USFL to eliminate shackles, measure first downs with chip in ball and yellow line on TV

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When it’s time to measure for a first try in the USFL, officials will call for a high-tech solution instead of the decidedly low-tech 10-yard chains that have been used in football for a century.

The USFL played a preseason game on Friday night that included the launch of its new first-down measurement system, which combines a chip in every football and the yellow front line fans are used to seeing at home. television. Video of its use during the pre-season game was accompanied by a claim from the USFL that the upstart league has “first down metrics that are more accurate than ever.”

This, however, may not be accurate. While it undeniably looks cool on TV to see an image of football and an image of the line to win – reminiscent of how replay is used in tennis – the reality is that this type of ball tracking technology doesn’t is not precise enough to guarantee that the first calls will be correct.

The NFL already has a chip in every football, but it uses those chips only for its Next Gen Stats tracking data, not for officiating. This is because the tokens in the middle of each ball are simply not accurate enough to locate a soccer ball to the nearest centimeter. The data works well as a good approximation of where the ball is, plus or minus the length of a soccer ball. But that doesn’t tell you if a third down barely picked up the first down, or if the offense should face a fourth and thumbs up.

Replay technology works so well in tennis because tennis is fundamentally an enabling sport: the reduced size of the ball, the spherical shape of the ball, and the ability to always have camera angles with unobstructed views of the ball and the lines on the court make tennis well suited to its replay system. Football just doesn’t work that way. It is not always possible to tell precisely where the ball was when the ball carrier’s knee touched the ground, especially when huge men surround the ball carrier and block any view of their knee or the ball.

So viewers will probably enjoy watching the USFL fix on first downs, but no one should expect actual ball spotting to be any more accurate than it is in the NFL.

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