You know that yellow first down marker that TV networks superimpose across the width of the field during NFL games? For home viewers, it’s a handy guide for determining how close a player is to gaining a first down. In fact, if/when these same viewers get up off the couch long enough to visit an NFL stadium to see a game live, they often remark on the absence of said first down indicator. (Plus, the stadium washroom is so much farther away.)
Well, Alan Amron is here to alleviate your line withdrawal. (The bathroom thing, you’re on your own.) Amron is the inventor of the First Down Laser System, which looks an awful lot like those standard first down poles connected by a chain in use at all NFL games. But Amron’s version shoots a six-inch wide green laser beam across the field to the marker on the opposite sideline. This beam can be seen by players on the field, fans in the stands as well as those watching on TV from home or sports bar or wherever.
Amron, who has been working on variations of this system for a decade now, thinks his lasers could ultimately help speed up the games. If the sticks are positioned accurately, the referees would be able to determine whether or not the spotted ball is across the first down line without having to summon the chain gang to do that long trot on and off the field.
Of course, the NFL still needs to be sold on the wisdom of instituting the sticks, which cost $100k per pair. So Amron is pitching the time saved from avoiding the measuring delays, suggesting that the league could earn an extra $325m in ad revenue by running commercials. However, these extra ads could make the fans long for the chain gang, which at least had some connection to the actual contest being decided in front of them.
There’s one other wrinkle standing in Amron’s way. The FDA has yet to weigh in on whether the lasers pose any threat to players’ eyes. You’ll notice they don’t seem to care one way or the other about the ref’s eyes, but that’s probably because most people believe they’re already blind as a bat.