The Internet Of Football

While football in the United States means something totally different from what it means in the rest of the world, fans everywhere take it pretty seriously. This Sunday is the peak of U.S. football frenzy, the Super Bowl, and it is surprisingly high-tech. The NFL has invested in a lot of technology and today’s football stats are nothing like those of the last century thanks to some very modern devices.

It is kind of interesting since, at the core, the sport doesn’t really need a lot of high tech. A pigskin ball, some handkerchiefs, and a field marked off with some lime and a yardstick will suffice. However, we’ve seen a long arc of technology in scoreboards, cameras — like instant replay — and in the evolution of protective gear. But the last few years have seen the rise of data collection. It’s being driven by RFID tags in the player’s shoulder pads.

These aren’t the RFID chips in your credit card. These are long-range devices and in the right stadium, a computer can track not only the player’s position, but also his speed, acceleration, and a host of other statistics.

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Scorigami Bot Charts NFL History In The Making

NFL Football is a curious game to those who live beyond the borders of the continental United States. Its rules are many and complex, and its scoring system is built on arcane magic. This system means that there are many possible final game scores that have never actually happened in practice. For fans keen to hear of any first-time scores as they happen, Scorigami bot is here to help.

Charting and researching these is the practice of Scorigami, an idea first posited by Jon Bois, and is explored in this SB Nation video. It covers the many impossible scores in NFL, such as 1-0 and 1-1, as well as the possible-but-extremely-unlikely, like 6-1. To keep track of the state of Scorigami means following every score of every NFL game as its played. The ‘bot makes this easier; scraping the NFL livescores page with some nifty Javascript, it tracks each game live for potential first-time scores; the most recent as of writing being the Chiefs beating the Texans 51-31. Not only that, but the ‘bot estimates the most likely possible scorigami scores of games in progress, keeping fans on tenterhooks until the final whistle is blown. Or is it a siren in NFL? Inquiring minds need to know.

Code is naturally available on Github if you want to independently audit the Twitter feed; obviously the sanctity of scorigami results is absolutely paramount, and ensuring as such is a community responsibility. We’ve seen other live-score projects before, like this glowing Super Bowl football.

NFL To Experiment With Chipped Balls

NFL preseason starts in just a few weeks. This year, it will come with a bit of a technological upgrade. The league plans to experiment with custom microchip-equipped footballs. Unfortunately, this move has nothing to do with policing under-inflation — the idea is to verify through hard data that a narrower set of goal posts would mean fewer successful kicking plays.

Why? Kicking plays across the league have been more accurate than ever in the last couple of seasons, and the NFL would like things to be a bit more competitive. Just last year, extra point kicks were moved back from the 20 to the 33-yard line. Kickers already use brand-new balls that are harder and more slippery than the field balls, so narrowing the goal from the standard 18’6″ width is the natural next step. A corresponding pair of sensors in the uprights will reveal exactly how close the ball is when it passes between them.

The chips will only be in K-balls, and only in those kicked during the 2016 preseason. If all goes well, the league may continue their use in Thursday night games this season. We couldn’t find any detail on these custom-made chips, but assume that it’s some kind of transmitter/receiver pair. Let the speculation begin.

Main image: Field goal attempt during the Fog Bowl via Sports Illustrated

[via Gizmodo]