The impact of technology is undeniable and all-encompassing. Not a facet of human life is untouched by it. And though it’s not a category we typically devote much attention to, the sporting world is further proof of these assertions. Specifically, consider the NFL, America’s favorite pro sports league and an entity that has in recent years turned increasingly to technology to improve its game, modernize the fan experience, and even protect players’ safety.
Granted, the NFL has not always been lightning fast when it comes to adopting technologies. One of America’s leading sports publications, in fact, called the NFL “slow to tech” just a little over a year ago. Nevertheless, the league has gradually come along to embrace some fairly impactful tech innovations. For instance, the last few years have seen the sport’s referees furnished with Microsoft Surface tablets so as to be able to watch instant replays and ensure that calls were made correctly.
In some cases, the same referees also call into NFL headquarters in New York, where incredibly advanced replay systems are in place thanks to a veritable network of cameras in place in each stadium, for every game. These are the technologies that have the most direct, everyday impact on the sport, and though they occasionally drive fans crazy (long replay delays aren’t typically popular), they make the sport as fair as possible and exemplify how modern tech can ultimately improve a sport.
Where the more direct impact on the fan experience is concerned, the NFL has done a nice job of embracing modern technology in everything from event streaming to betting options. Where streaming is concerned, the NFL has integrated with multiple apps (from YouTube TV to the NFL app, which includes access to NFL Network) to make fit easier for fans to watch game action on the go. In terms of betting interests, the NFL constitutes an expansive business online, with wagering occurring regularly through numerous established bookmakers.
Historically this has happened without much (if any) league involvement, but with betting being gradually legalized across the U.S., the NFL is apparently getting on board. That could mean anything from its own betting app to new digital advertising efforts tied to bookmaking platforms. But whatever the case, it will essentially be an indication of the league further embracing tech that makes the fan experience more complete.
Lately, the NFL has also shown a commitment to using technology to protect its players. And actually, it’s in this area that some of the most interesting innovation is taking place, specifically from a tech standpoint. The league, for instance, has partnered with tech companies to improve helmet technology. Beginning last season, 28 of the 32 NFL teams started wearing the Vicis Zero1 made by Seattle-based startup Vicis. Said helmet “flexes on impact and immediately bounces back,” effectively acting as sort of a car bumper for the head.
It’s being used in response to the growing concern over player concussions, which have made for an ongoing controversy for the NFL these last several years. Improvements in helmet technology are seen as viable solutions to the variously related concerns, from the safety of the NFL to declining youth participation in football due to worries about head injuries. It’s unclear just how effective the tech is, but it’s a nice step in the right direction.
Considering all of the above it’s clear that modern technologies are having a fairly sweeping impact on the NFL experience. A league once viewed as being somewhat resistant to change is turning things around in this regard, and it just goes to show that in our modern world of rapid and all-encompassing tech innovation, almost every aspect of society can benefit.