While the adaptation of modern technology has been debated and rarely implemented in Major League Baseball and professional soccer leagues around the world, the NFL on the other hand has embraced it.
Ironically, NFL franchises have found themselves competing with the same TV companies that have paid billions of dollars for the rights to air games inside of their venues.
Around the league, initiatives are being taken by owners and the league office to improve the stadium experience and still create a value for the fans who have paid a 2011 average league-wide price of $113.17 per ticket.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the in-game experience just got a little nicer.
Atlanta Falcons President and chairman of the NFL competition committee, Rich McKay told ESPN.com that fans will now be able to see the exact same footage at the exact same time a referee views it while under the hood for an instant replay.
Screaming coaches hurling red handkerchiefs onto the field like they’re the next Johnny Unitas and a referee checking a “mysterious” camera angle from under a curtained replay booth have been staples in professional football since 1999.
The video is now not a mystery and it’s a huge win for fans.
While many of the views referees study are identical to those seen on TV, there are other camera angle shots not available to the airing TV network. This often leaves fans scratching their heads after some challenged calls because what we see isn’t what the ref gets.
That’s not the case anymore.
Adding simultaneous replay will also help force the hands of franchises who have been slacking on upgrading technology inside their stadiums. For instance, the Tennessee Titans had a fan experience similar to that of a minor league baseball game. With small, non-high-definition video screens and what seemed like one speaker in only one end zone, little was done to entertain the fans in the stands.
Luckily for the Titans, and their fans, upgrades are being made to help capitalize on newer technology in addition to these initiatives to help make the in-stadium experience better.
LP Field will debut two new high-definition LED TV’s this season which will be the largest outdoor screens in the NFL. These new boards will be roughly four-times larger than the current screens and also 800 speakers will be added.
Even franchises without struggling ticket sales are realizing the change in the times and are looking to capitalize. The Green Bay Packers, a team that yields a wait list for tickets for more than 30-years is in discussions to add monitors showing the “RedZone” channel to help keep fans at the game up to speed with their fantasy football teams.
While all of these additions are great for fans, more pressure will now be placed on the “zebras”. As if they didn’t get enough criticism for missing calls, fans are now privileged with the same video.
A blown call is now magnified and clearer than ever before in the eyes of the fans. There can be no more excuses!
No matter who is refereeing the games – yes they’re still on strike – more pressure will be added to those officiating the games to make the right call, even if it doesn’t happen initially.
Simultaneous replay and advanced technology will create a new type of fan instead of just an “Armchair Quarterback.” Consider this the dawning of the “Armchair Referees” and their only sense of credibility is an 80-inch LED TV and a DVR box.
Here’s to an ever evolving NFL, like it or not.