Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Football Field as Jumbotron

What if the yellow first down line you see when you watch a football game on television was visible from your seat in the stands? The official turf provider to the Arena Football League (and provider of turf to two NFL teams) is called Sportexe, and they've got a patent that proposes to do that and more.

Forbes reported on the company, which is 40%-owned by Ravens owner Art Modell. Like the other major turf company, FieldTurf, Sportexe installs artificial surfaces made up of millions of individual blades of plastic grass, with rubber pellets underneath to simulate dirt. The patented technology places fiber optics inside each blade of grass. Each blade acts like a pixel in a computer monitor, working together to produce a larger image.

The first-down line on NFL broadcasts is really helpful for viewers, but I'm not enamored with graphics that literally create a "red zone" when the offense drives to the 20. And do we really need an on-field graphic that explains a kicker's accuracy from a certain distance - right as the kicker steps into the ball? The least appealing aspect of the new technology is the certainty that it will be used to run advertisements on the field itself, perhaps even between plays.

I'm all for the onward march of progress, but am often disappointed by the way broadcasters choose to use it. (Who's this week's White Castle Steamer of the Week? Text your vote to 86648 right now!!!) At least everybody attending the Super Bowl wouldn't have to worry about DVR-ing the commericals.

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