Microsoft’s NFL deal is great news for pro football teams (unless they’re the Jets)

Microsoft NFL Deal: Surface on the Sidelines

Last week it was announced that the National Football League will finally dip it’s toe in the waters of the 21st Century, and in a partnership with Microsoft, allow Surface tablets on the sidelines during games, probably by 2014. The partnership also includes plans to use the Microsoft Surface tablet and Xbox for an enhanced, interactive viewing experience for fans. As if there’s something we’re missing? 

But tablets on the sidelines! Hear that Mark Sanchez? No longer will you have to look at a three-ring binder filled with snapshots of previous plays in order to figure out why you threw it directly to the middle linebacker instead of the receiver wide open down the sideline. You’ll now see what the viewing audience sees – that you suck!

Hear that Mark Sanchez? You’ll now see what the viewing audience sees – that you suck!

But this isn’t about Mark Sanchez. Actually, if the Jets are smart – I can’t even get the sentence out without laughing – but if the Jets were run by different people, smart people, they’d let Geno Smith start and hand Mark Sanchez a clipboard tablet with Angry Birds loaded on it and let him have fun. But that’s beside the point. This is about the country’s most popular, most powerful sports league (by far) taking another technological step.

It’s hard to imagine what took the NFL so long to embrace a technology that many watching on couches have likely been using as a viewing companion, checking their fantasy teams or scouring Twitter for real time info on injuries, analysis, etc. The league was probably concerned that some of their more unscrupulous coaches would exploit it for a competitive advantage. Yes, we’re looking at you, Bill

But how did they imagine that would happen? Use it to watch the television feed of the game? As if hearing the commentary of such geniuses like Herm Edwards could be any help. By the way, know where he used to coach? That’s right. J-E-T-S. JETS JETS JETS!

I think this is an idea that’s long overdue. From headsets on the coaches to earpieces in the quarterbacks’ helmets, the NFL has moved slowly toward technology, trying to strike the right balance between embracing innovation and not messing with a game that is already wildly popular. Of the highest-rated TV programs of 2012, eight of the top ten belonged to the NFL. No wonder they gave this guy a show.

But where’s the impetus for change? Well, when Microsoft ponies up $400 million, you’ve got your answer. The times they are a-changin’!!

While this is the first time the league will allow tablets on the sidelines, many teams, both in the NFL and in college, have replaced the heavy paper playbooks with iPads that can be updated instantly, allow for players to watch video from wherever and whenever, and allow coaches to see which players have watched tape and which ones have not.

Tom CoughlinI have to admit, as a Giants fan, I am concerned about giving a computing device to head coach, Tom Coughlin who, as a 66 years-old grandfather, I’m guessing is more comfortable with an abacus than an app. I mean, my grandfather can barely work his answering machine. That’s right, I said “answering machine.”

I envision the initial advantages that teams embracing this technology will have over those who fail to (or are just stupid, like the Jets) will most likely be in clock management at the end of halves and regarding decisions on 2-point conversions. But who knows? Maybe this will spark real innovation on the field and we’ll see coaches utilizing analytics in real-time, going for it on fourth down in unexpected scenarios, utilizing on-the-fly formations and trick plays that we’ve never seen.

But more than anything, I look forward to the first post-game press conference where the coach blames a play call that didn’t work on his computer. That will go over swimmingly in the non-hyperbolic world of sports radio.

My hope is that, years from now, we’re talking about teams’ IT departments the way we discuss their special teams. The embracing of technological innovation by the jockiest of jock leagues is something that should have every high school math-leaguer stepping out of the locker they just got stuffed in and saying, “Phew.” The future is bright indeed. Unless you’re a fan of … well, you know.

Product Review

It sounds like a Sonos, but the Beam pulls one trick none of its siblings can

Sonos makes really good surround sound speakers for home theaters, but they’re expensive. A cheaper model with great sound would be a win. The Sonos Beam is that speaker, but were too many corners cut to make a more affordable product?

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

The Last of Us Part 2 finishes capturing its main characters’ performances

Calling it the most "ambitious cinematic shoot" the team has ever done, Naughty Dog revealed that the motion-capture performances for the main characters in The Last of Us Part II are finished.

Streaming data reveals Ninja isn’t Twitch king, Fortnite still reigns supreme

Stream Elements and Stream Hatchet teamed up to produce the State of the Stream Q1 2019, a report that reveals a multitude of data. A few takeaways include Ninja not producing the best month of views, and Apex Legends' performance diving.
Health & Fitness

Latest version of Closca’s collapsible bike helmet is made for urban explorers

Closca has updated its bike helmet with a new lightweight, collapsible design that is available in a variety of color combinations and has been built with the urban rider specifically in mind.
Health & Fitness

From the office to the gym, these are the best smartwatches for fitness

The line between smartwatch and fitness tracker continues to blur. To help narrow the field of the best fitness watches, we sifted through what's available and curated a list of devices worthy of a spot on your wrist.
Emerging Tech

Scientists manage to 3D print an actual heart using human cells

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have achieved a world-first by 3D printing a small-scale heart, complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Here's why that's so exciting.

The best sound machines to help you fall (and stay) asleep

Whether you find that sleep better with white noise, rain sounds, or deep sleep music, there’s a sound machine on the market that will be able to help you catch more z’s in no time at all.

Stay fit and save cash with our top 10 affordable Fitbit alternatives

As much as we love Fitbits, they're rather expensive. If all you want is a simple activity tracker, however, then check out these great cheap Fitbit alternatives. With offerings from brands like Garmin, you don't need to pay full price.

Dreaming of a Peloton? These exercise bikes are just as good (and cheaper, too)

Modern technology certainly helps us stay fit and healthy. Whether it's fitness watches, or interactive treadmills, there are plenty of options out there. But perhaps the most popular name right now in fitness tech is Peloton.
Emerging Tech

Adidas has created a running shoe that’s made to be remade

Adidas has unveiled the Futurecraft Loop running shoe that it claims is the first performance footwear to be 100% recyclable. The shoe is the latest green initiative by the sportswear company and will go on sale in 2021.
Health & Fitness

Under Armour launches UA Rush, athletic wear that recycles your energy

Under Armour's newest performance clothing line, UA Rush, is a beautiful combination of science and apparel design. It's a mineral-infused fabric designed to enhance the performance of the wearer by recycling the body's energy.
Home Theater

Run to the beat of your favorite music with the best running headphones

Running is a great source of exercise but isn't always the most thrilling, especially when you're fiddling to keep your headphones in place. Check out our picks for the best headphones for running, so you never have to miss a beat again.

Puma is looking for volunteers to test its self-lacing sports shoe

Puma unveiled its high-tech self-lacing shoe at the start of the year, and now it's looking for volunteers from around the world to try it out and offer feedback so it can finalize the design prior to launch.