Tag Archives: nfl

Feb 9

When the largest game of the year is hosted in California’s Bay Area, you can expect the NFL to get a little help from the locals: Silicon Valley tech giants. This year’s game, as the 50th Super Bowl, was an important anniversary worthy of showcasing the latest specs in technology. From the stadium, to the halftime performance, to the athletic gear, #SuperBowl50 did not hold back.

As it happened, the game itself wasn’t much to brag about. The Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers 24 to 10 in a monotonous display of good defense, which though a feat for Peyton Manning did not make for exciting viewership. Luckily, there’s so much more to the Super Bowl these days than touchdowns and field goals. What lacks in the match can be made up for by the digital fan experience, both onscreen and behind the scenes. This year, boundaries were broken in both the delivery and the message of technology at its finest.

The support

The spectrum of Super Bowl 50’s technology didn’t begin and end on February 7th in San Francisco. Rather, it was many months in the making, with preparation taking up a huge portion of technological real estate, so to speak.

The Super Bowl Host Committee is largely responsible for ensuring these preparations come together smoothly in the weeks leading up to the game. This year, the committee’s CEO Keith Bruce emphasized that first and foremost, Super Bowl 50 would be all the about the tech.

“Our goal was to be the most technologically advanced Super Bowl ever,” Bruce said. “We’re at the center of the digital economy of the world, home to a lot of the stalwarts of tech, and we thought we should embrace that.”

Software and tech companies needed very little urging to get on board with this mission. Transportation came via Google’s commuter fleet and Uber on-demand, while laptops, phones and other equipment were provided by Apple. Google also helped develop the Road to 50 app, a virtual guidebook to the event, which fans could use to order food to their seats enjoy other perks.

With the help of Verizon and other providers, Levi’s stadium fully equipped with 400 miles of fiber optic cable, 1,200 wifi access points and 1,700 BlueTooth beacons to keep fans connected at all times. All in all, the committee raised $50 million from corporate sponsors to hold Super Bowl 50 to the highest of standards, worthy the sport’s 50 year mark and the region’s technology prowess.

The specs

Beyond sponsorships, the fun continues from all angles. Super Bowl 50 featured camera technology was at its finest: the EyeVision 360 displayed a 360 view of the stadium streamed from 36 cameras around the venue, while the debut of the Pylon Cam placed 16 cameras in end zones to film goal line sand sidelines, aiding officials in making tough calls. Athletic gear has advanced over the years as well — this year, players donned state of the art gear with RFID tracking in their shoulder pads.

Behind the scenes, there’s also advanced cyber security to take into account. Following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the biggest American sporting event of the year took no chances with security — luckily, and they had the technology available to make it an utmost priority. Though FBI declined to reveal their measures in full detail, we do know that disarming robots, helicopters, military jets were on standby.

Perhaps the greatest security measure, though, was surveillance. With over 600 cameras and an advanced scanning system that aggregated threats from the ground, sky, and social media, streams of real-time data were analyzed by agents at a Joint Operations center at an undisclosed location.

The social

Social networking continues to be an enormous boon for brands and fans alike. The “second screen” experience, which allows live tweets and commentary from anyone with a device, proved successful once more: it’s is the ultimate augmentation of the Super Bowl, maximizing engagement in and out of the stadium.

Since the game wasn’t stirring up huge excitement in and of itself, we can thank our lucky stars for the halftime performance, which generated significant buzz online. Halftime shows often feature high-tech spectacles: for example, the mechanical cat ridden by Katy Perry last year, which was somehow overshadowed by the antics of Left Shark.

This year, Coldplay lead a technicolor display complete with interactive light-up LED wristbands, video walls, lasers and light-up inflatable balls. But as if proving technology for technology’s sake is bound to fall flat, it was Beyonce that stole the show with the performance of her brand-new song “Formation.” Together, Beyonce, Chris Martin and Bruno Mars evoked themes ranging from LGBT pride to African American empowerment, making the show as politically charged as it was electronically.

All in all, fans of the Broncos, Beyonce, and technology should be pleased with Super Bowl 50. And for those still unsatisfied, there are only seven more months until football season starts up again, with the power of a million screens and screams close behind.

Featured image: duluoz cats via Flickr

Nov 20

What happens when you put two teams decked head-to-toe in green and red on one football field? Thousands of fans seeing nothing but gray.

NFL sponsor Nike’s Color Rush initiative did just that during a game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets on Thursday, November 12. The uniform designs, intended to be a “bold new look” celebrating the 50th year of football on color TV, ended up worse than black and white for color blind spectators.

It appears that Nike forgot to consider just how common color blindness is: one in twelve men have it, along with .5 percent of women. Without any other visual cues, the Bills’ red suits and the Jets’ green ones were nearly identical to many. NFL uniforms are typically distinguished not only by team colors, but by featuring one team fully or partially in white.

Because colorblind folks have the most trouble with reds and greens, it didn’t help that the Bills and Jets were decked out in bright holiday colors. They may have well been watching a homogeneous 22 person team in monochromatic spandex. I guess five decades of color TV is enough time to forget that some people don’t have the retinal cone cells, no matter the quality of their television.

Even the Bills’ head coach, Rex Roy, was confused. “I look out there and my team’s in red. Blue, I might have had a chance,” he said. “But I’m like, ‘Who are they? Oh shoot, that’s us. So, it’s different.” The NFL called it a Christmas-tinged nightmare, though it was obviously porridge-tinged for some.

As for fans without vision impairment, they haven’t reacted all too positively to the look either. Football fans aren’t known for their mild manners any more than New Yorkers are, and there’s a 100% particular overlap in this case. Twitter exploded with complaints and jokes, as Twitter is wont to do, with players compared to power rangers, gummy bears and Christmas ornaments.

The Color Rush initiative is meant to honor each franchise by combining current and historic team colors in unique and bold uniforms, which each of the 32 teams will don during Thursday night games. Fortunately, Nike now knows that there are other factors than pomp and circumstance to take into consideration while testing new uniform designs.

Sep 2

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 5.03.23 PM

Will Smith’s latest film Concussion unveiled its first trailer today. In Concussion Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after he conducted the autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster. Omalu’s work blew the door open on CTE and its ensuing research. Without Omalu’s findings, player safety may not be at the levels that is it today. Slated for a Christmas Day release, Concussion appears poised for a huge opening weekend.

The NFL has yet to release a statement about the trailer, but the league looks less than stellar from the preview. With such a hot button issue, Concussion could become a contentious film come its release. Regardless where you stand, Omalu’s work deserves credit for being the catalyst in protecting the brains of players.

Watch the trailer for Concussion here.

Aug 25

Source: John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr Creative Commons

Source: John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr Creative Commons

The Windy City might be earning itself a new title soon enough as the epicenter of sports tech in America.

A recent Crain’s profile delves into how Chicago emerged as the sports tech capital as the field rises in notoriety and profitability. While the profile mentions how this came to be “almost by accident,” a large portion of the credit should go to the ingenuity and adaptability of three specific companies. Collectively, three Chicago-based tech ventures–Sportvision, Stats and Zebra Technology–hold motion-tracking agreements with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and Nascar. By responding to the athletes’ demands for deeper analytics, the company’s were able to provide keen insight for the players and staff. In turn, these companies rose to prominence as the market continues to saturate.

For Stats, its SportVU system began tracking moves of NBA players and the ball in 2010. Today, the company estimates $100 million in revenue for this year. Sportvision expects similar results. Their first example of sport tech prominence came with it’s famed yellow line that now appears on every televised NFL game. For Zebra, it rose to prominence in 2013 by repurposing its technology to track the amount of ground NFL players cover during each game.

The city is known for its rabid sports culture, a trait not lost on leaders within the emerging sector. However, not all is coming up rosy for the Chicago sports tech industry. With a 26 percent increase over the last five years, the field now boasts 3,000 market research analysts in varying roles. With that increase comes additional companies to compete against.

Recently, Sportvision lost its contract with the MLB to a Swedish analytics rival to track player movement. Similarly, Stats could not retain its title as the NFL’s official stat tracker. While this may dent Chicago’s claim to the sports tech title, it does indicate a depth of competition within the field. It should be exciting to see if Chicago, or any city, can retain the distinction in the coming years as more sports warm to technological advancements.

Apr 29

NFL Logo Credit Matt McGee

The NFL recently announced that it will become a taxable entity, ending its long-standing and long-debated tax-exempt status. After facing many forms of crisis over the last few seasons, the NFL took a voluntary measure to end one that had been lingering for quite some time. In fact, Commissioner Roger Goodell said by changing the league’s tax status, the league would eliminate a “distraction.”

Although this changes the NFL in some capacity, the true ramifications are not all that severe. The NFL made the smart business decision for two main reasons:


Less Transparency, More Public Praise

When the league went through its most recent stretch of negative PR surrounding domestic violence, player safety and the Washington name debate, Roger Goodell’s enormous salary was one of the first points brought up. Last year, Goodell’s reported salary was $44 million, while the prior year was $30 million. Other league executives’ salaries also had to be disclosed as part of the league’s prior tax status. Now, as a private business, the league and its owners won’t have to defend Goodell’s competency or pay. Additionally, it is expected that the commissioner’s salary will continue to rise through the years. Now the NFL won’t have to make it public information.

Another perk to the NFL’s change is the uptick in public praise. While Congress appears to remain skeptical of the league’s intentions, public perception will most likely improve in this regard. In recent years, retired Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) estimated is his that pro sports exemptions cost the American taxpayers $91 million a year. With the average American pining for any financial relief they can find, taking a portion of a sports league’s taxes off their books is certainly welcomed.


Beat the Government to the First Punch

Many in the public and private sector wondered how the NFL and other sports leagues even qualified for tax-exemption in the first place (1966’s AFL-NFL merger is the large reason). With so much pressure on the league for its handling of player safety and off the field transgressions, the NFL faced mounting pressure from Congress on both sides of the aisle. In recent years, Senator Coburn and Cory Booker (D-NJ) brought forth similar legislation to end the NFL and other sports league from benefitting from the current standard.

By following in Major League Baseball’s 2007 decision, only a few major sports leagues in America still operate as a 501 (c)(6)–leaving the NFL and LPGA as two of the remaining leagues. Additionally by dropping its status, the league will join the ranks of its players and teams that have paid taxes throughout the years. Additionally, the league is expected to only pay out $109 million in taxes over the next decade.

While this certainly avoids further congressional pressure on the subject, many on the hill probably won’t be satisfied enough. This may have taken the league out of the crosshairs on this subject, but many more remain–though it will be easier for the league to deal with under its new tax status.

By beating the government to the punch, the league took an appropriate step to cut down on negative PR while removing some transparency from the public. Essentially, nothing will change for the league besides its tax filing. Certainly, this won’t end the league’s woes but for now it does ensure one less “distraction” for the NFL and the famous shield.