*All you need to play football is mind and muscle. The ones who make it to the NFL have the very best of both, but it takes a little more to broadcast those games out to the world and make them eventful for fans at home.
The NFL arguably uses more technology than any professional sport in the country, and it keeps adding to its arsenal each year. Here’s just a few pieces that make the NFL the advanced league of the 21st century.
The NFL’s most advanced technology is the one we hardly notice — the magic yellow first-down line. Anyone who’s ever been to a game knows the line doesn’t magically appear on the grass in real life, but is a camera trick for viewers at home. It takes a lot of computers, sensors and technicians to make it happen, but the NFL has the system down so flawlessly we hardly realize it’s digital.
Technicians have a 3D model of all 32 NFL fields that they use as a sort of “green screen” to move the yellow line up and down the field during the game. And like a green screen, the yellow line doesn’t run on top of players if they’re standing over it. It just blends right into the background.
Remember when coaches would slam the clipboard to the ground after terrible plays? Well, that sort of rage is now way more expensive since the NFL partnered with Microsoft and uses the Surface Pro tablet as its official play reading device.
The Surface Pro (very similar to the iPad) can do more than draw X’s and O’s. Coaches and players use the tablet on the sidelines to review plays on the field, draw up the next move, and communicate in real time with the coordinators upstairs. But just in case the coach still slams it, each Surface is wrapped in a heavy duty, blue case.
Not all the toys live inside the stadium. The Xbox One is now a football fan’s dream device with the NFL app. The Xbox itself is already more than a gaming machine; it’s a multimedia powerhouse and the NFL takes advantage of every feature possible. You can watch games (through your cable connection), plug in your fantasy teams, keep stats on the screen, and flip between commentary of any matchup. There’s simply no better way to watch a game at home.
If the sidelines get the Surface, and the living room gets the Xbox, then the front office and booth upstairs get state-of-the-art Lenovo computers — another official partner of the NFL. The truth is, football isn’t just played on the field. There are managers who constantly tinker with rosters, assistants poring through hours of game footage, and coordinators running the numbers upstairs in real time. That takes real computing power and Lenovo has them all covered with machines that would make computer enthusiasts jealous.
The bread and butter of the NFL camera will always be the classic sideline view, but the league is constantly finding new places to install cameras to improve the game. Not just to improve the viewing experience for fans at home, but also to help officials get a better look during a challenge or replay. The latest cameras are right inside the orange pylons at the corners of the end zones.
The cameras are designed to see that extra inch as players lunge for the goal line. They’ve already been used during an official review. So it’s safe to say these things are in the league to stay.