Sport and fitness

Brady is back: how to take the air out of any future deflategate

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This fall, Wilson launched the world’s first connected football. Retailing at $199.99, this remarkable item is capable of tracking throwing distance, speed, efficiency of spin and a whole lot besides.

In the wake of last year’s deflategate, I can’t help wondering whether connected footballs might have stopped the controversy in its tracks. Who’s to say that a connected football couldn’t also have the means to monitor air pressure and leakage, for example? Let’s take a look at how the IoT and connected footballs could stop deflategate from happening again.

What is deflategate?

I will start by emphatically stating that I’m a New England Patriots fan. My family watches religiously, we have parties when they make the playoffs (which happens almost every year) and my kids wear Brady and Gronk shirts for the games.

For all who are reading this, you know about the details of deflategate and you have a strong opinion. Here is a brief reminder: the NFL, led by Roger Goodell, accused the New England Patriots of tampering with the footballs for the AFC Championship Game in 2015. The full blame was placed on the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) – Tom Brady.  They suspended Brady for 4 games, which is a longer sentence than some of those given to people who are convicted of crimes, abuse, and drugs. Anyway, there’s a happy ending. Brady ended up winning the AFC Championship Game by scoring at will and has proven to be the best every day since that game.

Brady’s back

Cut to October 9th, and Brady’s return against the Cleveland Browns. Brady passed for 409 yards and 3 touchdowns, even after a 4 week absence. I’m sure Goodell checked to ensure all of the game footballs were at the the league standard PSI. Brady then passed for 376 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals and 222 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Eight TDs and over 1,000 yards in 3 games…not bad. I can’t wait until the Pats steamroll the entire league and prove once and for all that the second most famous New England witch hunt (after Salem of course) was ridiculous.

IoT and connected footballs

So how can the NFL avoid this controversy in the future? What definitive evidence is available to them? The answer is simple – IoT.

We have sensors to check the pressure continuously in tires – why not in footballs? Perhaps Wilson could add PSI and location to their Wilson X Connected Football. This would eliminate human error and would never put another player in the deflategate cross hairs again. It also would ensure claims about the locker room guy would not surface – see I am the Locker Room Guy.  The current technology in the connected footballs is amazing. These footballs are linked to an app via Bluetooth to track distance, velocity, spin rate, catches and more, and connected to social media. This data could be used in future fantasy sports or to better engage fans in the overall experience. Imagine what fun you could have on ESPN or Yahoo Fantasy Leagues if you could track these stats?

Why not have the footballs tied to the Watson IoT Platform to bring in weather data, so we could better understand its impact on football equipment and the athletes? It would be fun to use Watson to predict passing yards, field goal percentages and athlete performance based on weather and biometric data.

The wider potential of IoT in the NFL

Using IoT would ensure deflategate would never happen again. But we shouldn’t limit IoT to footballs only.  IoT can also be used in many aspects of the NFL. An article in CIO explains that embedded sensors in a player’s shoulder pads can highlight their exact location on the field, plus speed, distance traveled and velocity of hits. According to the article, the NFL will apply the data from these sensors into gaming, fantasy sports, in-stadium displays, broadcasters and more.

These broader stats would not only appeal to fans, but could also bring more insights for coaches and players to fuel the next generation of competition.  Imagine the possibilities: you could utilize a computer to analyze all player data from the RFID tags, analyze 40-60 hours of video in minutes, provide real-time insights to the athletes, predict player performance and maybe help reduce injuries.

Let’s avoid conflicts in the future and decide cases on evidence, not speculation and grudges. IoT should be in all sports and in the NFL.

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