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Is A “First Down Laser” Coming To An NFL Stadium Near You?

  • Glenn Davis

Just about everyone loves the yellow first down markers displayed on televised football games. In fact, they make the game so much easier to follow, and their use is so widespread, that it’s easy to forget they’re not actually there on the field. But if one enterprising soul has his way, that will change.

The man trying to better your life is named Alan Amron, who according to CNBC’s Darren Rovell has worked “for the better part of this decade” on developing the First Down Laser System (demo in the photo at left).

Amron met with the NFL seven years ago, and in the years since he’s changed the design so that the laser originates from a fixture placed on the bottom of the sideline first down markers (at the beginning, the design revolved around “projectors in stadiums mounted to light fixtures,” which was much more expensive).

But expensiveness is relative – Amron’s latest design will cost $100,000 per stadium (down from $300,000 originally). But he’s done his homework, and thinks if his system is implemented, the time saved from no longer having to run out on the field and measure first downs will more than make up for it:

“We estimate that the referees measure for a first down at least once per game, which is at the very least a minute and half. We looked at how much that was worth from preseason through the Super Bowl in advertising time and we came up with $325 million.”

That’s a lot. And if the figure would be even close to that in reality, the invention would be worth implementing ($100,000 x 32 stadiums = $3.2 million, about 1 percent of Amron’s estimated savings)…but only if it’s safe. Amron says it is:

[Amron] says that since the beam is slightly off the ground a player would have to fall on the ground and look to the side and up in order to get a direct laser hit that could lead to eye damage.

Doesn’t sound like something that would happen often, but the NFL will be worried about the potential of it ever happening…and given all their recent attempts to focus on player safety (and more recent incidents that make the league appear it’s not living up to its word), the league will be on high alert for any potential pitfalls.

One thing about the laser – technically, it’s not exactly like the yellow first down line you currently see on TV, because it’s not yellow…it’s green. We suspected that was so it would be less of a distraction to players, and asked Amron for clarification. He responded:

“[The color is] so not to distract the players, and the yag green colored laser is the easiest laser color in the spectrum on the human eye (as used in 90% of all car dash board lights) and the yag green color is a great contrast to the darker green playing fields.”

Whatever the color, if the NFL is convinced the laser is a safe time (and money) saver – and, as Rovell pointed out, it should enhance the experience of fans at games as well – then Amron has a real shot at getting the go-ahead. And if that happens, perhaps better than the added convenience for all involved, the phrase “first down laser” will enter the vernacular. And since anything with “laser” in it sounds badass, really, we’re all winners.