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Getting the N.F.L.’s Big Picture Out of Any Screen


How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Ken Belson, who covers football, discussed the tech he’s using.

So the N.F.L. season is in full swing. What are your favorite websites or tech tools for tracking stats, scores, games and players?

Each morning, I read through a few football websites, like ProFootballTalk, that include good summaries and commentaries of the biggest stories. Since I cover the league nationally, rather than a single team, I’m looking for information about whatever story is resonating around the country. The travails of Antonio Brown are a good example. But there are any number of other leaguewide issues.

Twitter, of course, is invaluable, though you can get lost in the feeds. I subscribe to several newsletters that also summarize stories. Those pop into my inbox early in the day — as well as plenty of email queries from my editors.

And my iPhone is with me everywhere. Sports is a 24-hour news cycle, and the phone has kept me in the loop more times than I can count. I’ve written entire stories on it in a pinch, including while overseas.

What about your favorite tech tools for finding out things that the N.F.L. doesn’t want you to know?

This depends on what I’m working on. When the details of the concussion settlement — in which the league settled claims that it concealed what it knew about the dangers of repeated hits to the head — were being hashed out in court, I often checked the docket of the federal court in Philadelphia. The administrator of the settlement also posts information online.

Sources also send cases they’ve filed or research they’ve published. Sports Litigation Alert is also a great storehouse of cases.

Are you a cord cutter? Lots of people have cut the cord, but one reason people keep their cable subscriptions is to watch sports.

I still have cable at home to watch games. I’ve watched games on my laptop, but the screen is too small to watch for too long. I’m usually checking other games on my cellphone. I don’t watch RedZone, which shows when teams are within 20 yards of the end zone.

Generally, I pick one game a weekend to watch — usually the Sunday night game — if I’m home. But there are so many replays and highlights, it’s easy to catch up if I’ve missed a game that includes something notable.

Do you play fantasy football?

I’ve played fantasy football on and off for about 20 years, starting when I lived in Japan. When I began covering the N.F.L. full time in 2013, I joined a fantasy league with friends in the office to help keep track of which players and teams are doing well. I cover the draft in April, so I have a decent idea of who the good rookies are, and I follow the games just enough to decide who’s worth drafting. But I also lean heavily on my nephew, who is in several leagues and keeps far better track of the players than I do.

And how are you doing this season?

We finished second last season out of a dozen teams. This season, we’re leading our division, and our only loss was by one point. Not so bad so far. Our strategy was to focus on running backs. Our sleeper pick was Aaron Jones of the Packers.

Outside of work and sports, what tech product do you love?

I use Entrain to calculate hours of sleep to get over jet lag. And Qello, which has great vintage rock videos, something an N.F.L. friend showed me.

What’s your home entertainment setup like? Is it important to you to have a fancy TV and good speakers? Are you the go-to friend for hosting Super Bowl parties?

Nothing fancy when it comes to television. I spend more time checking highlights online, especially if there is a play that is going to lead to a suspension or controversial penalties, things that I often have to write about.

I don’t attend Super Bowl parties, because I attend the games. I arrive in the Super Bowl city more than a week in advance to report on the buildup to the game. By the time the game arrives, I’m relieved the long week and season are coming to an end. The game, though, goes by in a blur because I’m on deadline and spend my time typing, which leaves me little time to enjoy the game like a fan.

Is there anything that tech ruins about the sports-viewing experience?

Yes! The endless commercials and gimmicks on television ruin the sports viewing experience. So does all the artificial noise in stadiums. I find this distracting and unneeded. Fans know when to get excited. They don’t need to be told.


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