Referees Should All Wear GoPros
Could American football soon take a page from Australian rugby?
According to the Courier-Mail of Brisbane, National Football League officials and broadcasters are interested in adopting referee helmet cameras similar to those used in the Aussies' National Rugby League. The cameras are a big hit among rugby fans who are now given intimate viewing angles, especially of interactions between players and officials.
In addition to the up-close spectacle of players visibly reacting to calls, these cameras would be useful to hear refs' explanations, providing much more context to incidents like that involving Cam Newton, who bumped an official in 2012 over a non-call.
Since 2000, NFL broadcasters have toyed with ref cams. This year, National Hockey League referee Wes McCauley took a page from a minor-league official, wearing a GoPro camera during the outdoor Stadium Series matchup between the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium. Although it didn't have the same sort of fiery moments that lends HBO's "24/7" series its unparalleled mic'd-up glory, you could see the potential for both explosive highlight reel fodder and greater understanding of officials' judgment and reasoning.
Referee helmet cams would be another part of the push to create an ever-more interactive fan experience. The Washington Capitals have developed a Google Glass application to provide various video feeds to fans in the arena, while the technology is already used in the National Basketball Association by the Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers. The Philadelphia Eagles say they will lead the way for Google Glass in the NFL.
It's easy to see how leagues could use the technology to allow officials to record in-game action as well. Last year, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey advocated the idea of providing Google Glass to NBA referees in a Reddit AMA. That a team executive in the league with the most embattled officiating corps would promote a tool that would create greater transparency on the court isn't exactly surprising; you can also expect that league's resistance to such a tool. The NFL also likes to keep its affairs close to its chest, but football has been a pioneer in making the most of in-game technology such as player helmet cams and mics, and especially when it comes to packaging media for fans. As we've seen with instant replay, other leagues are likely to follow the NFL's lead, even if it takes a few decades or so to catch up.
If anything, on-field cameras would just give us more gloriously candid, genuinely emotional moments like Richard Sherman's sideline interview after the NFC championship game to combat the boring soundbites that dominate NFL coverage.
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