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This week’s AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star Game in Portland will be a World Cup curtain call of sorts for the league.
Nine members of the U.S. team for the World Cup in Brazil are participating in the Wednesday showcase at Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers. Eight of the players are MLS All-Stars, while one — 19-year-old Julian Green — plays for that night’s opponent, German League champion Bayern Munich. The U.S. team players will be recognized in a brief ceremony before the match.
The home of the Portland Timbers is playing host to the event.
Photo by:USA TODAY SPORTS
The All-Star Game, which will be televised on ESPN2, UniMas and TSN, is sold out — hardly a surprise, considering the success of the host team. The Timbers have sold out 62 consecutive home matches, dating to their first MLS match in 2011. The club has 15,000 full-season ticket holders and a waiting list of 10,000. Capacity at Providence Park is 20,814.
“We never had to worry about selling tickets because this market sells out every game,” said Jen Maurillo, MLS vice president of special events. “We were able to focus on perfecting the programming of All-Star Week in Portland.”
The city’s downtown Pioneer Courthouse Square, nicknamed “Portland’s living room,” is the site of many of the events. The MLS Experience, featuring fan activities, autograph sessions and music, continues with daily events through Wednesday. The Monday session is capped by a soccer discussion at 9 p.m. hosted by Men in Blazers, the duo (Roger Bennett and Michael Davies) from the Grantland website who broke through on television with their regular appearances during ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup.
Monday also features the Chipotle Homegrown Game, pitting MLS’s top homegrown players from the United States against the Timbers’ U23 team. Tickets to the match, at Providence Park, are free.
Following the Tuesday afternoon training sessions of the MLS All-Stars and Bayern Munich at Providence Park, MLS Works, the league’s charitable arm, and ESPN are hosting a match featuring Special Olympians from North America and Germany. Like the training sessions, the Special Olympics match is open to the public.
The popular band Cold War Kids plays a free concert at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Tuesday night.
In addition to match title sponsor AT&T, among the league sponsors activating around the All-Star events are Volkswagen, Adidas, Budweiser, Xbox, Microsoft and Wells Fargo.
“What you’ll see from our corporate partners throughout AT&T MLS All-Star Week is incredibly powerful and showcases their sophisticated approach,” said David Wright, MLS senior vice president of global sponsorship. “An event like this is about maximizing partner value and for them to be a part of the conversation in a true and meaningful way.”
On game day, the league and the Timbers will host what’s being billed as a March to the Match. Fans are encouraged to join supporters groups in the three-quarters of a mile walk from Pioneer Courthouse Square to the All-Star Game at Providence Park. Along the way will be activation spaces by local businesses, free food from restaurants, soccer street teams and musicians.
“We have such a beautiful, walkable city, so we wanted to capitalize on that and make the events a celebration of Portland and soccer,” said Mike Golub, Timbers president of business operations. “Our All-Star Week is inclusive and accessible.”
Want to ask Johnny Unitas about his top plays? Query Vince Lombardi about his coaching wizardry? Have Walter Payton tell you about the origin of his nickname, Sweetness?
It may not be far-fetched. The Pro Football Hall of Fame wants to use holograms to depict deceased players and coaches in interactive displays in the museum, as well as in traveling shows. If implemented, it is believed that the hall would become the first entity in sports to use the technology, one that captured great attention at the Billboard Music Awards in May when a hologram of Michael Jackson appeared on stage and performed.
“It is an opportunity to engage our audience with a realistic yet entertaining way of telling our story,” said Joe Horrigan, the hall’s executive vice president of museums, selection process and chief communications officer. “It brings a wow factor.”
A holographic image of Michael Jackson performs during the Billboard Music Awards in May.
Photo by:GETTY IMAGES
Whether holograms of deceased players elicit “wows” or “ewws” is a subjective reaction. Frank Vuono, partner at 16W Marketing, the hall’s new marketing agency, said he saw a concert with a hologram of Frank Sinatra singing and called it great, not creepy.
Google the Michael Jackson Billboard Music Awards performance, or a Tupac Shakur hologram appearance in 2012, and responses are all over the map — from those who found it spooky, to others who found it awe-inspiring.
What is certain is that hologram technology is quickly becoming a market reality in various sectors. Hologram USA, which provided the technology for the Jackson appearance, opened a Washington, D.C., office last week to offer its services to politicians to allow them to appear remotely. The new prime minister of India in his election effort often campaigned simultaneously in different locations through the use of holograms.
Holograms can be used each way: to resurrect the dead or to depict a live person talking in one place in another location. Country music star Keith Urban actually performed a concert as a hologram in Australia while still in the United States.
The hall wants to do both. The holograms the hall envisions would largely use live actors playing out the roles and not footage of the featured individuals. That image could then be used live somewhere or programmed as a display at the museum.
The hall might use some actual footage, Horrigan said, but he did not reply to a follow-up question about whether the hall had also begun talks with the estates of deceased players about what is legally required for their permission.
The hall is talking to two vendors that license the technology from British company Musion, which worked with the Indian prime minister on his campaign.
In the next year, the hall expects to raise the necessary funds for the effort, Horrigan said, and would deploy the technology soon after. He declined to comment on what the endeavor costs.
Sports teams, leagues and events often aggressively protect their intellectual property, whether it’s targeting unauthorized use of their logos, footage or names.
Far less common is when the shoe is on the other foot, as is the case with Wimbledon, which has been selling annual coffee table-type books that contain plagiarized material.
Reports of the plagiarism broke recently, and the writer of the yearbook and the tournament have both publicly confirmed that there was plagiarism. The books, however, were still available for purchase on Amazon’s United Kingdom website last week despite the tournament knowing about the matter since at least March.
The books were still being offered on Amazon last week despite the controversy.
“Our lawyers [are] looking into the situation,” wrote Jason Stallman, sports editor of The New York Times, in an email. The Times is one of the publications subject to the plagiarism. Stallman referred further queries to a Times spokeswoman, who wrote, “We do not have comment at this time.”
Sports Illustrated, another affected publication, said in a statement: “We are obviously very disappointed in the events that transpired and we appreciate all parties involved understanding the magnitude of the transgression.”
The annual yearbook is a roundup of that year’s tournament, with descriptions of key matches and players. In some cases, those descriptions were copied word for word from other publications.
Remedies for the affected news outlets are difficult in part because of jurisdictional complexities. Wimbledon and the book’s publisher, Vision Sports Publishing, are based in the U.K., while Sports Illustrated and The New York Times are U.S.-based. Numerous overseas newspapers are also involved.
Wimbledon is owned and run by the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.
The biggest damage ultimately is reputational, said James Donoian, a partner in McCarter & English, where he specializes in intellectual property.
“Wimbledon holds itself to a higher standard — people have to dress a certain way — so from a reputation and PR perspective, this can be very damaging,” he said.
Donoian said he expects lawyers for news outlets at the very least to send strongly worded letters to the All England Club demanding it cease sales of the books.
Wimbledon notified the book’s contract writer, Neil Harman, of the issue in March and told him he would no longer be writing the annual, the writer has said publicly. He had written the annual since 2004. A reporter for The (London) Times, Harman is a dean of sorts in tennis journalism overseas. He covered the 2014 event and attended the traditional Champions Ball at the All England Club’s invitation.
News of the plagiarism broke in Slate and Deadspin after this year’s tournament, leading The Times to suspend Harman.
Wimbledon spokesman Johnny Perkins noted that when informed of the issue earlier this year, the Club stripped Harman of his role writing this year’s annual yearbook. Perkins did not answer why copies of the yearbooks were still on sale through Amazon and had been available in the Wimbledon gift shop until the end of the tournament.
Slate reported there were 52 combined cases of plagiarized material in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 annuals.
The reporter who wrote the story for Slate, Ben Rothenberg, freelances regularly for The New York Times, but the newspaper turned him down for the story because the publication was one of the victims, he said on a podcast last week.
The business of the annual yearbook is relatively limited for Wimbledon, which rakes in more than $200 million annually. The Club sells a few thousand copies, Perkins said, at an average price of $34 each.