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Mike Me, or I Hear Voices

All-World Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Troy Polamalu was fined $10,000 by the National Football League last week.  His offense?  Using a cell phone on the sideline during a game.  The NFL bans the sideline use of personal communication devices by players and coaches during games.  Wouldn’t want anyone to get an unfair advantage.  Troy, however, had suffered “concussion-like symptoms,” and he was talking to his wife, who was worried.

The NFL has gotten some grief over its stance.

Where does the NFL want communication devices, if not on the sideline?  On the field.  As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the players agreed that broadcasters could put microphones on offensive linemen.  (The justification is that the NFL has repositioned umpires, who were wearing microphones that picked up ambient sound.)  The little devices are tucked into their pads.  But centers who wear the things don’t like them, and there is concern among players and coaches that teams will use access to the sound to gain — you guessed it — an unfair advantage. Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens was fined recently for taking his microphone off.  The NFL has decided that the two starting offensive guars can be wired, if the center is not.

The NYTimes ran a story the other day about Waldorf Schools, private and decidedly low-tech elementary schools that are gaining ground, particularly among some techno-elite. 

Football is a child’s game played by grown men.  What if the NFL went truly old (or Waldorf) school, and took microphones and headphones away from everyone on the field and the sideline?  Would we get less manufactured and scripted entertainment (cf. the James Caan Rollerball)?  Would we get more Polamalu and Birk — humanity underneath the pads?  Would we get what we want?

Or should we let Apple run its course, and develop a form of the iPad (now used by some NFL players and teams to store playbooks and related information) that professional athletes can strap into their armor on game day, and that can feed real-time data into earpieces and and insides of helmet visors?