tabletgateFollowing a 20-18 AFC Championship loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field, the New England Patriots organization expressed displeasure with their Microsoft Surface tablets.  These devices are used to electronically illustrate previous player movements and formations.

On live television, a CBS sideline reporter stated that the devices were non-operational for roughly 20 minutes during the first half.  The tablets used by the Broncos were not affected.

Consensus opinion is that the problems originated from within “the network” and that the tablets themselves were not faulty.

Some quick takeaways:

*  A couple years ago, Microsoft paid the NFL approximately 400 million dollars for the exclusive rights to use their Surface tablets in a league-wide officially licensed game day capacity.   At first, it was a rocky relationship because many NFL commentators incorrectly referred to them as ipads.  From a marketing standpoint, I’d classify this as a public relations disaster.  Almost a half-billion invested and the announcers called the Surface tablet by the name of its chief competitor.  It goes to show that money isn’t always the answer.

*  Immediately following the tablet outage revelation, there was an explosion of activity on social media.  As media outlets and sports journalists waited for more accurate details, posts on twitter and facebook surged.  People chimed in from every direction conceivable.  If someone had a malicious, calculated agenda, this could represent a very exploitable real-time, real-world dynamic.  It’s one where unverified information could exponentially spin out of control.  Keep this in mind.  You’ll soon learn why it’s important.

*  Those Surface tablets weren’t the only wireless communication devices in the stadium.  The vast majority of the 77,122 sold out crowd (exceeding the normal capacity 76,125) was carrying an active cell phone.  Throw in another 1,000 individuals (employees, emergency personnel, media, etc.) and the number of wireless devices was likely in the realm of 75,000.

Now the Surface tablet fiasco is one thing.  But what if I told you there’s an even bigger problem regarding stadium wireless connectivity?  And nobody’s allowed to talk about it.  Not the media.  Not stadium management.  Not NFL security.  Not the billionaire owners.  When I say nobody, I really mean nobody.

I’m referring to the modern, technological equivalent of shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  But it’s more than a problem or some trivial dilemma.  This is an asymmetric, cyber-security threat of potentially epic magnitude.

Have you ever wondered why nobody is allowed to broach the subject?  Why isn’t this issue available for public consumption?  Well, there is a sound explanation grounded in voluntary admissions and hypothetical litigation.  But let’s keep it simple and just call it a massive catch-22 — if you acknowledge a problem, you own it.  And if something horrific happens, everyone who knew about it will be held to a greater degree of accountability.  Most lawyers refer to this as the “plausible deniability” argument.

Any solution to this problem would require one thing for certain.  Knowledge.  At the very least, it’s imperative to inform fans that something bad could be ATTEMPTED.  And for that, you’d need to have a basic contingency plan.  You’d require a heightened level of situational awareness.

If you wish to prevent an artificially generated stampede, it becomes necessary to divulge the truth.

People have a fundamental right to know…

that if they’re in a large, confined crowd and receive an evacuation order
and/or panic-inducing information from their cell phone or mobile device…

it’s almost certainly a malicious hoax designed to create an artificially generated stampede.
At a bare minimum, it’s necessary to tell fans that… “official emergency stadium evacuation orders would never be delivered via their personal cell phones.”  If an evac’s deemed absolutely necessary, incident command uses the public address in concert with the jumbotron/video monitors.

This established protocol is not open to debate.  You could directly ask the NFL but they’re unwilling to publicly field questions about procedural inconsistencies involving stadium evacuations.  Hardly a shock.

Call me a cynic, but I can assure you, we haven’t seen the last of the NFL scandals. Tabletgate is just one of many.  Spygate, bountygate, deflategate, the list goes on.  Concussions, domestic violence, steroids and HGH, DUI’s, weapons charges, the list continues.  I  suppose it just “comes with the territory.”

But what’s inexcusable is the NFL’s deliberate attempt to conceal critical, generic information about stadium safety.  This is not complex.  There is no role for cell phones during an initial evacuation phase.  Now if the NFL wants to use social media or text updates to provide information AFTER an evac is successfully completed, well… that would be at their discretion.  One thing is certain though.  The vast majority of fans have never given this material any serious consideration.

As I was saying, you have to devise a contingency plan for undesirable outcomes.  Much like Major League Baseball does for foul balls and broken bats.  We’ve witnessed other generic stadium security dilemmas remedied by the recent introduction of magnetometers and the “clear plastic bag” policy.  But the artificially generated stampede remains untouchable.

The biggest threat to the NFL is an undiscussable black swan — the prospect of artificially generated stampedes.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term “black swan,” google it.

Super Bowl 50 will be held on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, CA.  Levi’s Stadium  claims to be the most “technologically advanced” stadium, not just in the United States, but on the planet earth.  Over 1,200 wifi hubs in an area of less than a 1/2 square mile.  Forgive the hyperbole, but this isn’t advanced connectivity.  It’s ultra-hyper-extreme connectivity.

Earlier, we learned how money and greed trump knowledge and situational awareness.  Sometimes, it’s difficult for those with the most money to actually listen.  They won’t hear the message.  Not because they can’t.  Not because they won’t.  Merely because they don’t wish to.

If you require an additional “Super Bowl” explanation…