While the New England Patriots and the New York Giants fight it out on the field this Sunday in Super Bowl XLII, thousands of reporters, bloggers and other media types will be scrambling to cover the action. A new tool from IBM and the National Football League (NFL) just made that job a whole lot easier.
The NFL has created NFLMedia.com, a customizable Web-based portal that provides reporters with historical data as well as real-time statistics leading up to and during the big game. The portal, which is based on IBM's WebSphere technology, has access to data housed in numerous NFL databases and other sources, which are retrieved via the site's enterprise search capabilities.
"The portal allows any media member to do queries and searches on all kinds of esoteric data and information that is valuable, that is different, that can help them create a different angle for the article that they are writing," said John Dunderdale, vice president of sales for IBM's Lotus Software division. Reporters can access "different records, individual performances from all the Super Bowls going back to the late '60s, but also real-time data and things like injury information [and] practice performances."
Much as an executive might use a business intelligence (BI) tool to analyze financial or production data, NFLMedia.com lets reporters analyze NFL statistics to identify trends or other relationships in data that would have been difficult to spot otherwise. Using IBM's data management technology, the portal can access both structured data found in the NFL's relational databases as well as unstructured data like text files and graphics, such as team logos, housed in content management tools and other sources.
"We took the WebSphere portal technology and integrated it with some rational testing tools, but also with IBM's OmniFind product, which allows you to do searches, queries, comparisons, etc. of statistics and data from multiple back-end sources," Dunderdale said. The user interface is purposely intuitive and relatively simple to use, he added, as not all sports reporters are as tech-savvy as some business users. Search results are presented in cohesive text and graphical forms, even if the data comes from multiple sources.
The only limitation, Dunderdale said, is the speed at which the NFL can update its data sources. The league will do its best, he said, to make in-game information available to NFLMedia.com users as quickly as possible.
"During the course of the game, the information will be updated literally play-by-play, or even faster," Dunderdale said. "How do Eli Manning's statistics compare in his first Super Bowl at halftime to his brother's [Indianapolis Colt Peyton Manning] first Super Bowl? Things like that are exactly what it's intended to be able to produce."
Dunderdale said the NFL is demonstrating NFLMedia.com all this week in Glendale, Ariz., the site of this year's Super Bowl. It is currently available to all accredited media members and will continue to be available for use by reporters during future seasons.
IBM and the league expect that NLFMedia.com will ultimately be of most benefit to fans, by providing more insightful, nuanced coverage by the sports media. After all, Dunderdale said, "The information is every football junkie's dream."