From relatively subdued origins, the Super Bowl has now become a global phenomenon. When it was first introduced in 1967, the trophy was important within its native United States, but that interest wasn’t necessarily shared in other parts of the world.
American Football was seen as a very idiosyncratic sport. Hardly anyone else played it, and no-one had any intention to. All that has changed but, as the NFL has broadened its reach, there has been a need for improved technology to back it up.
A Worldwide Success
Millions of people tune into the regular NFL season, while the viewing numbers peak whenever the Super Bowl comes around. External industries also benefit from its rise on the global stage. Advertisers will pay a premium during peak broadcasting time, while millions of dollars are staked by fans checking out the NFL odds.
The league has always taken its officiating seriously. Unlike other sports such as soccer where the game has a tendency to flow to the detriment of making a correct decision, the NFL takes time to get things right.
The technology used to help the officials is important to the competition, and it forms a large part of innovative developments within the NFL.
Getting The Tough Calls Right
There’s a flag on the play. How many times have we heard that statement during any NFL game? When the flag is thrown by an official, the match stops and the contentious incident is studied from every angle.
A range of cameras around the ground allow the right calls to be made. The NFL was groundbreaking in this regard, but decision making isn’t the only interesting piece of technology used in American football.
American Football is a highly physical sport and no player should step out onto the field without adequate protection. The most vulnerable part of the body is the head and this is one area where technology has developed to keep players safe.
At the time of the first edition of the NFL in 1920, players wore soft leather helmets. It gave them an iconic look, but it offered little in the way of protection in a head-on-head collision.
Helmet technology has now become state of the art. 3D scanning, printing and the use of floating plates help to guard against concussion. The material used is carefully chosen and each piece of equipment is tested rigorously.
Pads and cups are also unrecognizable from those early NFL days, but the helmet is the most important of them all.
Keep In Touch
While the chief purpose of a helmet is to protect the player, it also carries a second function in the present day. A radio was first placed inside a helmet by the Cleveland Browns in 1956, but the game has come a long way since that early, cumbersome technology.
Since the start of the 1994 season, a coach has been able to speak directly into each player’s headset via analogue technology. This kind of in-game communication may be frowned upon in other sports, but many feel it’s added even more quality to the NFL.
Tracking The Opposition
The digital age has led to the biggest revolution in most sports and American football is no exception. Before the advent of the internet, coaching staff would have to physically travel in order to spy on opposing players in an attempt to spot their strengths and weaknesses.
These days, it’s all available on a tablet or an even smaller mobile device. Stats are collated from all around the league and fed into central websites. Want to know about an opposing team’s blind spot? Simply log on.
Completing The Package
Technology is everywhere in the world of the National Football League. Even the surface that the teams play on has been greatly improved. Those that use artificial surfaces now play on FieldTurf, a trademarked package that combines durability and the cushioning needed to make it feel as close as possible to real grass.
Today’s players also showcase in-game wearable technology. The NFL has partnered with Microsoft and Zebra Technologies to provide equipment that measures player fitness and performance to greater levels than ever before.
By using the accurate data, coaches can make better decisions and that can only help to boost player’s endurance, and the ability to perform at their best.
The Future Is Unwritten
The future of any sphere of technology is, in theory, without limits and the only potential restrictions lie in the inventor’s imaginations. Who can accurately predict what will happen in the NFL in future years?
We can be certain of one thing: Each piece of tech used in the sport has helped to improve its quality. The NFL goes from strength to strength and the thrilling action on the pitch is enhanced by technology in every play.
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