It may be hard to believe now, especially for the younger generation, but there was a time when sports weren’t in the media 24/7. Technology has done wonders to make a sports fan life better. The Sports Techie community blog has documented our share of the game-changing sports technology from football tech to eSports and everything in-between.
Social media has allowed everyone to become an armchair manager. We can vent about our favorite teams/players to the masses on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Instagram. Nearly everyone has multiple HD televisions in their homes today. Live sports can be watched live 24/7 in countries around the world. In fact – as long as you have an internet connection, you can watch any sporting events. Online streaming on computers or Android boxes has become popular. While we don’t recommend streaming free channels sometimes you have no choice. For example, ESPN isn’t available in Canada unless you stream it.
Whether you want to watch the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, soccer, cricket or any other sport, it’s on TV. Want to watch the Daytona 500 drivers start their ignition before the big race? Technology allows anyone in the world to do so.
Social media and TV has changed the way the world consumes sports, but what about some of the technology that has changed a sport for the better? There are many examples of this and here are just a few.
Shot Clock (NBA)
Can you believe the shot clock was only invented in 1954. Prior to the shot clock, basketball wasn’t popular, but once implemented scoring averages increased dramatically and the NBA is now one of the most popular sports in the world.
Without the invention of the shot clock who knows where basketball would be today.
In-Helmet Headset (NFL)
One player on defense and one player on offense (QB) can wear an in-helmet headset in the NFL. This allows coaches the ability to shout out plays into the headset, which the player in turn relays to the rest of the offense or defense.
This technology advancement was introduced to the NFL in 1994 and it has made the game much more enjoyable. It has opened up the playbook and the QB no longer needs to run to the sidelines to hear the next play.
Except when New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo used walkie-talkies to relay play calls when the headsets went down earlier this season versus the Dallas Cowboys. The NFL punished the GMen for cheating.
Many professional sports now utilize some sort of replay technology. For example, in the NFL a lot of players can be reviewed when the coach throws his red challenge flag, such as whether or not a catch was made.
In the NHL, replay technology has been used for many years to determine if a goal crosses the goal line. It’s rare to need instant replay in the NHL, but it’s better to have the system in place to ensure every goal is actually a goal.
Some international sports, such as tennis utilize replay technology. In major tennis tournaments there is a line replay system in place, so players are able to challenge whether or not a shot was in or out.
Tennis utilizes Hawk-Eye, which pinpoints where a tennis ball lands on the court through the use of a lot of cameras and ball-tracking technology. Cricket also utilizes the same technology.
A lot of sports fans dislike replay technology because they feel it lengthens sporting events. However, with the number of mistakes I see referees make on a nightly basis watching sports, I’m glad sports embrace technology.
Technology has improved sports for decades and will continue to do so decades into the future. Soon the next-generation athlete will be a robot. I can live with technology improving the games we all love to watch.
Sports Techie, I spoke to a 44-year old man from South Africa last weekend about his perspective concerning technology and soccer. He now lives in Atlanta truly believes the controversy caused by missed and blown calls by officials cause fans to engage with each other in person and over social media platforms. As a result of these emotionally charged interactions, the sport continues to be popular. He says the more tech FIFA introduces the less fans will have to complain about and football will begin to decline in popularity.
While he grew up, his friends and neighborhood kids would always play for money in the form of 5 or 10 cents and the most important selection was the referee. The sparkle in his eye was clear when he described how the referee would create an imaginary top goal post that was completed arbitrary and different for each ref. They did not have goal posts where he grew up. When a goal was supposedly scored over the shoulder or head of the goalie, the chosen ref needed to visualize where the top of the goal post was and award or deny the goal. Of course, half the players would agree and the other half would complain the shot was too high.
I’ve heard this argument about less tech in sport before and respect that he feels this was as do many other wise fans but I find it hard to not interject that sports is made up of rules and by missing or blowing calls that can often be corrected with sports tech solutions, the game can usually be decided without the intervention of human errors by the ref. This argument is often shattered when the person interpreting the replay gets the call wrong making it an imperfect system however the numbers work in favor of using video refs because it works far better on average than simply not using it.
The worst part in this evolution of sport and technology for me is when the NFL will apologies during the week for missing a call or they try and shove some interpretation down the throat of fans, players, coaches and teams. The NBA does a two minute review of all the calls made during the last 120 seconds of a game often leaving their refs hanging out to dry when replay shows they made the wrong decisions.
I believe if officials were made to attend post game press conferences and discus why or why no they decide to make or not make a call, it would help turn the page on blown calls and show that being human is OK because we all make mistakes. Instead, the NFL protects the refs after games and they are not held accountable by the press enabling fans to complain during the week. Or in the case of Super Bowl LI this Sunday between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, all off-season.
Wait, that is the secret sports tech plan of the NHL, MLB and NASCAR, plus all the other leagues, to ensure fan engagement.
Technology sure has changed sports history, the leagues just need to catch up while fans will need to find other topics to discuss.
See y’all later in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world.
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