TV first-down line could be coming to NFL stadiums, too
BALTIMORE (AP) — Fans watching NFL games on television have grown accustomed to the imaginary yellow line that runs across the field in accord with the first-down marker. That first-down line could one day become part of the in-game experience at all 32 NFL stadiums. Alan Amron, with financial backing from former NFL player and broadcaster Pat Summerall, has developed the First Down Laser System. Amron said the system projects a first-down line across the field that can be seen in the stadium and on TV. The league is intrigued, but not completely sold on the idea — not yet anyway. "The NFL is our prime customer at this point," Amron said, "and if we can make something that they like, maybe the NCAA and Canadian Football League will follow suit." Amron first met with the NFL in 2003 and again in 2009. There may soon be future meetings. "They give me different opinions and suggestions along the way," Amron said. "We comply with them and come back. They tell me it took them years and years to implement replay and the overhead cam. The NFL right now has made it very clear to us that they didn't want to eliminate the chains, but augmenting them wouldn't be a bad idea."
Although the idea of running pass patterns to the orange sticks on third (and fourth) down is nearly as fundamental to the game of football as is the notion of not handing the ball to an opposing player and wishing him a Happy Hanukah, it's not always easy for a guy in the middle of the field to check the sidelines for the specific line to gain during the play.
There's a company out there that's trying to change this, through the use of a green laser beam that would be visible to the players, the officials, the fans in the stands, and the television audience.
First Down Laser Systems, LLC developed several years back a system for projecting a first-down line onto the field.
The device was supposed to be tested this year in the CFL, but labor problems with the television broadcasts have placed it on the back burner. The company hopes to introduce the thing on a full-time basis in the CFL, NFL, and NCAA.
We like it, and we think it makes sense to use it.
NEW YORK -- Pat Summerall is trying to talk the NFL into a new method of measuring first downs.
Summerall, a former receiver and kicker and a broadcaster for more than 40 years, is proposing a laser-based system that projects a green stripe onto the field to mark the exact spot of a first down. It's similar to the yellow line used by networks but would be visible to players and fans in the stadium, as well as TV viewers.
Summerall's presentation at the owners meetings view it as a long-term project at best.
Alan Amron, the inventor, thinks the laser could be tested in preseason games this summer.
Coaches talk to quarterbacks through speakers in their helmets. They fax photos from the press box to the field to better analyze defenses. But what happens when a team closes in on a first down? Out trots the chain gang, bearing its low-tech implements to measure 10 hard-earned yards.
Pat Summerall wants to see the game move forward. The longtime NFL broadcaster (and former player), in conjunction with First Down Laser Systems (www.firstdownlaser.com), spoke to NFL officials last week in Phoenix about a new system of a different stripe — a green stripe projected from an in-stadium bank of lasers to mark the line to gain for first downs.
It's similar to the yellow line superimposed on the TV image for home consumption, but it's visible to the players and fans in the stadium as well, under the lights or in bright sunshine.
"From what I've seen," Summerall says, "it would be hard not to be a believer."
Tests were conducted at Texas Stadium in Irving with members of the Arena Football League Dallas Desperados drilling on the field while lasers lit up the first-down line. The NFL's competition committee looked at this innovation at two meetings and discussed its practical and cosmetic effects.
Testing could begin at preseason games in August, Amron says. A decision may come when owners meet. Giants Stadium is one possible venue because, with the New York Giants and Jets as tenants, it is host to four preseason games.