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Holy Crap, The Yellow First Down Line On TV Has Been Around For Only 10 Years?

It’s hard to believe, but it was only 10 years ago – September 24, 2000 to be exact –  ESPN rolled out a brand-spanking new technology they dubbed “1st and Ten” for a Sunday Night Football telecast of a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens (the Bengals lost the game 37-0, by the way, revealing that the more things change…).

From a recap of the one small step for technology, one giant leap for glowing yellow lines on your television screen, courtesy of Sports Business Daily (via the always excellent The Slanch Report):

During this Sunday night’s Bengals-Ravens game, ESPN will use new technology called “1st and Ten,” which will give viewers a view of the line offenses must reach for a first down. The technology, developed by NY-based SporTVision Systems in conjunction with ESPN, will display a yellow line at the first down marker, and will be used for all offensive downs on all remaining Sunday night games (ESPN). ESPN will have exclusive rights to the system for one year, after which other TV outlets will have the chance to use it (DAILY VARIETY, 9/25). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes that “1st and Ten” could be seen on ABC’s NFL playoff and college bowl games, and to “expect all networks to use it” next year (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). ESPN will go from two to three production trucks for Sunday night games to handle “1st and Ten” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/25). USA TODAY’s Rudy Martzke reports that ESPN is investing “more than” $1M on the project (USA TODAY, 9/25). But ESPN spokesperson Rob Tobias told THE DAILY that Martzke’s figure is “greatly exaggerated” (THE DAILY). In S.F., Susan Slusser writes that the NFL, “which had to give approval to the project, has expressed concern about possible second-guessing of officials.” Slusser also writes to “expect more gimmicks soon: SporTVision is currently working on products for golf and baseball telecasts” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/25).

Ha. Concerns over potential second-guessing of officials…that’s rich. How innocent and unspoiled we all were during those halcyon days of yore.

Surprisingly, the reaction by analysts wasn’t the typical “The Sky Is Falling” mantra which typically comes with anything new and different, although many of the fears dealt with concerns it would be similar to the glowing puck from NHL infamy:

REAX: In Cincinnati, John Fay writes that the line “won’t change the future of broadcasting. But it’s not a gimmick like Fox’s glowing puck.” Fay writes that a taped sample found the line noticeable, but “it should not be distracting” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 9/25). In Hartford, Jeff Goldberg writes that it “seems a good idea … unless people find themselves staring at the little yellow line instead of the game” (HARTFORD COURANT, 9/25). On Long Island, Steve Zipay writes that his “initial impression was that the line is far less obtrusive than the score-time-quarter box. …And it’s understated. It doesn’t move or leave a trail like the FoxTrax puck” (NEWSDAY, 9/25). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley calls it “favorable,” noting that it “will be interesting to see what the line will disclose when the refs call for a measurement” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/25). In Chicago, Ed Sherman wonders, “What will they think of next? A glowing puck?” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/25).

Ten freaking years. Jesus, what did we do before this came along? And look how far we have come since then. It’s a beautiful thing, technology.

/wipes away tear
//hums Kip’s “Always and Forever” song

The Yellow First Down Line Turns Ten [The Slanch Report]
ESPN LOOKS FOR TECHNOLOGICAL FIRST DOWN WITH NEW FEATURE [Sports Business Daily]

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