Seeing the game: How technology could change the way we watch sports
College Contributor Network
My buddy and I were at a bar in Lincoln Park earlier this year, working on a journalism story for class (I swear it's true, that's not some lame underage-drinking cover-up . . . maybe that's just what an underage drinker would say), and all over the room were TVs showing some classic daytime ESPN programming: that is, professional bowling. We watched with mild disinterest.
It looked like a pretty run-of-the-mill game (match? bout?) until the final member of each team approached the lane. They seemed to be wearing goggles. Goggles in bowling? We looked closer. We were wrong. One member of each bowling team was wearing a pair of Google Glass.
My first thought: that's pretty cool. My second thought: of all the sports, bowling?!
Check out this Google Glass footage of someone bowling. It is actually pretty cool. You can see their follow-through and see where their gaze travels on the lane -– a few little bowling nuances come through, but do you also see the potential in this? Can we put Google Glass in other sports? We should.
To have an understanding of what we are missing out on, check out this video of an umpire wearing a GoPro camera -– the same concept, in a sense. Did you see that fastball fly at his head? Did you have any idea that a fastball went that fast? It looks twice as fast it does on television –- it looks smaller and harder to hit too -– you wonder how anyone, even the pros, can swing the bat around in time to even think about making contact.
I found myself appreciating the skill of the batters in a game where I consistently focus more on the pitchers. It added a new dimension to my perspective on baseball. Listen, I was afraid of taking a bean-ball in Little League, but now, the idea of standing in the batter's box against a major league pitcher? Forget about it. The ball almost took the guy's head off.
Google Glass can take what that GoPro did and translate it to just about any athletic situation. Imagine installing the technology on the visors of NFL players. When Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth take us to instant replay, we would have a literal look at what happens inside the players' helmets. Think of watching a play from Peyton Manning's perspective as he scans a defense and looks for the open man. Think of seeing Richard Sherman chase down a deep ball from the very eyes of Richard Sherman. Think of a running back making a spin move. A linebacker on a blitz.
This would help guys like Michaels and Collinsworth as well. Too often, a glaring deficiency on nearly every broadcast team in sports is their assumption that the fans will pick up on all of the elevated terminology they use during the telecast. Jon Gruden drops his 'Tampa 2' coverage all the time, for instance, and I am still not exactly sure what happens when the Packers shift to their nickel package, or what the Seahawks are "reading" when they call a read-option.
The same applies for basketball and baseball -– the science of spreading the floor or cheating on a bunt is hard to pick up when your athletic prime consisted of peewee football and kid-pitch on the diamond. If Google found a way to use their Glass technology in the sports we love, we would have a new teaching tool to relate more advanced sports jargon to passionate fans.
The result of this would just be a deeper understanding of how our favorite teams operate, and who does not want that? When Mike Trout goes up to bat, fans would see him step out of the box and look for the sign (and actually see the sign!) and enter the box again to face the next pitch. When Colin Kaepernick goes to hand it off to Frank Gore, fans would see him staring straight at the outside linebacker to catch him biting inside so he could take off himself. When LeBron James drives to the lane, we would see him look out to the corner and fake a pass so the defender would back off and clear his path to the hoop. The analysis in the booth would be more informed and the fans at home would be more immersed.
And look, I know what you are thinking: I don't want my superstars wearing dumb-looking goggles all the time. We can find a way. Put the camera component of Google Glass on batting helmets, on facemasks in hockey, or even the sweatbands in basketball -– there has to be a way to give this gift to every sport in such a way that does not make our athletes look like the newest Geek Squad intern.
Regardless of outside appearance, putting Google Glass in all the other professional sports would bring a new level to both analysis and fandom. The men and women in the booth would have more to work with and more to talk about -– scores, penalties, and injuries would happen before our very eyes -– and fans would have more to dissect and obsess over and marvel at. It gives us an insider look at the men and women we watch on television all season, bringing us closer to the experience than ever before. We can walk in their shoes. We can see with their eyes.
Now, everyone, in one way or another, can truly be in the game.
Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz