A while back I broached the subject of the amount of information available via means such as All-22 video. Add to that now the possibility of listening to the actual players on the field during the game.
The league also is planning to introduce wireless Internet in every stadium and to create smartphone apps that could let fans listen to players wearing microphones on the field.
Hearing the audio on the field isn't a new thing - watching any segment of NFL Films or any NFL blooper reel will allow you to hear some of the on-field calls - and even today, on-field mics are good enough to pick up some of the shouted calls at the line. (And let's not forget the one time a penalty was called on Koren Robinson, whose expletive was picked up by the ref mikes. Awesome moments in broadcast history, right there.)
But as I said in the prior article linked above, "Imagine that happens in the NFL. You've just opened a window where no employee of any NFL team would be allowed to watch a game."
To the average fan, the stuff said in the huddle can be fairly incomprehensible. What sounds to them like a simple double-outside fade route tight end stop on the goal line sounds to me like "Turkey baster wonton double pansy on two." And then I get a craving for Chinese. But I digress.
So while that sounds interesting to us, it doesn't exactly mean anything to the fans, unless someone is sitting around out there that knows Mike Martz' playcalls. But knowing the calls is a short jump to being able to equate the calls to what is executed on the field, and at that point, all it will take is one person in the stands who knows the calls and another to tip off the coaches or defense.
I know that sounds a little "Doomsday"-ish, but it does open up a door. So why is the NFL considering opening this door?
With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring. The NFL is worried that its couch-potato options-both on television and on mobile devices-have become good enough that many fans don't see the point of attending an actual game.
"The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn't," said Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of ventures and business operations. "That's a trend that we've got to do something about."
The league's decades-old strategy for encouraging people to attend games, the blackout rule, has become counterproductive in some respects. Blackouts were meant to encourage ticket sales, but the strict guidelines are now looking outdated.
Some teams want freedom to add stadium capacity without risking blackouts. And blackouts are rare anyway, occurring in only 16 of last season's 256 regular-season games, partly because some team owners and sponsors buy up unsold seats to get blackouts lifted.
So it stands to reason that in order to get more butts in seats and fill up the stadiums, it certainly makes sense to try to offer something that can't be found in the television broadcast at home - You know, instead of making sure that fans aren't dropping over thirty bucks for two beers and a pair of sandwiches. But is this really it?
Owners have granted permission for the league to place microphones on certain players so that fans can hear on-field commentary via an in-the-work app that would distribute raw feeds. That is a privilege previously awarded only to networks holding broadcast rights.
The NFL has already mandated that teams have in their stadiums a channel called NFL Red Zone, which shows all plays from around the league within the 20 yard-line. That feature can also be used on some smartphones.
Under consideration is a plan to make fans in the seats privy to the conversations between referees during reviews of disputed calls.
Okay, maybe that's way too damn far.
What's your take on offering the raw player audio to fans in the stadium? How would you solve the attendance and gameday problem?