Reviewing an item is new to me despite having been blogging since 2004 and running Raw Charge since 2009. You get into the field at a higher level of publicity in media and one aspect you have to get used to is public relations emails from third-parties who want you to give coverage to or a mention about an event or programs (software) that has nothing to do with what you cover or your sport or your team. There's also the awkward aspect in my case where my name is actually pretty common as an author. You can find a few John Fontana's out there covering different fields and not sports. I could give you more in-depth stories about email I receive that were meant for this John Fontana but that's not the point of this article at all. PR contact and product promotion happens in writing, that's the relevant fact here.
I got contacted by Budweiser about a product I hadn't heard about. In fact the first email I received about it was lost in the bulk of emails I received to start the season and also because I thought it was a custom-for-hockey beer. It wasn't. It was about an item that happens to be hard-to-get and popular in Canada... and was being made available in the United States "for a limited time": The Budweiser Red Light.
"Would you like to sample the product?" What, a free sample of the Bud goal lamp? Don't mind if I do... I have to try this aspect - product review - of being a member of the media sometime... The timing (the holiday sales season) seems perfect for their sake and for potential shoppers. Coincidentally, my sample version of the thing arrived on Black Friday. Just in time for the height of shopping as well as the Tampa Bay Lightning's back-to-back games against the Capitals and Islanders.
The Budweiser Red Light basically is a standard goal lamp; a solid steel base houses that batteries and tech aspects while the light itself looks to be LED behind a red shell and cage. It's solid, it's good looking... and it goes for $160 in the US on the official website (and a lot higher if you find it on eBay). There's a goal horn goes off in coordination with the lamp (you're also able to adjust the volume) but the real cool novelty aspect that comes with this thing is the ability to have it go off with goals scored by the teams you specify (note the plural aspect; it's more than one team if you should choose). That's what makes the lamp a real prize... and a headache.
While the base is solid construction, there are no ports and no plug jack/AC power supply. It gets deployed through Wi-Fi (though there is a manual button on it) and you have to set up the wireless aspect and configure the thing in general through a smartphone. Now, we're in the 21st century and the second decade of it, so I can't complain too much about the necessities to set things up. Heck, there's even a piece of software out there that emulates the Android operating system so you can use Android apps on a PC or laptop or Mac. An entire article is out there about doing the configuration via that process which itself is really cool but doesn't get you around where I ran into the biggest problem: The app.
As a user, I can be put down for having an aging Android phone that could be upgraded and should be at this point (Samsung Galaxy S3); that could be seen as why I had any problems. That's not it, not really. The Budweiser Red Light Ap.p is set up to continue text-face usage that's used in other advertising by Budweiser, putting function second to consistent image, causing grief by way of illegibility at times during the initial setup screens. Another difficulty was simply trying to set up date of birth: The app stopped working while I entered my birthday. Being 36 years old and told "you're not old enough" seemed a little silly. Having the calendar tool close repeatedly while I was trying to enter my date of birth didn't win me over either. Maybe it was the phone and screen sensitivity? When I had tried the setup process through Bluestacks (the aforementioned Android emulator) I ran into some of the same problems. Those problems made me wish a simple USB jack was on the lamp base (or even a Ethernet jack); to be able to configure everything through a computer interface and not by way of an app and data transfer that gets the thing running... well, that'd have been great.
Suffice it to say, getting the lamp running before or during the Lightning's game against the Washington Capitals just wasn't in the cards.
Everything did get sorted out on Saturday in time for the Bolts match with the New York Islanders - getting the app started, setting up the Wi-Fi access on the lamp, choosing "Tampa Bay" on the list of teams to receive goal alerts for. I didn't have the goal horn turned on for the game, though, because I have enough to do during game play that further distraction was not going to work in my favor.
What did amaze me with the Red Light was its response time when Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning in the first period on Saturday. In fact, it was the flash of the lamp that led me to turn my head away from the computer and on to the TV screen to see the group reaction (players, the crowd) to Killorn's tally.The exact same process played out with Anton Stralman's goal. You're able to delay the lamp going off, that option is pretty prominent on the Red Light app.
I haven't figured it all out yet - can I customize the goal horn so the light will go off with another team's horn blaring? Are there other bells and whistles inside the app that are of note? And while this thing has an on/off switch, it's going to be real interesting to have this sucker turned on in the coming days overnight... The Lightning has road games against the Ducks, Sharks and Kings in California on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
It's very cool even with its price and setup headaches. It is a real interesting item to have for a die-hard fan who wants to emulate the arena atmosphere a little more that home or in the office during game play.