FIFTY, IN FOOTBALL, means Mike Singletary, good field position and the best possible seat for a spectator. But bear in mind, as the NFL celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl with those golden number 50s on each stadium's 50-yard line—that 50 is only halfway to the house, and football's real magic number is 100.
The field, of course, is 100 yards long, and a 100-yard game remains the standard of excellence for a running back or receiver. Every number from 00 to 99—Jim Otto to Warren Sapp—has been worn by an NFL player, but never that sacrosanct figure: 100. Rendered as a Roman numeral, 100 is C, which might as well stand for Change, because the NFL will see an extraordinary amount of it in the 50 years leading up to Super Bowl 100. And what a beautiful visual that is—100—the skinny QB of the 1, sneaking behind the two rotund blockers of the zeroes.
With that number in mind, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and Wired are debuting a joint project this week called Super Bowl 100. Throughout the season the two magazines and our websites—SI.com and Wired.com—will explore, in stories and in video, the enormous changes that football will see over the next five decades. The revolution is already under way in player training and tracking, data analysis, stadium and equipment design, and the treatment and prevention of concussions—all leading to a vast array of technological marvels that will make the league, 50 years from now, resemble the love child of Georges Halas and Lucas.
By the time the MVP of Super Bowl 100 is given the keys to his flying car, we won't know what hit us, though virtual reality will allow us to feel as if we've just been hit by the gunner on a kickoff team. Speaking of which, our series kicks off here with an exploration of how far athletes might one day go to get an edge. (Data-tracking implants, anyone?) Our series will conclude just before Super Bowl 50 in February, when SI and Wired will publish a sci-fi dispatch from Super Bowl 100, in the year 2066.
For the moment, however, we remain rooted in the right now, with nearly 50 Super Bowls down and nearly 50 Super Bowls to go, which puts us at a metaphorical midfield, the proper place for the coin flip that gets this whole show started. Call it in the air.
ROAD MAP TO THE FUTURE
Look for new entries in the Super Bowl 100 series, presented by Gatorade and Microsoft Surface, at SI.com/SB100 and Wired.com/SB100
Chapter 1, Oct. 7 TRAINING
Chapter 2, Oct. 28 EQUIPMENT
Chapter 3, Nov. 18 STADIUMS
Chapter 4, Dec. 9 CONCUSSIONS
Chapter 5, Dec. 16 MEDIA
Chapter 6, Dec. 30 VIRTUAL REALITY
Chapter 7, Jan. 6 NFL AND SOCIETY
Chapter 8, Jan. 13 PLAYER TRACKING, DATA
Chapter 9, Jan. 20 STRATEGY
Chapter 10, Jan. 27 SUPER BOWL 100