Consider Chris Long an evangelist for the future of sports on television.
As the senior vice president for entertainment at DirecTV, he has preached 3D broadcasts as a game-changer for years. And then he has ducked because pessimistic reactions often get hurled high and tight. But he always manages to rise and maintain the same bold proclamation.
"All these naysayers that think it's a waste of time will one day be like, 'Wow,' " he says.
Ask why, and Long sounds rather mystical.
"If you have seen what I have seen, you don't want to see the ballgame in 2D anymore," he says. "You feel like you're at your kid's Little League game. It's that much more intimate."
After catching a glimpse of the entertainment last weekend, it's clear Long is directing his pomp in the right place.
I have seen the future, and it looks like, well, wow. High-definition television is awesome, but three-dimensional sports viewing is almost beyond description. It's still in the fine-tuning phase, but at its best, watching sports in 3D will allow you not only to see the game better, but also to understand and relate to it on a different level.
DirecTV teamed with two of its partners, FSN Northwest and the New York-based YES Network, to provide the first regionally televised Major League Baseball games broadcast in 3D last Saturday and Sunday at Safeco Field. It was essentially a trial run for Tuesday night's nationally televised All-Star Game.
This year, it has become a trend to put major sporting events in 3D. The Masters and World Cup experimented with it. ESPN even has a new 3D station that debuted during the World Cup last month. The sports broadcasting giant plans to air 85 live 3D events during its first year. The competition is heating up to see who can do it best.
But there are plenty of concerns. Obviously, there's the expense. Do television companies really want to spend the resources to provide 3D entertainment options when it costs anywhere from $2,500 to $4,500 for a good 3D TV? And that doesn't include the $150 to buy a good, sturdy pair of 3D glasses. And how many of those glasses per family should you purchase?
The cost to produce quality 3D shows can be twice as much as normal, if not more. The equipment is pricey enough, but so is the labor: The world isn't teeming with people who understand how to film and produce these live events. And doing it on the cheap would be disastrous.
"If you're not careful, if you produce these events the wrong way, it can be too jarring for the eyes, especially in sports," Long said. "All you need is one person to say, 'Oh, my eyes are in pain,' and they'll never watch it again."
The goal for a sports broadcast in 3D isn't the same as for a movie. Although there will be some jaw-dropping moments, the focus is more on the overall experience. To help with the transition, DirecTV enlisted the help of 3D guru Vince Pace, who worked with director James Cameron in producing the hit movie "Avatar."
"It's less about the 'gotcha' moment in the movie where you're watching and that spear comes flying out at you," said Steven Roberts, a senior vice president at DirecTV. "It's more about depth and immersion in the game. It's about the crowd shot where it feels like you're in the crowd. It's the national anthem, where it feels like you're right beside the singer."
Geoff Walker, the DirecTV vice president of marketing, points out that in 3D, we've been accustomed to viewing experiences that are predetermined by a director. In sports, who knows what's going to happen? It makes for a difficult broadcast, but the element of authentic surprise makes it more rewarding, especially for viewers.
"You can immerse yourself in the story, which 3D really helps you do," Walker said. "In sports, you never know the ending. Things are always unfolding."
How soon before sports -- or TV entertainment, period -- in 3D becomes the norm? The execs are unsure. It's still a developing concept. It's still developing popularity. This brand of 3D entertainment figures to be a supplemental experience for, perhaps, the next decade.
But it's too good not to pick up momentum.
"A lot of people who said it's not going to work are going to eat their own words," Long predicts.
Well, the evangelist has spoken. When you can afford to see what he has seen, you'll understand why he's so bullish.