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Published on September 18th, 2007 | by Tom

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NFL Hit the Jump Point with Video Scandal

This past week’s dust-up over video recording by the New England Patriots franchise shows what happens when a ‘jump point’ arrives and organizations aren’t ready. 

For the National Football League, the issue was reduced to a compliance matter; there are rules dictating where video taping can take place and the team deviated from the rules.  Fines were levied sufficient to warn the entire 32 team league not to do likewise.  The problem is, the rules are archaic and unenforceable.  Given that teams in any professional sport work hard to prepare and gain every competitive advantage they can, it is no surprise that technology like video is being used to record play formations and signals.  All teams do this in one way or another.  No shocker here.  Indeed, gathering competitive intel is a recognized part of every competitive area from war craft to marketing strategy.  The rub is the attempt by the NFL to restrict the use of technology.  Not gonna happen.  In fact, the NFL’s quaint approach shows just how far behind–or deep into denial–the organization really is.  I’d like to introduce their top brass to the honchos atop the recording industry.  Make for a nice club.

No, the NFL is on a fool’s errand if it thinks it can stop the penetration of technology into its business.  As Austin Powers might say, that train has sailed.  The Patriots were fined for putting a camerman in a restricted area.  In effect, he was getting a shot angle the NFL wanted to limit.  Today, on any given Sunday, you might have 40,000 camermen sitting in the seats with cross hairs set to every angle.  My phone takes photos and video, and likely so does yours.  Fans could easily record a 360-degree look at the game and email in the views to their favorite teams.  Illegal?  Not according to the rules.  And unenforceable anyway.  High-powered binocular cameras could be perched anywhere in the stadium to achieve the same result in stealth mode.  Heck, you can use high-powered lenses in the permitted areas and get the same results the Patriot’s man was attempting from the sideline. 

Cameras, which are everywhere today anyway, are a permanent fact of life.  You can’t stop the recording of our lives and times, and in a situation like a big sporting event, no one should have a presumption of privacy to begin with.  These are very public times.  Limit field recording by teams and they might just fix a camera to the Goodyear blimp and get the shot anyway.  I know, because I saw them doing it when I zoomed in on Google maps.   

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