For the love of the game, there’s an up-and-coming social media/mobile tool for sports fans called FanChatter. If you want to send your picture to the stadium’s Jumbotron or keep up with fans of your favorite team, FanChatter is your ticket.
The founders of FanChatter were recently invited to spend some quality time at Silicon Valley’s YCombinator, a twice-a-year brain camp for startups who get some seed money and, more importantly, access to priceless free advice from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
I recommend two recent stories about FanChatter – a story by Graeme Thickins in Minnov8 and one from Finance & Commerce by Arundhati Parmar. Coupled together, these articles free The Nerdery to tell an entirely different side of the FanChatter story – and one told to me by Tom O’Neill, our VP of software development. Tom’s story has something for everyone, whether you’re into stories with true romance, sports, technology, brotherly love, suspense, the thrill of victory, and the agony of … whatever.
Ever go to a ballgame at which some hopeful romantic type gets the nerve to go on the Jumbotron on bended knee to propose to his surprised sweetheart? It’s among the most anxious moments in all of sports (sometimes I can’t watch). Did you know that Major League Baseball has a rule that only one such public proposal can be aired per game on the Jumbotron? Ed O’Neill didn’t. When his brother Tom learned this, he had to make a series of life-changing game-time decisions.
Ed had the ring and everything when he showed up at the Twins game with his girlfriend Holly, brother Tom, and Tom’s wife Anni. Here’s the play-by-play:
Top of the 1st inning: Tom sneaks off to Metrodome Fan Services to plunk down $100 for his brother’s Jumbotron appearance. Returning to the seats, Tom tells Ed, “Done deal.”
Bottom 1st inning: Dude from Fan Services frantically waves Tom down, tells him somebody else had dibs on the one-a-day Jumbotron proposal. Tom curses rules as made to be broken, but no dice.
Top of the 2nd: Tom tells brother about FanChatter as possible Plan B for his proposal. Select fan photos submitted to FanChatter are shown on the Jumbotron in the 5th inning. Anyone who’s been to a ballgame with Tom knows he’s a fan and early adopter of FanChatter. If Tom were Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman, he’d name-drop FanChatter creator Marty Wetherall as a “close personal friend.” When he’s not at YCombinator, Marty works for Fallon, a frequent agency partner of The Nerdery. Meanwhile, Tom takes a picture of brother Ed with his iPhone …
Bottom of the 2nd: … and emails Ed’s photo to his Nerdery colleague Mike Johnson, who steps away from normal Friday night activities long enough to Photoshop this short and sweet caption: “Marry me, Holly?” Matt Tolbert tags up and scores on Joe Mauer’s sacrifice fly and it’s 4-zip. Just as Tom gets the doctored photo back from Mike, Tom’s iPhone battery goes dead.
Top of the third: Tom pleads with lady at gate nearest his car to let him out, and more importantly, re-enter after he charges his phone and completes his sacred bro-deal – he tells the gatekeeper what he’s up to, deftly playing the brotherly love card and probably pitching a romance novel fit for nerds – and she buys it, even signing his ticket to green-light his re-entry.
Bottom of the third: Tom plugs his phone in at his car and reaches FanChatter’s Marty and asks that Ed’s picture please, please, pretty please be chosen for the 5th inning montage. Marty, who’s out to dinner with his wife, says we must reach FanChatter co-founder Luke Francl who’s better positioned as game-time go-to-guy to try to make it happen. A flurry of phone tag follows as Tom’s iPhone recharges and Brendan Harris puts the Twins up 5-0 on a single to center, scoring Cuddyer.
Bottom of the fourth: More runs driven in by Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer. Tom reaches Luke, who says he’ll do his best to get Ed’s FanChatter photo on the big screen. Having done all he can, Tom heads back to the Dome. The score is Twins 9, Brewers 0. Upon his return, Tom gives Ed an unknowing but hopeful shrug.
Top of the Fifth: Holly, a Brewers fan, cheers as her team finally scores, and it’s the first run Tom has actually seen cross the plate.
Middle of the fifth: The FanChatter photo montage begins on the Jumbotron. Tom inexplicably isn’t paying attention. Anni, not in on the plan but well aware of Tom’s high regard for FanChatter, points and asks, “Tom, did you submit a photo as usual?” Tom’s watching Holly, who follows Anni’s pointing finger to the Jumbotron, watching just in time to see Ed’s pretty decent proposal. People start cheering. Ed is beaming. Holly says, “Yes.”
The rest of the game is really just icing on the cake. Cuddyer hit for the cycle and the Twins won 11-3.
All that was back in May, and we’ve sat on this story during FanChatter’s quietly productive exile in Silicon Valley. Today is Demo Day for FanChatter – a public unveiling of sorts after which the fledgling company looks to attract additional contracts with sports franchises, and perhaps, additional VC funding. The Nerdery wishes them well, and the growing O’Neill family thanks FanChatter for being there for them during the 5th inning stretch.