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Autumn is my favorite time of year, and not because of all the pretty fall colors – unless by pretty fall colors you mean Seattle Seahawks blue or the rave green of the Seattle Sounders.
Yep, you guessed it, autumn is my favorite time of year because it’s just about the best time for sports fans. College football and the NFL seasons are just getting underway. Major League Baseball’s playoff races are about to kick into high gear. And the Major League Soccer playoffs and the NHL and NBA seasons are right around the corner.
Of course, like all sports fans, I want – no, I need – to be connected to the latest news from my favorite teams at all times across a range of devices. Here’s a list of my favorite apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8 because they keep me in the loop on the sports I love.
The first place I go in the morning to catch up on the latest sports news is the Bing Sports App for Windows Phone. It’s got a great mix of top scores, top stories, slideshows (the Serena Williams career in pictures slideshow is amazing) and videos and it’s highly customizable, so I can follow news, scores and stats from my favorite sports and my favorite teams. Plus, I can even pin my favorite team to my start screen, creating a tile for one touch access to all the latest team updates.
If it’s late in the evening and I’m kicking back on the couch and relaxing, I usually have my Surface with me, so I can enjoy all the same features and capabilities of the Bing Sports App, only on Windows 8. As much as I love having access to stories, videos and slideshows on my Windows Phone, there’s something to be said for enjoying all that rich content on a sleek, high-resolution tablet. Plus, my favorite sports and team settings in the Bing Sports app roam across my tablet and my Windows 8.1 PC. I love the consistency in look, feel and functionality between the Bing Sports Apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.
When it comes to keeping up to speed on all things sports, however, there may not be a better collection of apps than those offered across Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox than the ESPN family of apps. Let’s start with one of my favorites: ESPN Scorecenter. The beauty of this app lies in its simplicity. It’s a sports scores app, first and foremost. Sure, you can get game recaps and news on it, but this is my favorite app for quick, easy access to the scores I care about. If I’ve got a bunch of buddies over to watch the Huskies take on the Oregon Ducks and I’m stuck on grill duty, I have to be able to know the score, and with the ESPN Scorecenter app, it’s right there at my fingertips with a single tap.
If I want more in-depth coverage of my favorite teams and players, then I go to the ESPN Hub App for Windows Phone (a Nokia exclusive available only on Lumia phones) or the ESPN App for Windows 8. Like ESPN Scorecenter, these two apps are both highly customizable, but what I really dig about them both is they give you access to great ESPN content, like videos from Sports Center or, in the case of ESPN for Windows 8, feature length stories from ESPN the Magazine. I love being able to see the 37-second spot from Sports Center about how Minnesota Vikings Running Back Adrian Peterson tweeted that his daughter chided him for losing to the Browns. If you’re a boxing fan like me, you definitely don’t want to miss “The last great American prizefighter”, an ESPN the Magazine story on Floyd Mayweather. Or, maybe it’s late at night and I missed Sports Center altogether (I know it’s hard to believe that could happen because it feels like Sports Center is always on ESPN, bit I have actually missed Sports Center). Well, all I have to do is sit back and catch up on all the latest action, all personalized to me based on the sports and teams I care about most, with the ESPN App for Xbox 360. The app gives me access to content from ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, Buzzer Beater and Goal Line, as well as some of my favorite shows (“Pardon the Interruption” and “Mike and Mike in the Morning” are two I can’t live without.) And, it’s on the big screen and all in high-def. You can’t beat it.
The NFL also has outstanding app experiences across a range of devices. With the pro football season now underway and the Seahawks a favorite to win the Super Bowl this year, the NFL Mobile App for Windows Phone and Windows 8 are must-haves, in my opinion. For one thing, they’ve got all the staples: news, scores, schedules and standings. But then it’s got the content you can’t get anywhere else, and that’s what I like most about the NFL Mobile App: being able to watch video highlights from NFL Redzone, NBC Sunday Night Football and ESPN Monday Night Football and the NFL Network at any time, no matter where I am. (Quick note on watching all that awesome video: you do need to be a Verizon subscriber to watch it.) Last Monday while I stood in line for coffee at work, I watched highlights of Marshawn Lynch pounding the ball into the end zone from the 1-yard line four times on my phone with the NFL Mobile App. Then there are the notifications that are pushed to my phone – it’s virtually impossible to miss team news, highlights, injury reports or game start times because all that information gets sent to me without me having to do anything except adjust the settings in the app.
Of course, anyone as football mad as me has to participate in a Fantasy Football League. OK, I admit it, I participate in three (but my wife only knows about two). With the NFL.com Fantasy Football 2013 App for Windows 8, I can manage my fantasy teams from my Surface. The app has a bevy of awesome features, including live scoring, video highlights, player news as well as capabilities for setting my line ups and managing multiple teams.
I’m also a huge baseball fan, and even though my Seattle Mariners just finished another losing season and didn't make the playoffs this year, I still need to stay up to date on the team and the other pennant races. Two great apps come to mind for doing this: MLB At Bat 2013 for Windows Phone and MLB.TV for Windows 8.
At Bat 13 shows live scoreboards, standings, schedules, news and has great video, like the Chatting Cage. I root for the Mariners, so, of course, I take advantage of Windows Phone’s pinning capability and pin the Mariners’ team page to my Start menu for quick access. I also like tuning into the free MLB.TV Game of the Day on my phone every once in a while. And in an update just in time for the MLB playoffs, MLB At Bat 2013 now features a news section with filters for all 30 clubs and postseason series, complete postseason information that's viewable by series with scoreboards and series status, as well as a postseason video section (sorry, no live streaming of post-season games) and more.
Catching the MLB.TV Game of the Day on my phone is one thing, but I also love using the MLB.TV app for Windows 8 to watch out-of-market games. I hail from the New York Metro Area, so every once in a while, I want to watch the Yankees take on the Red Sox or the Mets play the Phillies. MLB.TV allows me to watch every out-of-market Major League Baseball game LIVE or on demand in HD – with an MLB.TV Premium subscription. Sure, it costs a little extra for that subscription, and it’s important to remember that blackout restrictions apply, but for a hardcore baseball fan like me, it’s worth it.
They call soccer “the beautiful game” and after attending my first Major League Soccer game a few years back, I could see why. Now, I’m a huge fan of the Sounders and MLS in general, and the MLS Match Day app for Windows 8 is a great experience on my tablet and on my laptop. The app allows me to read news stories from around the league, watch game highlights, check scores and standings and follow the Sounders stats and highlights. A few of my favorite experiences with the MLS Match Day app include videos of the Save of the Week, the AT&T Goal of the Week and The Daily, which gives you daily reports on happenings around MLS and stories on its players.
Finally, Tuesday was the start of the NHL season. I am a die-hard Montreal Canadiens fan, so one of the very first apps I downloaded to my Surface last year was the CBC Hockey Night in Canada app. It’s just chock full of on-ice goodness. Of course, it has the necessities, like scores, standings, game recaps and the like, but it also has great news columns and feature stories by some of the best hockey writers around as well condensed game video and video from the Coach’s Corner, starring the colorful and inimitable Don Cherry (and when I say colorful, I mean colorful – check out that guy’s old-style zoot suits below and you’ll see what I mean.) Cherry’s unadulterated take on the modern NHL game is one of the best reasons to keep coming back to this great app.
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Jeff Meisner Microsoft News Center Staff