The New York Times’ Brooks Barnes reports on the most advanced merger of video game technology and television sports coverage seen since Sean Salisbury’s tenure as technical advisor to the “Leisure Suit Larry” series.

Boiled down, the complex technology, which will make its debut this Sunday on ESPN™s popular œNFL Countdown program, involves using an Electronic Arts™ title ” say Madden NFL 09 ” with specialized digital camera equipment in the studio. Presto: Both real and virtual people move around the ESPN set to demonstrate plays and possible situations.

And the sports behemoth has more ambitious plans down the road. Instead of using the technology, called EA Sports Virtual Playbook, to tell viewers what to look for before games, ESPN wants to use it in reverse to play the ultimate Monday morning quarterback.

Using real information from a game, ESPN anchors could reprogram an actual sequence to show, for example, what would have happened had Peyton Manning thrown right instead of left.

I’m all for giving professional second-guessers all sorts of high powered tools, but I don’t understand why, if this technology exists, the real Peyton needs to risk life and limb in the first place.  Somewhere at this very moment, there’s a bet being placed on a computer-generated horse race.  If ESPN were to televise simulated NFL games in lieu of say, “E:60”, who’s to say the public’s imagination wouldn’t be captured?