CNBC’s Darren Rovell spoke with an inventor that has patented a device that would replacement for those line-to-gain chains currently used at all levels of competitive football — and allow fans in the stadium to see that yellow first down line you only see on TV.It is called the “First Down Laser System” and it’s exactly as it sounds. A laser is shot across the field that can be seen by both the fans watching on TV and those in the stands.
You can see the laser demonstrated here.
According to Rovell, Alan Amron, the inventor, has spoken with the NFL about using his device during a preseason game next year (however there is no indication that the NFL will use the device during any games).
The benefit of the device, according to Amron, is eliminating the need for chain crews to jog on to the field. This in turn would save the league millions of dollars in potential advertising revenue. Amron estimated that total at $325 million for the 2009 season.
But there are problems with this device…
First of all, the device looks clunky and heavy attached to the first-down marker. This will undoubtedly slow the game down. On any first down, a referee cannot make the ball ready for play until the chains are set. If the chains are heavy, it will take the chain crew extra time to run to the new spot. This will be especially problematic on long plays and will almost certainly negate any time saved from the one or two measurements eliminated during a game.
Amron says that in order for a player’s eyes to be exposed to the laser (potentially causing damage), “a player would have to fall on the ground and look to the side and up.” Yeah, because football players never fall to the ground. OK, then.
We could probably stop there, but let’s do one more.
More importantly, and this is speaking as a high school football official, fans love the chains. More accurate ways of measuring first downs are not new. And yet, the chains still persist at the highest levels. Why? Because fans love the is-it-or-isn’t-it drama that occurs when those chains trot onto the field.
It would be nice if fans at the stadium had similar access to the first-down line seen on TV. And maybe someday the NFL will move to a more advanced way of measuring first-downs. But this isn’t the answer. And it won’t happen anytime soon.
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