Oct 14, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; The chain gang during a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Cleveland won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

NFL First Down line: Where it Came from and What's in Store


Sportvision revolutionized football broadcasting with their implementation of the first down line. According to Amanda May’s Sports Illustrated Magazine article, in the September 2nd issue, Sportvision invented the “1st & Ten” computerized yellow line that debuted for ESPN back in 1998. The article describes the process as turning the football field into a giant “green screen”. In fact, much more than the yellow line is displayed on TV now. We get to see down and distance, red zone stats, and many other innovations that help even the non-football fan to appreciate the game better.

The article also goes into detail about future innovations, such as live player tracking. Similar to what was described in my article on the Catapult system, players would have small devices on them to track “not only the player’s trail of movement, but also his current speed, distance covered, and season stats.” There is no doubt that this would again revolutionize sports viewing. Just as Catapult can change the way players train, this new technology would change the way fans watch the game and scouts grade the game.

From the point of view of a football fan, there are many times that finding where the ball went is a real problem. No, there are no plans to put a device in the ball, but better information from the player’s positions would give better reaction time for the camera workers and other digital staff. Nothing is more frustrating than watching what some think is a running play is actually an extremely clever play-action pass. This would change that. Also, tracking where the player is going can be difficult for camera workers and football fans. This would ensure that the camera is trained on the ball-carrier.

Also, who wouldn’t love seeing that Adrian Peterson mowed over a safety running a similar speed to his 4.5 40 yard dash time. Fans would also get a kick over seeing Tom Brady run as fast as an offensive lineman. Or seeing how hard defensive linemen hit against offensive linemen. And I know I have often wondered how hard kickers kick the ball. If nothing else, it would definitely give the commentators more ammo to entertain fans with.

The article also talks about giving fans “second-screen experiences, where you can watch plays from different angles and play a live video game along with it.” As it stands now, smart phones and tablets are creeping more and more into the football-viewing experience. With this innovation, fans would be given such a complete view of each play that could even be translated to these devices.

Regardless of the future, the “1st & Ten” line is such an important part of the viewing experience. A game without it is difficult to watch for many viewers, especially considering how close players come to boundary lines. Inches are common determining factors in games. This technology helps to even the viewing playing field and give the fans a chance to stay on top of the action.

What do you think of this innovation? What would you like to see incorporated? Tell us below, on Twitter, or on Facebook!

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Tags: NFL