Spoiler alert! If you need to keep current with all things football, look no further than NFL 2011. At least the iPad version, which delivers just about anything a football junky could want. Except, of course, for football. It’s free and so far hasn’t failed to deliver anything important I could have asked for.
At least not once I figured it out.
It’s the beginning of the school year this month and that means football. Not to imply a cause-effect relationship between school, of course. Both are triggered by the imminent arrival of fall. As fall arrives, parents are eager to get rid of their kids who have been driving them nuts all summer, and the temperature drops just enough that all those football players won’t collapse from the heat.
I debated whether or not to launch the fall reviews with education apps or football apps, and I realized that football is definitely more important in American culture and politics. After all, we all know that educational spending is under attack and Republicans and Tea Party activists want to slash it. Except for football. We can cut funding to basketball and baseball if we have to, certainly track and PE, but never football.
Democrats would never dream of cutting football from the education budget because that would just prove they’re wimps and commies. So instead they advocate for increased arts funding, which pretty much proves they’re wimps and commies anyway.
NFL 2011 won’t replace ESPN or Monday Night Football, but it certainly allows you to follow the sport without carrying your newspapers and Sports Illustrated with you. The NFL has also released an iPhone version, but I would consider it lightweight compared to the features available on the iPad.
On the surface NFL 2011 seems to parallel Major League Baseball’s At Bat 2011, but it isn’t quite as full featured. This is quite forgivable since football fans don’t seem to be quite as obsessed with statistics as baseball fans. Both take similar approaches, however. Both allow you to select your favorite team and use that as a launching point for browsing.
Unlike At Bat, which allows you to track as many as three teams, NFL 2011 only allows for one team favorite. This means I have to use the Redskins as my favorite team because the Redskins are “our” favorite team. Married guys whose wives aren’t football fans won’t understand this. But if you marry a football fan your love of, say, the 49ers and Michigan State will have to take second place to her love of the Redskins and UT football.
Just ask my brother in law Gary who no longer roots for the Razorbacks.
Once you identify yourself as a Redskins fan, however, nothing really happens. I can’t tell the difference between the app if I’m logged in as a Redskins fan, 49ers fan or fan of the evil but marginally incompetent empire (Cowboys).
This means that if I want to find my team on the schedule, I have to scroll through the teams to find it. If I want to find the final score on the schedule, I have to scroll through the teams to find it. Sure, the app tends to feed Redskins news links to the top of the list but, damn it all, I don’t want to have to scroll through the list to find the score.
Other than this one complaint, I’m really happy with NFL 2011. I ran a head-to-head comparison with the CBS Football app and by the time I reviewed the first Sunday’s games the following day, the NFL app moved a few yards into the lead.
NFL 2011 designers didn’t innovate the interface, but they didn’t skimp on features either. The home page shows each week’s schedule (or results), feeds current news links for the league and your team, shows video highlights and the standings for your team’s division. This puts you pretty much in control of your NFL news.
The home screen provides a handy control panel for mainlining your NFL news experience. You can jump between league news and game matchup comparisons.
The schedule links allow you to review game highlights and videos or compare the strengths of the two teams at this point in the season. You can actually break down the game by quarters to review the plays. NFL 2011 even color codes the plays and visually represents passing and running plays.
The live game update even depicts the plays graphically so that you can see at a glance if it was run, pass or kick. When the game’s over you can track the key plays as they developed on the field.
The app offers plenty of video highlights, far more than the competing CBS Football app. You can also add live audio streaming for $30 to cover the entire season.
The game schedules feature head-to-head comparisons of both teams’ offensive and defensive strengths at this point in the season—even for games in Week 16. It also tells which games are broadcast in which channels. Once the game is in progress you can actually see charts and highlights of the plays to that point while keeping track of other game scores in the same window.
You can anticipate any matchup based on how the teams are performing now. NFL 2011 provides team comparisons for any future game, and adds analysis the weekend going into the game
If this doesn’t satisfy your cravings, you can log in to nfl.com and follow blogs and tweets and vent your feelings about the game or stupid team trades.
It took me a while to figure out all the wrinkles of the interface. The developers weren’t too helpful with instructions or tutorials. And it would really be nice to be able to find your team quickly. But all in all, this app should keep most fans happy when they’re cut off from their TVs, and, if they have a 3G iPad, even when they’re cut off from the internet.
Jenny Manytoes rates NFL 2011
Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over NFL 2011. It needs a little work, but it’s free and it delivers almost every thing a football junky could want. Except, of course, for the game.
Or a tailgate party. Or a pickup truck to paint with your team colors. And body paint and razor so you can look like an ass during the game.
But pretty much everything else.