football-techLet’s talk football.

But wait, you say, tech-52 is a technology site. What’s that got to do with football?

Well, for one, my New England Patriots prevailed 28-24 in a Super Bowl classic against the Seattle Seahawks, so the afterglow of that victory provides some inspiration for this tech writer.

In addition, there just happens to be a number of science and technology aspects to football. For example, had you ever imagined the complex science involved in inflating and deflating a football?

If you watched the Super Bowl, did you happen to notice the players and coaches engrossed in their neon blue Microsoft Surface tablets between plays? Yup, technology.

Finally, this we know: football is a violent sport, and a lot of people who have made a career in playing the game have ended up severely damaged from head trauma. That’s bad, for sure. But turns out there are technology companies trying to solve this problem.

Letting the air out of Deflategate

There was a great deal of Sturm und Drang associated with the possibility, however tenuous, that the Patriots under-inflated their footballs to gain a competitive advantage in their January 18 AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Let’s put aside for a moment that the Patriots won that game by a score of 45-7. The thinking was that slightly under-inflated footballs would enable the players to grip and hold onto the football in the rainy conditions that prevailed throughout the game. This is a theory, mind you. I haven’t seen any studies that actually back this up.

Although there is no definitive statement from the NFL as to what evidence they might have, reports had surfaced that 11 of the 12 footballs provided by the Patriots were under-inflated by two pounds per square inch (PSI).inflate2

One could easily surmise from those reports that some sort of tampering with the footballs was done, and the hue and cry across this great nation of ours was breathtaking. However, turns out there’s a great deal of room for interpretation here.

Initially Bill Belichick, Patriots head coach, and Tom Brady denied any knowledge or involvement in tampering with the footballs,

Belichick, a few days later, held a press conference in which he described experiments that he and his staff conducted. Those experiments, Belichick said, prove to him that the under-inflation found by the league could be explained by a combination of the process the team uses to get the proper ball texture, and the weather conditions outside at game time.

While Bill Nye, the science guy, weighed in to refute Belichick’s claims, reportedly a group of physicists agreed that his explanation was plausible.

As I see it, there’s enough reasonable doubt, and seemingly no hard evidence of tampering, save a 90-second visit by a Patriots ball boy to a bathroom right before game time. By my estimation, 90 seconds is enough time to pee, wash one’s hands, and admire oneself in the mirror. It’s not enough time to adjust the air to a precise inflation level in 12 footballs.

Of course, we’ll have to await the NFL’s final judgment on the affair, but my guess is that the league is going to admit that they have no proof of tampering. And that will be the end of Deflategate, but probably not the end of the public relations nightmare the mighty NFL has endured over the last year.

Football on the surface

The game of football is about offense and defense, blocking and tackling, and kicking. It’s pretty simple, right?

Photograph courtesy of Microsoft Corp.

Photograph courtesy of Microsoft Corp.

Ah, no. A professional team’s playbook can be thousands of pages long.

Coaches and players spend long hours studying film and practicing against all kinds of offensive and defensive schemes.

This year, the NFL, with the help of Microsoft, has introduced a new tool into its game-time arsenal.

According to Microsoft, coaches and players are using the specially designed Microsoft Surface Sideline Viewing System.

The solution includes Microsoft Surface tablets—which have been dubbed “The Official Tablet of the NFL”—and a Microsoft application “that allows coaches to quickly analyze images from previous offensive or defensive series to plan their next plays.”

Observant football fans will recall that this process previously relied on printers that teams kept on the sidelines to print out images of team formations on paper.

Microsoft claims that its technology is “helping make analysis of the game more efficient, productive and competitive, starting with streamlining the photo viewing process.” Certainly, as this tool has become more familiar to its users—the players and the coaches—one sees it being used more and more often.

And, the NFL is saving trees in the process.

Can tech solve NFL concussion issues?

Junior Seau, an 18-year veteran of the NFL, recently was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, it was posthumously, because Seau, a fierce, talented, and beloved player committed suicide. The ex-player reportedly suffered from the effects of post-concussion syndrome, also known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).helmets

Seau was only one member of a long list of former NFL players who suffer from CTE, which has a number of debilitating symptoms, one of which is depression.

Now, Unequal Technology, a Pittsburgh company, is pioneering helmet-liner technology that is said to reduce the risk of head trauma by 50%. The company describes its energy-absorbing material this way:

Harmful impact energy caused by any collision often moves unchecked through typical foam and plastic. UNEQUAL® confuses that energy and absorbs, disperses and dissipates much of it away from the body. Tests at independent, accredited labs show that UNEQUAL® reduces impact acceleration, which can help reduce the risk of injury.

The tests they refer to are summarized here, and a more detailed PDF can also be downloaded.

With all deference to baseball, NFL football has become America’s pastime. I don’t apologize for being a fan, but I’m all for technology that can protect these gifted gladiators.


2 thoughts on “Footballogy

  1. Fred Dunfey

    It appears that only one of the balls was deflated by 2 lbs. The others were deflated by only .5 lbs. The .5 lbs “could” be explained by difference in temperature. Who knows?

    It is also true that the increase in media and fan comments circulate faster than the truth about anything can catch up. We almost never know the truth about anything. All we get is misinformation and opinion flowing with increased velocity through the internet “gossip-sphere”.

    1. Jim Cahill Post author

      Yes, that’s the latest reported story, but as you say, rumor and speculation abound, so who knows the truth? That’s actually a subject that I’ve been ruminating on for awhile. Could end up as a blog post here. Peace.


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