The Upside And The Downside Of Technology…

Reports say that the NFL will put computer chips in footballs to be used in Exhibition games this year and in Thursday Night Football games in the regular season. The primary purpose is to gather data to determine if the goal posts should be narrowed in order to make field goal tries and PAT kick attempts a bit less “automatic”. I do not pretend to have any codified data here, but I have advocated narrowing the goal posts in the NFL for about 20 years now and I continue to believe that would be a good idea. Let me outline my reasoning here:

    Plays where teams have a kicker try to kick the ball through the uprights are far less exciting/interesting than offensive plays against real defensive players. There are few fans anywhere who would try to argue against that assertion.

    Ergo, the more times teams line up and run real offensive plays as opposed to place-kick plays makes the game more exciting/interesting.

    Ergo again, motivating teams to run real plays as opposed to place-kicking plays is beneficial to the game experience.

    How to do that? Make the place-kicking more difficult. Increase the risk of failure without increasing the reward for success.

Currently, the goal posts are 18 feet and 6 inches wide and the crossbar is 10 feet high. In arena football the goal posts are only 9 feet wide and the crossbar is 15 feet off the ground. I would not advocate – without data in hand to justify it – changing the NFL goal post to the arena league goal post. However, narrowing the goal post and raising the crossbar should both be given serious consideration once data is compiled.

There is a downside to this data collection effort. One other thing that a ball-with-a-chip might do is to provide more accurate placement of the ball in situations where a play ends proximal to a first down marker or when a play involves “breaking the plane of the goal line”. In fact, it would be hard to argue that the ball-with-a-chip could possibly be less accurate than the current system is. Having said that – and being fully in favor of accuracy in this endeavor – please contemplate the delays in the game that will ensue from such placement technology. This will be like having a challenge flag thrown on half the plays in a game as officials seek to adjust the ball-with-a-chip exactly to a spot on the field of play. And then they will do the measurement with sticks and chains ignoring the need for the chains to be at precisely 90 degrees to the yard markers which have been place on the field without benefit of lasers to assure they are all parallel and perpendicular to the two sidelines which too must be parallel to one another. Sigh …

Switching gears here, I am not a follower of UFC or any of the MMA promotions. I have tuned in to see a few of the programs on TV and I do not particularly like them. I mention that only to make it clear that the following remarks come from someone who does not follow the sport nor has any fondness for it.

UFC had a big pay-per-view event on July 9; I did not see it; that happened in the middle of my most recent hiatus. One of the most hyped bouts on the card featured the return of Brock Lesnar to UFC. Lesnar had fought there in the past but had been participating in pro ‘rassling for the last several years. [Aside: Given the way UFC creates furious animosity between fighters before bouts, I have said before that UFC is just like WWE except that in UFC the punches land and the blood is real.] Lesnar won his fight that night.

Subsequent to the results, we now know that Brock Lesnar failed a drug test on 28 June. That means that 10 full days came and went between the time the sample was analyzed and the time of the fight. Once that information came to light after the pay-per-view event was over and the money was counted, the UFC mavens claimed that this was all news to them. Wow …

Oh, did I mention that UFC as a business has just sold itself to a new owner for a price reported to be in the range of $4B? I guess the UFC mavens were so busy handling that transaction and celebrating the closure of the deal that they never got the memo regarding the failed drug test for their pay-per-view headliner.

To be fair, there will be a confirmatory test on Lesnar’s “B-Sample” to see if that testing shows the same result that the first test did. There is indeed a chance that this is a laboratory error – but that does not explain how for 10 days the event promoters managed to avert their eyes and ears from such results. The UFC Word for Today is:

    C R E D I B I L I T Y

Several weeks ago, had a report about booze coming to college football stadiums in greater amounts. No, they were not talking about hip flasks smuggled in by students and used to stay warm during cold weather games. The report was about more and more NCAA institutions selling alcohol in stadiums as a revenue generator. And it is not just for football games; this year at the College World Series and at the Women’s College World Series (softball), fans could purchase wine and beer in the stadium venues. This Fall, about 40 colleges and universities will sell beer – and in some cases beer and other alcoholic beverages – in the stadia where football games happen.

I am anything but a fan of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union; I have been known to imbibe an adult beverage on more than a few occasions. Nevertheless, in college football stadium, there is a significant fraction of the attendees who are underage. On college campuses around the country, there are more than a few problems that involve underage drinking and involve over-consumption by young adults who seem to have insufficient self-restraint. And so, the institutions of higher learning who put on these events think it is a good idea to add yet one more source of alcohol to that audience.

    What could possibly go wrong?

Obviously, the motivation to sell beer and such in the stadia is revenue. Here is some data from the report:

    West Virginia made $600K from selling beer and wine last year.

    Texas made $1.8M from selling beer and wine last year.

Here is a rationalization offered for selling beer in the stadium:

It will cut down on the binge drinking in the parking lots during pre-game tailgating.

Honestly, one of the college officials said that to I wonder how long it took him to be able to say that without giggling.

Finally, here is an item from Gregg Drinnan’s Keeping Score at

“On Monday, Joey Chestnut downed 70 hot dogs in 10 minutes and was treated as an American hero for winning a July 4 eating contest. In my house, I got the stink eye when I reached for a second pork chop at dinner.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

10 thoughts on “The Upside And The Downside Of Technology…”

  1. I want to watch the vendors try to card the entire Wisconsin student section at Camp Randall.

  2. Sir:

    Regarding alcohol and college football, I reminded of a game I attended last fall. While strolling the short distance between our parking area and stadium some 30 minutes before a noon kick-off, I noted no fewer than three (there may have been more, I only noted three) young ladies vomiting in public. I remarked to my long suffering companion that I’m sure when she was that age, she at least had the decency to find a lavatory for that purpose. My remark was not well received.

    Further, regarding the kicking game, it is surely a sign of an unsuccessful program when the leading scorers happen to be kickers.

    Congratulations on your 50th anniversary.

    1. Steve:

      Vomiting in public is disgusting and degrading no matter the gender. It is not made any the better by having it happen around noon time. Sadly, some people consider doing that as some sort of “badge of honor”. It is not.

  3. robotic footballs capable of spin vs acceleration calculations…awesome…
    sentient footballs one day forming their own union- where it will go…

    1. Jim D:

      I love the idea of the footballs themselves forming a union and making the new CBA negotiations a 3-way dance instead of a bilateral negotiation. Sounds like there is a sci-fi novel somewhere in that idea…

  4. Hey, we can use the same goalposts – take a page from basketball and make distance matter… long FGs beat pooch punts …

    <=20 yards – 1 point (4th and goal at the 2? GO FOR IT!!!!)

    <=30 yards – 2 points (it's still close enough – a short pass is enough)

    <50 yards – 3 points – normal

    50+ yards – 4 points

    1. Ed:

      My desire is to make the kick attempt itself more difficult. Instead of changing the point values on the basis of distance, I would rather make coaches think twice about kicking a 40-yard field goal on 4th and 6 because whatever play they run – successful or unsuccessful – will be more interesting than a place-kick.

      1. Take a rule from rugby and have a player on the field when the score was made to take the kick.

        As a bonus, make them use the rugby rule, the kick is taken from where the TD is made (it’s why tries are dotted down) straight out from the goal line. E.g., if you score on the sideline, you kick from there too. Also, no blocking and the opposition can charge when you approach the ball after you place it.

        1. Rugger9:

          That would make PAT kicking attempts significantly more difficult and would clearly lead to more tries for a 2-point conversion. However, I am not sure how that discourages field goal tries as I would prefer to see.

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