Technical Difficulties

 What is the point of tech in sports if it’s not improving the game? Michael Dwyer/AP

Christopher Francis

Staff Writer

Before this begins, I must preface it by saying that the opinion you are about to read is the same your dad has when he gets frustrated watching any of the sportsballs. I am well aware, I understand this, and I’ve accepted my old man stance and am here to propagate an argument as to why I am right.

There is too much technology in modern sports broadcasting.

Now, there is a time and place for it; there are moments when the technology improves the general tenor of the game. Examples spring to mind of the down and distance marker in the NFL (the big yellow line on the field), the strike zone graphic in the MLB, and every instance of overhead cameras on goal lines/baskets/plates in any of the games. The advent of instant replay helps to enjoy memorable plays and correct major mistakes in the game. I’ll admit, these things help with viewing games. 

However. Things have gotten out of hand. Average game times across the four main sports in the U.S. have been on the rise for the better part of a decade, with games consistently pouring over three hours in length from bloated commercials and replay reviews. The usage of replay has also fallen apart: The point of the replay review is to correct obvious errors made in the game, yet it consistently sees calls blown across the leagues. (For those playing the home game, you could call on the NHL’s offsides challenge, the NFL’s catch rule, the NBA’s charge, or MLB challenges as examples and be correct.)

MLB is actually even worse in this respect. Their strike zones graphics that are used ubiquitously across the league show ball and strike calls being blown daily during the baseball season, but players and coaches cannot challenge or correct these obvious errors, which is the point of having the technology in the first place. Instead of just helping the home audience watch a good game of baseball, the strike zone lets them know that an umpire is missing calls like his phone is off. And then to really frustrate the viewer, networks show it to you twice and there’s nothing that can be done to correct it.

Which is another point: These tech innovations for sports are meant to help the viewers at home enjoy and follow the games, but they become pointless to an extent. The down and distance line in the NFL is simple in its concept: show how much further a team has to go for a first down. Makes sense. It’s good. Happy to have it. But if every time there is a close first down and the announcers have to say, “Remember, it’s an approximation of the first down, not exact,” I have to wonder what we are doing here. If the chains (official down and distance markers) are gonna be brought out anyway, why do I need the approximations? Which also goes into the new “green zone” in between the line of scrimmage and first down marker which just makes the green field greener. Why did we need this?

And here is where the beef starts cooking. Most of these technologies used to improve the viewing experience of the games have corporate sponsors. It’s not just an electronic strike zone, it’s the Amica Insurance strike zone (courtesy of the Boston Red Sox); It’s not just a replay review, it’s the Allstate “Sure hands play of the game” (courtesy of the Cleveland Browns); The State Farm “Assist of the Game” or Kia “Play of the Game” in the NBA. It’s adding extra advertising through the guise of improving the entertainment experience. But just layering on bad graphics and pointless timers (looking at you, NBA on ESPN) for the sake of some monetary gain takes away from the actual game being played. Again, what’s the point for the viewer other than to say that the leagues can?

A paramount example comes from the NHL, where on their nationally-televised games, they will begin layering graphics onto the ice for the home audience based on the market the home audience is in, which I find sickening. Technology has its place in the game and does improve the viewing experience when used appropriately. But those days are long gone, now buried amongst pointless graphics and corporate greed.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *