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Speedometer puts Bush near Bolt levels

October 12, 2008|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

Everyone knows Reggie Bush has speed, but did you know he now has a speedometer?

During its broadcast of last Monday's game between New Orleans and Minnesota, ESPN used some nifty optical-tracking technology to show the Saints star reached a top speed of 22 mph on one of his two punt returns for touchdowns.

It was the first time the network used radar-like technology to create a speedometer for football, and it could eventually become a standard statistic, just as we've grown to expect the graphic that shows us the speed of a baseball pitch.

"We had it geared for that game for both Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush," said "Monday Night Football" producer Jay Rothman. "If we got a long play from either of them, we wanted to put in perspective how fast they were moving."

If you don't think 22 mph sounds that fast, consider this: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt averaged 23.07 mph over 100 meters when he took the gold medal with his blistering 9.69-second performance in the Olympics. That's according to, which also translated the times of star runners Maurice Greene (21.0 mph in the indoor 60 meters), Michael Johnson (20.71 in the 400) and Florence Griffith Joyner (21.32 in the 100), among others.

Yes, those speeds are averages over the distance, as opposed to Bush's top speed at a given point. But those runners also weren't carrying a football and saddled with a helmet and pads.

"We also wanted to be able to see his acceleration," Rothman said of the graphic, which changed in real time like a car speedometer. "Not just his top speed, but to be able to see the speed as he was cooking down the field and making people miss."

Before this season, Rothman and others from the network traveled around the country conducting focus groups to determine what viewers really wanted. He said they can't get enough technology -- as long as that technology has relevance and isn't just a gimmick.

So what's next? An idea Rothman has been toying with is clocking the speed of a Brett Favre laser-beam throw, then translating that into how fast it would be were he a major league pitcher.

This week, ESPN is broadcasting the New York Giants-Cleveland Browns game. No word on whether it can measure how fast Derek Anderson's star is falling.


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