The Age of Technology: But what does it mean for the NFL?

Uncategorized Posted Nov 27, 2012 by chenpr

Rick Osentoski/AP courtesy of The Boston Globe

When I saw the Boston Globe headline “New technologies ready to assist NFL referees” my immediate reaction was, “BRILLIANT!”  It seemed like a no brainer to me.  I know I like all things high tech, I know I like football, and I know I DO NOT like when the refs blow a call when I’m watching the Patriots.

However, as I continued to read Shira Springer’s explanation of what high tech means for football – or any professional sport for that matter – I began to have second thoughts to my original conclusion.

Here are some of the possible technological advancements the article mentioned for the NFL: virtual reality goggles (that yellow first-down marker would no longer be solely on your TV); sensors implanted in footballs, cameras charting on-field movement; and even player equipment that relays data back to a server.  What’s most intriguing about this idea is that it’s not a look into the future, it’s possible now.  Three-dimensional object tracking already exists and high-speed cameras strategically set up in the end zone using ball-tracking software would make calling field goals fool-proof.

In fact, FIFA is a step ahead of the NFL and has already implemented game-changing tech gear.

This summer FIFA approved Hawk-Eye and GoalRef systems to provide the pro soccer teams with cutting-edge goal-line technology.  Hawk-Eye uses high-speed cameras to detect when a ball crosses then goal-line and GoalRef uses an invisible magnetic curtain to detect when a sensor-embedded soccer ball crosses the goal line and then sends an alert and text message to a wristband worn by referees.

All of this sounds innovative, efficient and congruent with our high-tech world, so why am I left thinking, “is this really the right direction for the NFL?”  Well it’s because all I could think of while reading about the possible new technologies in football were scenes from TRON and TRON: Legacy and how that is not what a football game should look like.

I think NFLRA president Scott Green said it best, “Technology can be helpful, but it shouldn’t be overbearing and intrude on what makes the game great.  You don’t want to be watching some guy in a spacesuit running around, trying to look through goggles and make decisions.”

I think a happy medium needs to found with concern to the NFL and other professional sports’ place in the high tech world.  Goal-line technology, wireless communication among officials, YES; virtual reality goggles…maybe not.

The FIFA case is a perfect example of the way new technologies should be integrated into sports.  It seamlessly improves the quality of the officiating and legitimacy of the sport without disrupting the flow of the game.

New technology and innovation is inevitable in the future of America’s favorite game (and rightfully so), but I think it’s equally important to maintain the integrity and tradition of the sport.  What do you think?  Are you content with the status quo?  Or do you think the NFL and pro sports alike should use as much high tech gear as possible?