Michael Lewis's 2003 book Moneyball is widely acknowledged to have ushered in the era of statistics-obsessed analysis of sports. A new invention may take that a step further.
On Monday, Wilson launched the Wilson X, a connected football that measures data about every throw you make. No need for radar guns and yard markers--the ball records the velocity, distance, and the tightness of your spiral and sends it to your phone via Bluetooth.
The football isn't for the casual fan though: It'll run you $199. The announcement is conveniently timed to coincide with the start of the NFL preseason, and the footballs will go on sale when the regular season kicks off September 8.
The ball is just the latest everyday object to get an internet connection. Internet-of-things devices already include items such as smart socks and smart teakettles. Wilson itself already released a smart basketball last year that tracks made and missed shots.
If you can afford the football, it could be very useful. At the youth or high school level, where there aren't huge swaths of stats available (and those that are can be based on widely varying levels competition), a ball that records these data points could help coaches decide who should start, or who should make the team at all. Critics might say that bringing Moneyball-like stats to kids' sports is over the top, and they may have a point there. Still, the ability to quickly compare two players against each other is probably something a busy coach at any level would appreciate.
As for professional applications, Wilson is the official provider of footballs for both the NFL and the NCAA. There aren't yet any known deals in place for pro or college teams to use the Wilson X balls in practices, but it's hard to imagine they wouldn't want to easily know which of their quarterbacks has the strongest arm or throws the most efficient spiral. Coaches trying out free agents or recruiting college athletes can never have enough metrics on their hands.
It's just a matter of time before this technology makes its way into other sports. Easily knowing the dynamics of your golf ball's spin or the movement of your curveball could make it that much easier to get better results. Maybe the most important part is that Wilson's new ball feels and behaves like a regular football--there are no plugins, screens, or wires involved on the ball itself.
The ball's built-in battery isn't rechargeable, but Wilson says it will survive about 200,000 throws. That, the company says, is longer than the pigskin itself should last.