Since they can’t turn most preseason games into watchable football, the NFL is at least willing to use them as petri dishes.
The league announced that during four of this week’s exhibition games, and six more later in the preseason that they will test the use of Microsoft Surface tablet computers for the purpose of replay.
“The goal of experimenting with the tablets is to be more efficient in administering replay reviews,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said. “We would like to determine if we can streamline the process.”
The league tried this at last year’s Pro Bowl (where there should be no replay whatsoever) as well.
In theory, it saves the few moments it takes the official to walk all the way over to the sidelines to view the same replay in their special hooded monitor of mystery.
Then again, this also presumes the tablet steward (we totally made that title up, the NFL would have Capitalized It) walks more quickly than the referee does to save time. If not, this is just a thinly veiled marketing ploy designed as a progressive leap forward in administering on-field justice.
The more we think about this, yeah it’s just product placement, and it’s kind of shameless and the sort of thing the league is best at.
They are also going to experiment with an eighth official on the field in 13 of this weekend’s games, and that might actually do some good. The “center judge” and the “U2” will be able to focus on different areas of the field, lined up either 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage or behind the offensive backfield.
And their utility will likely be based on how often they collide with players during the game, and whether the backs of their jerseys will feature an ad for an insurance company.