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NFL Referees Use Microsoft Surface at Hall of Fame Game

August 4, 2017, 12:21 PM UTC

The National Football League Hall of Fame game between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys Thursday night also was the Microsoft Surface’s debut as the refs’ new best friend, as noted by tech news site Geekwire.

As Sports Illustrated reported last April, football refs will use the Surface tablets in lieu of the traditional “under the hood” monitors to review plays during the game.

This is part of a five-year deal inked by Microsoft (MSFT) and the league in 2014. In return for Microsoft’s $400 million, the league is promoting use of the Surface tablet during games. Last year, players and coaches used the surface instead of the traditional printouts of plays.

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Reviews were mixed last year. New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick had issues with the Surface (or the balky wireless connections) causing him to chuck his device. Microsoft responded that stadiums with obstructions and dueling wireless networks, along with sometimes tough weather conditions, make it hard for technology to function flawlessly.

Related; Live From Fenway Park. How MLB Serves Up Stats

Major League Baseball has a similar deal in place with Apple (AAPL) to put iPads in the hands of coaches. Last year, Chicago Cubs coach Joe Madden had his own Belichickian moment with his iPad.

There were no reports of big problems with the new set up but news site Arizona Sports predicted trouble to come for officials who are, after all, already easy targets for irate fans.

Up till now, the officials viewed the replay from the (relative) privacy of a shrouded monitor. Now they will watch Surface tablets held up by someone else within view of TV cameras—at least that was the case for Thursday’s Hall of Fame game. Talk about opening up a hornet’s next of second guessing.

“Replay reviews will still occur in New York with the in-game officials lending their input, but allowing a national audience to see the angles (are they the right angles?) of the replay reviews doesn’t seem like a good idea,” according to Arizona Sports.

Oh, the Cowboys defeated the Cardinals 20-18.