Friday, July 6, 2012
First Down Laser Systems could help save athletes from injuries
NFL games involve more than physical play. From the league standpoint, they're about time and money as well. How do the games fit in the television window, and how can revenues be maximized?
Implementing the Green Laser Line to indicate first downs would provide an earnings opportunity through sponsorships while cutting the length of games.
The Green Laser Line (First Down Laser Systems, LLC) makes the first down line (or line to gain, in NFL parlance) visible on the field to players, coaches, and fans. That group, which creates the stadium experience enjoyed by the television audience, doesn't get the benefit of seeing and utilizing for strategic purposes the yellow line superimposed for viewers at home.
"The two most important lines on the field are the goal line and the first down line and only one of them is clearly marked," says Alan Amron, the laser's developer.
So where do time and money factor in? First, the NFL continues to use the "chain gang" to measure first downs. It's a bit of a cumbersome process, as the field officials call time out and signal for the chains, which then must be brought to the ball, marked for accurate placement, and stretched. Is it dramatic? Not so much anymore. Not with the yellow line making relatively clear on the television side whether or not the ball crossed the plane. Could it be enhanced? The laser system would be faster.
"I think a laser on the field would be a benefit from a player's standpoint, a coach's standpoint, and the fans' standpoint," says Jim Fassel, coach of the United Football League's Las Vegas Locomotives. He witnessed an in-stadium demonstration of the Green Laser Line staged for the UFL two years ago.
Time and money. A sponsorship should be easy enough to sell, and lucrative. NFL teams averaged a little more than 311 first downs each during the 2011 season. Obviously some of those were awarded after measurements and on other occasions the team failed to convert after a measurement. If there were an average of 2.5 measurements a game, the 256 games played during the regular season would offer 640 sponsorship opportunities during which everyone's attention is completely focused.
With NFL teams having voted to begin adding Wi-FI services to their stadiums, fans in-house will often be streaming video to their phones and tablets. Why should they see something on television that they cannot see in the building they've paid handsomely to enter?
How does saving time help? The NFL recently announced it was changing the 4:15 p.m. ET Sunday kickoffs to 4:25 p.m. Games often run long, and the network carrying a doubleheader must switch games. That's no fun for the fans enmeshed in the final moments of the earlier contest. Shaving a few seconds here and there has always been a focus of the NFL's competition committee, which had seen Monday night games running almost 90 seconds longer early last season than they had in 2010.
"In researching the kickoff time shift, the NFL analyzed games for the 2009-11 seasons and found that 44 games required part of the audience to be switched to a mandatory doubleheader game kickoff," the NFL said in a statement. "With a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff, that number would have been reduced 66 percent to only 15 games."
The NFL had previously added instant replay review for all plays involving turnovers, which may also slow down play and add interruptions."It possibly could," says Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons president and chairman of the league's competition committee. "When you see it, it feels like it could slow the game down because you are taking what could be a challenge and taking it upstairs for confirmation." They try to speed it up, but then they slow it down.
They add technology, but stay rooted in the past where the chains are involved.The Green Laser Line can help. Green means go. It also means more green for the NFL.
For more information about First Down Laser System, please visit http://www.firstdownlaser.com/