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Talking trash - without a fist in the face

Web offerings let fans speak out and spar anonymously

In the age of amateur auteurs, encyclopedias written by the masses, and citizen journalism, it was only a matter of time before the Web gave sports fans a new kind of soapbox.

With baseball playoffs kicking off this week and football season heating up, local bootstrapping start-up YouCastr goes online today, letting sports fans air their personal play-by-play of an intense Red Sox game or Monday night football for friends and strangers. Meanwhile, Zingdom Communications, a Lexington company that launched a widget to enable anonymous trash-talking between Red Sox and Yankees fans on Facebook last month, will be eyeing its own post-season opportunities.

Both companies are trying to take advantage of the animated commentaries that stream out of sports bars and from fans on the sidelines.

"The national broadcasters really tend to grate on Boston listeners - the guys on the air are totally anti-Boston and seem to always put Boston in a bad light and always try to gas up the other team - specifically the Yankees," said Pete Guiney, 34, who used YouCastr to do his own play-by-play of a Friday night Red Sox game, to the delight of his dad and the family dog.

YouCastr.com, founded by four avid sports fans, is aimed at people who want to make their own boosterish broadcast reveling in Papi's home runs or watch the game while listening to a commentary filled with inside jokes and the voices of friends. To become broadcasters, people just need to sign in, pick their game, plug a microphone into their laptop, and start talking. Listeners can browse games they're interested in, find their friends' sports shows, or check out top-rated broadcasters.

Ultimately, the founders plan to expand their "youcasting" into high school and college sports, to provide a new channel for people who can't make a game in person but don't want to miss the action.

The company warns users not to let noise from the TV seep into their YouCast and makes them promise that what they're saying is original material in an effort to avoid infringing on broadcast rights held by major media entities like television or radio stations.

At a recent demo of the product, two guys in Cambridge narrated a Wednesday night Red Sox game against the Oakland A's while chatting online with listeners in Boston.

"We're creating an alternative commentary . . . the way blogging created new journalists," said Ariel Diaz, cofounder.

With wireless home networks becoming more common, the idea of turning the volume on the TV down and listening to a friend's biased broadcast of game seven of the World Series instead of an announcer might find a niche, said Barry Parr, an analyst at JupiterResearch.

Still, the company will be treading on potentially treacherous legal territory. This summer, for instance, a journalist was tossed out of an NCAA baseball tournament game because of his live blog.

Meanwhile, Zingdom Communications is leveraging Boston's sports fanaticism as a way of demonstrating its technology, which allows people to connect anonymously by phone.

During the last Yankees-Red Sox series, the company launched "Trash Talk," a Sox vs. Yanks trash-talking program on the social network Facebook that allowed people to anonymously connect with fans from the other team for two-minute bouts of team-bashing.

The program allowed Facebook users to choose whether they wanted to connect with a Red Sox or Yankees fan, then type in their phone number to be connected for a two-minute verbal bar brawl with another Facebook user.

The application never discloses the phone number to the other user, and showcased technology that the company plans to license to a variety of companies, including online dating companies.

The program automatically called both users and connected them without ever disclosing any personal information, other than a profile photo of the person and their first name.

Zingdom might launch another version of Trash Talk, depending on how the post-season plays out, said its chief technology officer, Christopher Herot.

"Sometimes people want to have a conversation with somebody . . . but you're not sure you want to have a permanent relationship," Herot said. "We pushed that to its extremes - let's take people who have a compelling reason to talk to each other but they don't necessarily like the other person at all, how do you create a safe environment?"

Now, they just have to depend on the Red Sox to keep it interesting so that people won't be able to stop talking.

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com.

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