How The NFL’s Yellow First Down Line Really Works

As you watched Super Bowl LI and followed the New England Patriots on their wild ride to their fifth Super Bowl win you no doubt, at some point, wondered how that yellow first down line kept moving so you could keep track of the action.

Well, the Emmy award winning technology was created by the same engineers who devised the glowing hockey puck technology that was once used in NHL games to help viewers keep track of the often difficult to find the puck on the TV screen. Unfortunately, it was maybe a little ahead of its time. Fans complained that it was too gimmicky so it was scrapped.

However, the inventors took what they learned from that failure and formed a new company called Sportvision Inc. which is where they created the 1st & Ten line. The 1st & Ten line was first broadcast during ESPN’s coverage of a Cincinnati Bengals-Baltimore Ravens game on September 27, 1998, and the rest is history.

Check out this video explaining the history of the Yellow Line and the technology behind it.

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.