September 2012

Football and Technology

How Football and Technology Play Together

By: Kim Cullen

It is September again… and that means it is football season. As this was and continues to be one of our most popular articles from a past PowerSource Online magazine, we have updated this article on the history of technology in football.

A History Lesson
American football has its roots in rugby, and in 1876 the first rules for American football were written. Popularized in the late 1800’s, the point system (once 4 points for a touchdown) and the players’ compensation ($10 plus expenses for the first “professional” player in 1895) have changed throughout the history of football. Throughout the past century, both the National Football League (NFL) and college football games have also had dramatic computer and technology advancements building a relationship between football and technology.

Fans of the Game: Both Football and Technology
In 1939, the first television broadcast of an NFL game was the Brooklyn Dodgers versus Philadelphia Eagles game shown on over 1,000 (yes, one thousand) television sets throughout the New York area, introducing football and technology. In 1951, the NFL’s Championship Game, was the first NFL game to be televised in the United States coast to coast. Currently, games are nationally televised throughout football season; nearly all day Saturday for College games and all day Sunday for the NFL. The plays during the game are captured today by multiple cameras in the goal posts and above the field on a cable adding to the football and technology marriage. In addition to the game the viewer chooses to watch, fans can see scores of other games onscreen, split screens, slow motion views, and more football and technology bells and whistles. For the most part, the instant replay seen from television fans of football has not changed since 1964 when it was first launched. EyeVision, which debuted in 2001, is a revolutionary technology allowing fans to view the play from a camera “flying” above the field.

Advancements in football and technology for the television viewer also include the computer generated first down line shown every play within a football game. This “yellow first down line” technology takes a trailer full of equipment, including 8 computers and multiple technicians, to accomplish the appearance of the line to fans’ television screens.

Fans entering into their team’s stadium are also in awe of football and technology around the stands and beyond. LED big screens to watch the game, scores of other games scrolling throughout the stadium, countless televisions in the concession areas, and more, allow fans to never be away from the action on the field.

Cisco, IBM, Sony and other manufacturers have partnered with many professional sports teams, including the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, to bring an advanced stadium to its team and fans further merging football and technology. Uninterrupted wireless access, more than 700 Sony HD televisions, a state-of-the-art Cisco network infrastructure connecting the training camp and the stadium, and IBM servers and PCs are just some of the advanced technologies available in this new stadium in Arizona.

Beyond the Game: Fans through Football and Technology
Laptop skins displaying your favorite NFL team, available for Dell, Apple, HP, and other OEM laptops bring the game to everyday life. College football & NFL video games have allowed fans to become part of the playing and coaching experience all year long. Fantasy football has become a huge industry allowing fans from multiple locations to pick their “team” for the season online.

In 2012 it was announced that Lenovo became the sponsor of the new 2012 season for official laptops, desktops and workstations; the Lenovo contract is for a period of three years.

Game On: Football and Technology on the Field
Although laptops are not allowed on the NFL sidelines by coaches and teams, the sidelines, referees, and players’ equipment have evolved with the latest IT advancements. In 1956, Cleveland Browns Coach Paul Brown was the first known to use a radio transmitter to communicate with his quarterback located in his helmet. This was quickly outlawed by the NFL. However, since 1994, helmet transmitters have been used for play calling and communications between the coaches and players on the field. In 2007, Motorola added communication centers on the sidelines with 16 phones in a large case with wheels for the press and coaching boxes to communicate with players or coaches on the field play. New Motorola headsets that are thinner and designed to work best in loud conditions and bad weather are the result of NFL coaches’ feedback directly to the manufacturer.

Football and technology helps with players’ treatment as well. NFL Teams such as the Vikings and Jaguars are using a tiny sensor that players swallow to allow sideline monitoring of the internal body temperature of that player. Helmets that use tiny sensors to record how often, how hard and where they have been hit are being used by many college football teams today help reduce further injury caused by continued play after a head injury.

This 2012 season has some new added technological advancements in the stadium. This year, when NFL referees go under the hood for instant replay, the fans will see the same replay on the stadium video boards.

The NFL also announced plans to have high-speed Wi-Fi in every NFL football stadium in the 2012 season. Unfortunately, these plans were soon squashed and it was recently announced that the NFL will only have Wifi available in 5 stadiums for the 2012 season. The NFL has yet to sign with a telecommunications partner that could begin the process of making all stadiums wireless. Some stadiums already have a local sponsorship from a telecom partner providing this and more for the stadium experience.

Football season is here. Sixty minutes of play every week by your favorite team is helped in part by computers and the ever emerging football and technology relationship. Enjoy the games.

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