describes. (She reported each of the players who harassed her, but she is not sure whether they received suspensions or bans. The system needs work.) Still, the problem persists, and if Overwatch is a game that requires constant communication between players, and women are made to feel uncomfortable communicating within the game, then perhaps it’s clear why few of them go pro.

Ysabel Müller is an Overwatch player who lives in Rodenbach, Germany. She began playing the game while it was still in beta, and she became highly ranked and friendly with a lot of the pros she played with. She says she had designs on going pro herself but found that getting useful feedback from her teammates was difficult. They treated her, she says, like she couldn’t endure criticism—that if criticized she would be offended and accuse her teammates of sexism and get them kicked out of the game.

“That’s a big fear of some of the male players, and so they’d rather distance themselves,” she says. She didn’t ultimately go pro in Overwatch. Instead, she helped organize regional tournaments. She’s now sending out applications to Overwatch League teams, hoping for a job in team management and player relations.

“I think it will change over the years, once more female players come in and it gets more accepted,” she says.

Blizzard seems to be trying to solve this problem from within. Kim Phan, Blizzard’s director of esports operations, says the company has been proactive in hiring women, including for key on-air shoutcaster jobs, which she hopes will promote female involvement in esports.

And while she says these kinds of visible women role models are essential, Phan also stressed the importance of men advocating and supporting women in gaming.

“Having mentors, advisers, who are men is very impactful,” she says. “It gives you the courage to stay because you know that the toxic voice is just one among many other voices. It’s a reminder that not everyone is like that.”

When asked what the Overwatch League was doing to attract more female players, nobody at Blizzard could point to any specific outreach or recruiting efforts. Nanzer says he’s been looking at data from women-only sports leagues like the WNBA that suggest a women’s league would bring more women into the game. “The idea comes up all the time: Should we have a women’s-only tournament or league?” he says. “I think there’s a way to do that where it’s awesome and supportive and grows the sport. I think there is a way to do it where it’s actually detrimental and it makes it seem like, oh, you’re not as good as men. We kind of go back and forth on that.”

Back in Redondo Beach, the early evening sunlight is streaking in through gaps in the curtains as the Los Angeles Valiant begins its last scrim of the day. Tonight’s match is against another Overwatch League team, the San Francisco Shock, which recently made headlines by signing superstar damage-dealer Jay “sinatraa” Won for a rumored $150,000 a year.

And while I’m still a noob at Overwatch, even I can tell that this San Francisco team plays with an unusual intensity. “They’re a team of 17-year-olds who just do not stop,” says Coxall, the Valiant coach, making the Shock sound young and insane as opposed to the Valiant’s qualities of wisdom and tactics. “If you think you’ve won a fight, you haven’t,” he tells the team. “These guys will keep throwing themselves at you. And one of them will clutch. Always expect that.”

I ask him about that word, “clutch,” and he explains that it refers to someone overcoming dubious odds to win. In other words, the Shock’s strategy is not necessarily to maneuver as a team but rather to have their players engage in seemingly suicidal encounters and trust that they have the skill to pull it off. It’s unrelenting, high-intensity pressure designed to fluster opponents.

It’s a reminder that this is truly a young person’s game—not just in its audience but also in its players. When I asked Christopher Schaefer, aka Grim, how long he thought he’d be a pro, he didn’t have high hopes. “Normally you can compete until you’re about 25,” he says. “Right now, up until when I’m around 21, 22-ish, I’m going to be the sharpest. But as soon you hit 25, your reaction speeds are going to slow down.”

Stefano Disalvo said the same thing: “How long do I think I’ll play? I say maybe four years, five years.”

When he decided to become an esports professional, Disalvo did not know that Overwatch League would exist. He committed to going pro during a time when the pay was uncertain and there was no job security, despite knowing that it would last only five years max.

Which seems just astonishingly irrational. What drove him to do it? “I saw everybody doing the norm: college, university, major in something,” he says. “But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something more because I felt like I wanted to prove something. I don’t know. It felt like this thing that I had to prove.”

Which makes sense to me. That, yes, for the people who go pro in esports, there’s a certain happiness in playing videogames for a living. But maybe more than that, esports allows people an avenue to do something different, to be special. Like musicians or actors or writers pursuing an unlikely dream, it strikes me as both romantic and brave.

Meanwhile, to try to absorb the Shock’s frantic offense, the Valiant team has figured out a new strategy. They go with a hero lineup that’s bigger—more tanks, more health.

“Niiiiiiice,” comes a chorus from around the room when they finally win a round.

“There you go, boys,” Coxall says into his headset’s microphone. “You took control. ”

The sun has gone down, but nobody seems to have noticed. By the end of the last scrim of the day, they are playing in the dark.


Nathan Hill (@nathanreads) is the author of The Nix. This is his first piece for WIRED.

This article appears in the January issue. Subscribe now.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/overwatch-videogame-league-aims-to-become-new-nfl/

NFL’s Litany of Excuses Runs Out After Ratings Fall for Second Year

TV networks are running out of excuses for the dwindling popularity of the National Football League.

They blamed the election for ratings declines last year, and hurricanes for a soft week one in September. Protests during the national anthem, and President Donald Trump’s criticism of the league, have faded from the headlines. 

Advertisers are starting to believe a different explanation: the viewers aren’t coming back. Audiences are down an average 7 percent from a year ago through the first eight weeks of the season, excluding last Monday. That’s on top of a decrease of about 8 percent last season that spurred numerous changes in the broadcasts, from shorter commercials to better matchups earlier in the year.

“There’s just not as many people watching TV the way they used to watch TV,” said Jeremy Carey, managing director of Optimum Sports, a sports marketing agency. “It’s going to be an issue for advertisers when they can’t reach a large-scale audience the way they have.”

With CBS Corp., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Walt Disney Co. set to report earnings in the next few days, analysts are bound to raise questions. These companies have used the popularity of the games to extract additional fees from cable operators, promote other shows on their networks and sell lots of commercials. Pro football games drew about $3.5 billion in ad spending last year, including the postseason, according to SMI Media Inc.

Media companies have spent billions of dollars on the right to air football games, which had been immune to the erosion of viewership for other TV programming. Audiences for TV networks have diminished for years as the growing popularity of online alternatives Netflix and YouTube and the availability of most shows on-demand have reduced the appeal of dramas and comedies. Live TV, like sports, was supposed to be immune, but that theory looks highly questionable now.

Ratings for the NFL suggest the same societal trends are now affecting the league, even if the declines aren’t as dramatic. The drop in game viewership ranges from 5 percent for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” to 11 percent for the CBS Sunday package. “Monday Night Football,” on Disney’s ESPN, has attracted more fans this year than a year ago, but the numbers are still down from 2015.

Viewership of the four main broadcast networks fell 8.7 percent last year, and 12 percent among adults 18 to 49, an important demographic for advertisers.

CBS’s 11 percent slump for NFL games is the steepest of the networks. Its parent company, which reports earnings after the close Thursday, is more vulnerable than rivals to the trend because the vast majority of its earnings come from the broadcast network. The declines at CBS reinforce a complaint that has gotten louder and louder in recent weeks: The league got greedy in adding the Thursday night game on broadcast.

Reserving top games for Thursday night robbed other time periods of good match-ups. After a nosedive in ratings at “Monday Night Football” last season, the league has scheduled better games for that time period, further damaging Sunday afternoon.

“Ratings declines on both general entertainment and NFL programming could be the single biggest point of focus for investors this quarter, and we’re not sure what media companies can say about the health and tone of the ad market to assuage fears,” Steven Cahall, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note last month.

Viewership is dropping fast among people under 54 — a key demographic for advertisers — and even faster among those 18 to 34. Audiences for games on CBS, NBC and Fox have slid at least 10 percent among that younger cohort.

Advertisers aren’t abandoning the NFL, one of the only places they can still reach more than 10 million people at once. But they are growing concerned. John Schnatter, who appears in TV spots on behalf of his Papa John’s Pizza International Inc., laid into the league on a conference call this week, blaming the ratings for his company’s slow revenue growth and calling for the league to put an end to player protests.

Networks and other advertisers identify a wide range of reasons for the NFL’s struggles. The league has overexposed itself by making highlights available on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat. Identifiable stars like Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have either retired or gotten hurt. The quality of play has deteriorated. Player protests and concussions have driven away some fans.

Some executives argue viewership of the league has still improved over the long term while dropping for every other show. Yet the amount of time people have spent watching football this season is at the lowest point since 2011, back when there were fewer televised games, according to Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports’ head of research.

“The cumulative effect of everything happening in the world at large is having an impact on NFL viewership,” Mulvihill said. “ The league was defying the laws of gravity.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-02/nfl-s-litany-of-excuses-runs-out-as-ratings-fall-for-second-year

    Donald Trump vs. Pro Football Is a Ratings Game the NFL Cant Win

    Never in the history of the NFL have its ratings been so scrutinized. There’s an almost breathless feel to the way fans, team owners, advertisers and, of course, President Donald Trump now await the release of the figures.

    That they were essentially mixed in the season’s third week is irrelevant. The obsession with the numbers, amped up by Trump’s condemnation of protests during the National Anthem, is a big headache for the National Football League and its hyper-protective commissioner, Roger Goodell.

    For years, it was able to exert strong control over its own narrative. The league and its powerful media partners continuously burnished the brand as a mass-market symbol of American vitality, strength and exceptionalism.

    The current commotion has, in totality, the opposite effect, reducing the NFL to the role of a sick patient looking for a proper diagnosis, a scofflaw institution deserving public shaming by the commander in chief. The reversal — from heroic savior of Sundays to something in need of saving — is proving difficult to shake off.

    “The best thing for the NFL would be to divorce itself from politics and focus on making the game safer, more entertaining and appealing to everybody. But the environment they are in is so polarizing,” says Allen Adamson, head of BrandSimple Consulting. An NFL spokesperson declined to comment.

    The ratings decline, which started during the 2016 season, isn’t an immediate problem for the league thanks to its long-term contracts with broadcasters.

    Dissecting Statistics

    The one with ESPN runs through 2021 and Fox, CBS and NBC are locked in through 2022. Any loss of audience between now and then is only a problem for the networks — though it all could eventually catch up to the NFL, the country’s most profitable sports league.
    In the meantime, seemingly everywhere you look on social media, some armchair ratings sleuth is dissecting the statistics and offering up a hypothesis about what’s gone awry with professional football. Obviously, it’s the pathetic quarterback play. Or, clearly, concern about players’ long-term health. Or the horrible refs, or the recent hurricanes, or the cannibalism of the live-game experience thanks to social-media highlights and the launch of the NFL RedZone. Or, somehow, millennials.

    But the theory gaining the most attention right now is the silent protests during the anthem. It’s an argument Trump has been pounding. During a campaign-style rally on Sept. 22, he declared the ratings were “down massively, massively,” and pinned the blame, in part, on players protesting police brutality by taking the knee, as it’s called.

    “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,’” the president said. “Out! He’s fired.” He also suggested that rules designed to improve player safety were chasing away viewers. “They’re ruining the game!”

    Culture Wars

    Those comments touched off a weekend of heightened drama, featuring widespread sideline protests by players, coaches and owners, nationwide Twitter feuds and numerous statements by owners defending free speech. By the time Monday morning rolled around, the news media awaited Nielsen’s reports with a giddiness usually reserved for Apple product launches and federal job reports.

    In the end, the ratings were a mixed bag. Over the weekend, CBS saw a boost versus 2016 and NBC and Fox experienced declines; ESPN’s ratings for the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night rose 63 percent, helping lift league-wide viewership out of an early-season slump.

    None of which did anything to staunch overheated reactions. “Fans are disgusted with the NFL, not only for politicizing the game they love but that league policies reveal a left-wing anti-American streak,” Breitbart reported in a story under the headline, “NFL Backlash: Sunday Night Football Hit With Season-Low Ratings.”

    Trump renewed his barbs Thursday, telling the “Fox & Friends” show that “the NFL cannot disrespect our country.” The president said he’s spoken to NFL owners, who are trapped “in a box.”

    “I think they’re afraid of their players if you want to know the truth,” he said.

    The league and its 32 teams made $1.25 billion from corporate partners and advertisers last year, according to ESP Properties. For decades, big companies paid vast amounts of money to bask in the associative glow of the NFL’s perceived dynamism, passion and vigor. Now they’re paying vast amounts of money to bask in the fiery hell-broth of the culture wars.

    #PunchThemInTheWallet

    Over the weekend, fans who agree with Trump shared lists of advertisers on social media networks while calling for boycotts along with hashtags like #PunchThemInTheWallet.

    Richard Levick, a crisis communications expert, says the NFL deftly navigated the weekend’s challenges but expects no shortage of hazards ahead. “They showed a high level of unity and independence, respecting those who participated in the protests and those who didn’t,” says Levick. “In this era of hyper politicization — which is being driven by the White House into everything from the Boy Scouts to the NFL — there is no safe middle of the road.”

    Over the years, Trump has tweeted about ratings hundreds of times, often in the context of bashing one of his perceived antagonists. including CNN, Morning Joe, the Emmys, Megyn Kelly, Barack Obama, Bill Maher and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The NFL could be forgiven for wishing the president would shift his critique elsewhere. Kelly does have a new show.

    But for the time being, Trump is keeping his eye on the NFL. On Tuesday morning, he was back on Twitter. “Ratings for NFL football are way down,” he wrote, “except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!”

    He returned to theme on Wednesday as he left the White House to deliver a speech on tax reform, telling reporters the NFL is in trouble. “Their business is going to hell.”

    Week four starts tonight. The Chicago Bears play the Green Bay Packers. Ratings are due out Friday. Tweets to follow.

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-28/donald-trump-vs-pro-football-is-a-ratings-game-the-nfl-can-t-win

      Collectors Rejoice! Topps Just Released A Limited-Edition Hall Of Famers Pack That Includes Each Legends Stance On Abortion

      Read more: http://www.clickhole.com/article/collectors-rejoice-topps-just-released-limited-edi-6220

      These new 3D scan fit helmets could make football safer

      Riddell's next step in football helmet technology includes personalized 3D head scans.
      Image: lili sams/Mashable

      Helmets already make the violent game of football safer, but one of the biggest equipment makers in the sport is making them even better. It’s developed a new process to create helmets that could play a role in preventing the traumatic head injuries that currently plague the game and threaten its future.

      Riddell, the company behind the helmets worn by around 60 percent of NFL players, will use a new 3D head-scanning process on each player who wears its new Precision Fit headgear. To be sure there are other innovations in helmet tech, but unlike just about every other helmet design on the market, which use inflatable pads that are adjusted manually by handheld air pumps, the inside of the Precision Fit models have a custom-fit liner system made of “energy managing materials” built according to the personalized scan data of each player’s head.

      The personalization is meant to make players more comfortable and therefore, safer than ever before according to its makers, who call it “the perfect fitting helmet.” While the custom fit will certainly help to prevent injuries that stem from poorly-adjusted headgear, and perform better than helmets mass produced for the general market, it’s important to note that there’s no current tech that can protect against every single injury. Football is filled with collisions that have been measured on the same scale as car crashes, so as long as the sport is played as it is today, head injuries will be an unfortunate, unavoidable reality.

      After four years of development and a successful limited run of beta testing at select colleges, Precision Fit will be available to NFL players for the the 2017 season.

      The Riddell team stopped by Mashable HQ so I could check out the scanning process for myself. I played the sport through high school, college, and professionally in Germany, so I’ve worn football helmets for my entire life including the Riddell Speed model the Precision Fit system is built on but I’ve never experienced anything like this.

      A standard model of the Speedflex helmet.

      Image: riddell

      When I played youth football, helmets were given out to players without much thought, with a few pumps of air and a hearty slap on the side of the head to check if it stayed in place. Later in my career, as the extent of the danger that comes with head injuries and concussions came to light, I was specially fitted for each helmet I wore but managing that fit throughout the season was largely left to me.

      The status of my helmet was always a major concern for me, but it quickly took a backseat to my focus on the field during games. I often found myself playing with a less-than-ideal fit, which might have contributed to my own experiences with concussions. Football players today need to be able to play without those issues with comfort and function which is why Riddell’s new fitting process caught my attention.

      Scanning for a perfect fit

      I was given a cowl to put on under a demo helmet, which I then strapped on tightly so the scanner could record exactly where it sat on my head.

      I got the helmet set comfortably on my head, as if I were putting it on for a game.

      Image: lili sams/mashable

      The Riddell tech walked around me in a circle to capture a 360-degree scan of my head with the helmet on, using a 3D scanner hooked up to a Surface tablet running the company’s proprietary software.

      The scanner captured images of exactly how the helmet sat on my head.

      Image: lili sams/mashable

      After recording the helmet, a second scan was taken with only the cowl to capture the exact shape of my head for the mold.

      After capturing my head in the helmet, a second scan was taken with the lining cap.

      Image: lili sams/mashable

      My Precision Fit scan experience, which took about five minutes, was only a demo. Riddell won’t be making me a helmet of my own, due to cost and time constraints; players typically get their helmets four to six weeks after the scan.

      But a scan is just the start for the players who will depend on the helmets on the field this upcoming season. First, Riddell engineers import each players’ scan data into CAD design software to recreate the exact surface and head placement for production. Using the scan data, the eight-pad custom linings are then machined (cut) from the energy-managing material, which Thad Ide, Riddell’s Senior Vice President of Research and Product Development, told me is a composite polyurethane, engineered to possess “multiple densities tuned to perform the way we want it to perform.”

      The liner feels more solid than the air pockets in helmets I wore back in the day, and it’s designed to “grow” to match the surface of its wearers head, kind of like an extra protective layer of memory foam.

      The Precision Fit helmet lining.

      Image: lili sams/mashable

      Ide didn’t share exactly how much a Precision Fit helmet will cost for each individual player because it’s a prototype, but one of Riddell’s standard Speedflex units costs $409.99, so a custom fit would presumably be even more expensive. Instead, Riddell will offer the custom helmets as an option for teams to buy in bulk, which Ide said is standard practice already across all levels of football. He doesn’t think cost will be a problem for smaller programs in the future.

      “Scaleability and affordability are important to us on this platform,” he said. “Were rolling it out for large colleges and professional teams, but as we scale it I can see this becoming an affordable option for high schools, junior highs, youth programs these are all things were working on.”

      The Precision Fit helmets are made to last for a player’s entire career, too, which could help with affordability. The headgear would be reconditioned and re-certified every year by Riddell which is standard protocol for all football helmets at every level of play already, as Ide said it would be “atypical” for even a high school program to not recondition its helmets every year so the helmets will conceivably perform just as well after a few seasons as it did new.

      Smarter innovation

      Precision Fit is just a step in Riddell’s plan to bring the football helmet in line with modern technology. Ide said the company has two distinct development paths: one focused on harnessing sensors and computing to capture impact data for future development, another for the more immediately pressing matter of a helmet maker, head protection.

      “Riddell invested more than 10 years ago in head impact monitoring and helmet-based sensor technology that can transmit impact data from the field to the sideline,” he said. “Weve collected about five million impacts, and we have enough of a database now that you can really see differences in impact profiles. We think were at the point where we can tune helmets to be optimized for playing position, skill level, because players see different types of impact profiles depending on those factors.”

      Ide said integrated sensor tech and position-specific helmets will be expected in helmets in as little as five years, and individual “impact profiles” tracking their on-field collisions will give players, coaches, and medical staffs better insight into each individual’s playing style and how best to protect their heads.

      The company has a plan to bring its sensors and head protection together by 2022.

      Image: riddell

      Riddell is far from the only company working to improve football helmet design its biggest rival, Schutt (which claims 37 percent of the NFL market), released two new models last year, the Vengeance Z10 and the Vengeance Pro, which tout new lightweight builds with high safety ratings. The two companies are currently locked in a legal battle over patent infringement but a new player is primed to enter the scene.

      Starting this year, NFL and college players will be allowed to wear headgear made by Vicis, a Seattle-based startup whose Zero1 helmet is designed to yield to contact and “deform” at the point of impact, unlike Schutt and Riddell’s designs, which have rigid outer shells and pads to cushion the head after each collision. The Zero1 was the highest-performing helmet in an NFL-sponsored safety test, so it will likely be adopted by players looking for increased protection.

      In this field, competition and new innovations should be more than welcome by the helmet makers and everyone else involved in the effort to make the game safer. For now, though, increased levels of protection is all these helmet makers can offer players and teams.

      Concussions, which most typically occur in football when a high level impact causes the brain to strike the skull and begins to swell, can’t just be prevented by a better fitting helmet. They’re an unavoidable reality for the sport as it’s currently played, and no helmet can promise a truly concussion-free football experience so bringing new safety technologies onto the field will be integral to football’s future.

      Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/27/riddell-precision-fit/

      The troubling news Gisele Bndchen just broke about Tom Brady

      Gisele and Brady attend the Met Gala on May 1.
      Image: Gourley/BEI/REX/Shutterstock

      Wednesday’s most interesting bit of NFL news was broken by …. Gisele Bndchen, naturally.

      The supermodel wife of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady revealed that her husband has had multiple concussions during his career, including one suffered last season.

      But this isn’t just gossip from a celebrity family it’s actually big news, for a couple reasons.

      First, Brady has reportedly not been listed on any Patriots’ injury report with a concussion over the past four seasons, raising questions about the team’s transparency with serious injuries.

      Second, the effect that repeated blows to the head have on current and former NFL players is still a relatively new topic of serious concern among NFL observers and medical professionals. From Junior Seau to Nick Buoniconti, we’ve seen too many horror stories about ex-pros over the past few years. (Brady, meanwhile, has said he hopes to continuing playing well into his 40s. He’s 39 now.)

      “He had a concussion last year. He has concussions pretty much every … I mean, we dont talk about it. He does have concussions,” Bndchen said in an interview with CBS’ This Morning. “I dont really think its a healthy thing for a body to go through that kind of aggression all the time. That could not be healthy for you.”

      Now this is where it gets complicated for a football fan and where it gets sad for anyone with a heart.

      “Im planning on having him be healthy and do a lot of fun things when were like 100, I hope,” Bndchen added of her husband and the father of their two kids.

      What immediately springs to mind after hearing that is anintimate, tragic profile of Buoniconti that Sports Illustrated recently published. A legend from the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins team, Buoniconti initially enjoyed a healthy and productive life after retiring from the NFL. But he began to decline precipitously over the past few years.

      Now 76 years old, Buoniconti suffers from cognitive and mental health problems that all signs point to being due to his hard-hitting NFL career. He forgets how to hang up the phone. His wife has to help him use the bathroom. He has unpredictable mood swings, and tells the magazine he “feels lost” and “like a child.”

      It wasn’t all that long ago that Buoniconti was cheered as a hero on the football field. Then new heroes legends like Tom Brady came along and we cheered for them as we left Buoniconti to his decline.

      One certainly hopes Brady doesn’t go on to suffer even a fraction of what Buoniconti has gone through but what Gisele revealed Wednesday does make the discomforting hypothetical much more real.

      Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/tom-brady-concussions-gisele/

      NBA alum’s podcast aims to give athletes a ‘rematch’ with what the media got wrong

      Thomas in 2011.
      Image: Minchillo/AP/REX/Shutterstock

      It can seem like everyone has a podcast these days, but a new series from former NBA player Etan Thomas has been a long time coming it taps into a concept that got lodged in his brain back during a decade-long NBA career that ended in 2011.

      “A lot of the time, people think they know athletes, but they don’t really know them,” Thomas explains. “Or maybe people know one part of them, but not who they really are. Sometimes the media gets it wrong. I’ve wanted to give them a chance to retell their stories a rematch, so to speak.”

      Enter The Rematch, a podcast Thomas launched this month through The Players’ Tribune. The series is the latest endeavor for a baller whose interests have long gone beyond the court he’s a poet, writer, and activist as well. But it’s a project that hits close to home after a decade inside the celebrity fishbowl that is pro sports in America.

      “It’s a tough thing to have everyone believe something about you that isn’t true,” Thomas says.

      Thomas helps Barack Obama with his shot at a 2014 White House event.

      Image: REX/Shutterstock

      That’s why his list of guests is full of athletes who push back at the popular imagination of who they are, or what sports stars as a whole are like.

      In one episode, former WNBA star Chamique Holdsclaw opened up about her long battle with depression. In another, former NBA star Kenny Anderson discussed the internal pain and suffering he was forced to bury as a teenage hoops prodigy. Then there’s former Detroit Pistons center Bill Laimbeer, characterized in the popular imagination as one of the biggest jerks to ever hit the court.

      “He was always the player everyone loved to hate,” Thomas says. “But then I met him a couple times at charity events and he was the nicest guy. I was like, ‘Oh wait, this cat’s a family man.’ I hadn’t seen or heard about that part of him anywhere before.”

      So Thomas had Laimbeer on The Rematch, where they discussed basketball and life.

      That baseline idea athletes telling their own stories is what The Players’ Tribune was founded on when New York Yankees star Derek Jeter launched the site days after retiring from the team in 2012. But Thomas plans to keep focusing exclusively on players who buck preconceived notions about the humans behind the highlights and he hopes their stories will help inspire others.

      “Take Chamique Holdsclaw talking about mental health,” he explains. “From that conversation, we’ve had other athletes and fans express that hearing her has given them courage to come forward about their own mental health and not try to hide it.”

      Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/13/etan-thomas-podcast/

      Fried Avocado Fries Recipe (9.13.12 – Day 32) Snack, Appetizer, Game Day, Party

      If You Have High Blood Pressure, Listen Carefully…
      Discover Your Risk Of Heart Attacks & Stroke Now!.

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      Hypertension is the major risk factor for coronary heart disease and the single most important risk
      factor for stroke. It causes about 50% of ischaemic strokes and increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

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      I have never been able to eat avocado by itself. This summer I saw a lot of people posting about grilled avocado and I saw some post on from avocado. It intrigued me, but I guess it still wasn't a big enough push. Recently I was at a sushi restaurant and ordered one of my favorites, Sweet Potato Tempura. Surprisingly, that was just the push I need to try to fry avocados.

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      Fried Avocado Fries Recipe

      Ingredients:

      1 ripe avocado
      Oil for frying
      1/2 cup cornmeal
      1/2 cup whole wheat flour
      2 teaspoons salt
      1/2 teaspoon black pepper

      Directions:

      Cut the avocado in half length wise. Turn each half opposite one another and pull apart. Remove the exposed seed with a spoon or knife.

      Remove the meat of the avocado by scooping it away from the skin with a spoon.

      Lay the two halves of avocado meat onto a cutting board, and cut each half into 4 equal segments.

      Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium high heat.

      In a small bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, salt, and black pepper. Dip each slice of avocado into the flour mixture. Once coated, remove them from the flour and dust off excess.

      Fry each breaded avocado slice in the heated oil for 1 – 2 minutes on each side. Place of a paper towel to remove the extra oil.

      Other videos on how to cook avocados:

      Ochikeron Pan Fried Avocado (Recipe) アボカド焼き (レシピ)

      PrincessDiana161 Avocado Fries

      PiyopiyoQ How to Make Avocado Fries

      About Southern Queen of Vegan Cuisine Project

      Inspired by the Julie and Julia Project, the Southern Queen of Vegan Cuisine will take on the Paula Deen Southern Cooking Bible. Veganizing 328 butter-laden, pork-filled recipes in 328 days. This is a test . . . this is only a test of skill, imagination, and physical & mental fortitude.

      طريقة زيت الافوكادو لتنعيم الشعر || avocado oil

      If You Have High Blood Pressure, Listen Carefully…
      Discover Your Risk Of Heart Attacks & Stroke Now!.

      Heart Attack Image 1

      Hypertension is the major risk factor for coronary heart disease and the single most important risk
      factor for stroke. It causes about 50% of ischaemic strokes and increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

      Click Here To Take The One Minute Test To Discover Your Risk Of Heart Attack & Stroke Now!

      1 2 3
      What Is The Chinese
      Secret To Optimum
      Blood Pressure?
      Why This Is The
      Healthiest Oil On Earth?
      Click To Learn More
      Bring Your Old
      Battery Back To Life!
      4 5 6
      How To Survive In
      Bed & Nail Women
      Like A Rockstar!
      100% of Your
      Vital Nutrition In
      Just 30 Seconds
      How A 2000-Year-Old
      Nepalese Secret To Cure
      Your Sciatica in 7
      DAYS OR LESS

      طريقة عمل زيت الأفوكادو بالفديو

      مقادير زيت الافوكادو

      مدونتي || blog

      التواصل والإستفسار عن الإعلان ||
      artgiving23@gmail.com

      تواصل على التويتر ||

      صفحتي على الفيس بوك ||

      الإنستقرام ||

      ‫طريقة عمل القهوه العربيه على الطريقه السعوديه و حلى || Sweet al jawzaa + Arabic coffees

      طريقة البسبوسة بدون بيض || Basbousa yoghurt sub eng

      تحدي الثمانين يوم || قصتي مع الرجيمات , والرشاقة

      تحدي ال80 يوم || الأسبوع الأول || لكي يتحول الهدف إلى حقيقة علينا بالعمل

      تحدي ال80 يوم || الأسبوع الثاني || الفشل الحقيقي هو أن تكف عن المحاولة

      تحدي ال80 يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع الثالث || يوم إني تشققت من الوناسة

      نظام السعرات الحرارية لإنزال الوزن || ماهو ؟ كيف امشي عليه ؟

      تحدي ال 80 يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع الرابع || العصير الذي يحرق الدهون

      تحدي الثمانين يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع الخامس || طريقة نظام تكسير دهون البطن

      تحدي ال80 يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع السادس

      تحدي الثمانين يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع السابع || طفش – يطفش – طفشانة

      تحدي الثمانين يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع الثامن || الهم والغضب واليأس أعدى أعداء الإنسان

      تحدي ال80 يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع التاسع || الرجيم والرياضة وقت الدورة الشهرية

      تحدي ال 80 يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع العاشر || نظام ونصائح لتقليل الوزن في رمضان

      تحدي الثمانين يوم للرشاقة || الأسبوع الأخير || اليوم الثمانين || كيف نحفت ؟ كيف تنحفين

      #تحدي_الكرش || البداية , النظام , الوزن , الأهداف , الكرش

      طريقة قياس الخصر || طريقة قياس الكرش

      #تحدي_الكرش || الأسبوع الأول , الخطوط البيضاء , الترطيب , العناية بالبشرة وقت الدايت – stretch mark

      تجربتي مع بدلة الساونا للتخسيس

      #تحدي_الكرش || الأسبوع الثاني || #تحدي_جيليان || ميزان || جيليان مايكلز || jillian michaels

      #تحدي_الكرش || الأسبوع الثالث والرابع || نتيجة #تحدي_جيليان المستوى الأول ||

      طريقة عمل زيت الزنجبيل للتنحيف -للتخسيس – للمساج , Ginger oil method || sub eng

      كيف نحفت ؟ نهاية #تحدي_الكرش ♥ 2014

      كيف ابدأ دايت || How to Start Diet

      كيف تقدم عرض / برزنتيشن دون توتر أو خوف|| Presentation without fear

      خلطة لمنع ظهور الحبوب في الوجه

      الشمر لشد الجسم مجرب

      طريقة عمل بطاطس شبس صحية ومقرمشة || healthy chips Potato method

      ماء الورد للوجه || rose water for the skin

      نفسى انحف ومو قادره استمر برجيم || كيف ؟

      شاي الضيافة للتنحيف || للتخسيس

      علاج مشكلة السيلوليت والخطوط البيضاء مجربة || cellulite . stretch mark

      Fish Oil – Prozis All about ingredients with Rob Riches

      If You Have High Blood Pressure, Listen Carefully…
      Discover Your Risk Of Heart Attacks & Stroke Now!.

      Heart Attack Image 1

      Hypertension is the major risk factor for coronary heart disease and the single most important risk
      factor for stroke. It causes about 50% of ischaemic strokes and increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

      Click Here To Take The One Minute Test To Discover Your Risk Of Heart Attack & Stroke Now!

      1 2 3
      What Is The Chinese
      Secret To Optimum
      Blood Pressure?
      Why This Is The
      Healthiest Oil On Earth?
      Click To Learn More
      Bring Your Old
      Battery Back To Life!
      4 5 6
      How To Survive In
      Bed & Nail Women
      Like A Rockstar!
      100% of Your
      Vital Nutrition In
      Just 30 Seconds
      How A 2000-Year-Old
      Nepalese Secret To Cure
      Your Sciatica in 7
      DAYS OR LESS

      Fish oil is oil derived from the tissues of oily fish. Fish oils contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), precursors of eicosanoids that are known to reduce inflammation throughout the body, and are thought to have many health benefits.

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