How Technology is Changing Sports

Kaylee Donnelly, Senior Writer

From off-the-field rulings to player heart monitors, technology has severely changed the way sports are played today. Not only has it made professional sports more accessible to the public, but it has helped increase competition, connect fanbases and improve the health and safety of players. But some may not be familiar with just how intertwined technology has become to the rulings of sports today.

One of the most well known examples is the NFL. As far back as 1975, the NFL was microphoning their referees to aid in rulings from the sideline. Starting in the 2007-2008 season, the referees were able to call reviews of the play, stepping off the field to rewatch and make a final decision. Off-field technology has the ability to determine first downs and the veracity of a touchdown.

Professional soccer leagues have now picked up on similar technologies. Quite recently, in fact, as VAR (video assistant referee) was introduced in just 2017-2018. The technology allows for a referee’s call to be brought into review from assistant referees off the field. They have the ability to confirm a goal, confirm a penalty and decide the severity of foul in regards to red and yellow cards.

For soccer, the technology has not stopped there. A new brand of sideline refereeing has the potential to be introduced into the 2022 World Cup, in the form of artificial intelligence. FIFA is considering adding the AI program in Qatar this year, which would be used to help track players’ limbs and create virtual offsides lines. The program was tested in the Club World Cup and the Arab World Cup, but is yet to be confirmed for World Cup usage. 

Baseball is the another sport that has seen recent development. In 2014, the MLB expanded replay review, which allowed approximately 13 plays to be called into review by off-field technology. This season umpires were granted microphones, allowing them to formally announce replays like referees in other sports. 

The most notable and recent change in the MLB is a swath of new “sign-stealing” technology. A new program called PitchCom will now allow pitchers and catchers to signal to each other without the risk of getting their signs stolen by the opposing team. Besides the pitcher and catcher, three teammates will have access to the technology. It practically gets rid of the need for a signaling system all together. 

The advancements have not gone without controversy, of course. Some believe that technology is ruining the game, taking away the authenticity and humanity of the sport by turning it robotic. Others believe that the technology itself is making the games more authentic due to its calculated accuracy and cheating prevention.

It’s clear that technology is going to play a large role in sports now and in the coming years. As the advancements of technology will arguably continue to grow, there must be a balance drawn with how technical the sport can become. Too much ruling from the sideline could contribute to an exhaustive replay of rulings and calls that can muddle the genuine fun and suspense that comes with watching sports. It will be interesting to see how these technological advancements take over the sporting world, and just how far all of them will go. 

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