For football fans used to seeing a simulated first down line on their television screens, it may be easy to forget that players and spectators at the stadium don't have this luxury.
Instead, teams still rely on field judges and first down markers, which are helpful but imperfect.
Soon all this might change, as an entrepreneur with financial backing from former NFL player and broadcaster Pat Summerall is hard at work on a laser marker that could be a literal and figurative game-changer.
The businessman, Alan Amron, has developed and patented the First Down Laser System. Amron's invention projects a light green laser across the field which would be visible on TV as well as to players and fans. This laser wouldn't eliminate the chain gang, rather it would help the officials to more accurately measure ball placement.
Amron recently told the Associated Press that he has met with the NFL twice, in 2003 and 2009, and he made revisions to the laser idea after both meetings.
"They give me different opinions and suggestions along the way," Amron said. "We comply with them and come back. They tell me it took them years and years to implement replay and the overhead cam. The NFL right now has made it very clear to us that they didn't want to eliminate the chains, but augmenting them wouldn't be a bad idea."
While the officials normally get the ball placement correct, some argue that it would be best to eliminate the possibility of human error.
"A misplaced ball on a first-down measurement can mean the difference between winning and losing a game," Summerall told the Associated Press.
Summerall also thinks the laser could play a part in the NFL's drive to get fans off of their couches and into the stadiums. This new first down marker, along with super-sized video boards and better in-game technology, could significant enhance the league's in-stadium experience.
While the NFL has not committed to adding the laser marker, it has expressed interest in working with Amron.
"We have not been convinced that it would work for us," Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, told the Associated Press."But we are open to further discussion after the season."
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