You don’t know a lateral from a screen pass or the difference between a tight end and wide receiver. And what the heck does “three men in a box,” “RPO” “nickel defense” or the “coffin corner” mean?
Your significant other is fixated on watching the NFL playoffs that kick off this weekend. And if you’re going to spend any meaningful time with your honey, then you best watch, too. If only you were less of a gridiron novice.
Amazon’s Alexa may be able to help.
The National Football League is teaming up with Amazon on The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL, a new Alexa “skill” for Amazon Echo speakers that launches Thursday. The goal is to use voice – not Alexa’s per se, but a male voice – to explain the football terminology and jargon commentators routinely bark out during an NFL broadcast, some of which may fly not only over the heads of new or casual fans, but even, on occasion, lifelong die-hards.
“The idea was what if we created kind of a decoder that while you’re watching the game you could just ask the NFL anything you wanted to know about football,” says Dan Hogan, vice president of engineering, media services for the NFL.
The league’s Digital Lab team, a group within NFL Media, pored through the entire rulebook to come up with a skill that consists of some 2,000 terms, related to positions, formations, rules, players and more.
A typical Alexa response to a voice query is fairly concise – usually under 30 words. But you often have the option to “go long” to hear more about whatever the topic is.
For example, if you ask about a lateral, you’ll learn that it is a legal backward pass. Choose to go long, and you’ll discover that teams down at the end of a game often try laterals in a desperate attempt to avoid being tackled and score.
If you have an Echo Spot or Echo Show – Amazon’s smart speakers with a screen – you can also watch supplemental video explainers on some topics. Controversial subjects – “what is considered a catch?” – are also tackled.
Some of the work proved tricky. Hogan says the first time he asked Alexa what a touchdown was, he was told it was a plane coming in for a landing, rather than a scoring play worth six points. To avoid such confusion, you’ll have to enable the skill first.
The new Alexa skill also features an introduction by the NFL Network’s Cole Wright and a weekly update from retired New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.
For now, the Rookie’s Guide skill doesn’t go too deep into league stats, records or NFL trivia, though more of that content will likely come. There is not yet a comparable NFL skill for the Google Assistant, though that could come down the road as well.
“This is the first skill we launched as a league and certainly the most ambitious,” Hogan says. ”This really is a bit of a test pilot for us. Our thought is really anywhere where the technology exists – you have a microphone, speaker and a screen perhaps – we think ultimately you’re going to want to use your voice.” The NFL is also launching the app overseas to help attract foreign football fans.
Now, if you’re wondering about the coffin corner, that is an attempt by a punter to kick the ball out of bounds as close to the end zone as possible. You can ask Alexa to clue you in on any other terms that may be unfamiliar.
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