This season marks the 20th anniversary of the yellow first-down line, televised football’s single greatest innovation since instant replay. The yellow line has become invaluable, and more than that, has become a friend. And now apparently it’s not good enough anymore???
Last night on Sunday Night Football, NBC debuted the “Green Zone,” which on third downs digitally turns the field a slightly darker shade of green between the line of scrimmage and where they need to reach to gain a first down. So ... it shows you the same thing the yellow line does, which is itself the same thing the first-down marker does, but is, apparently, perfect for viewers who found both of those just too confusing.
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to enter the Green Zone:
My first impressions are alternately that it’s pretty soothing on the eyes, and also completely unnecessary. Where’s my yellow line?? I emailed Fred Gaudelli, producer of Sunday Night Football and a legit television genius, and told him I’m just not seeing the need for this.
Gaudelli replied: “[The Green Zone] was developed primarily for the Skycam view, which we think makes it easier to gauge how far the ball carrier has past the LOS and has gotten close to the first down line—something that isn’t easy from that perspective. We really liked it and decided to adapt it for third down on the conventional play-by-play cameras. Again, maybe a tad quicker realization how close he is to the first down—think we had a couple of good examples of that last night.”
I told Gaudelli I still wasn’t convinced, though I recognize that I would side-eye just about any change to what I’m used to. He followed up:
“[W]e don’t profess that it’s better than the yellow line—we see it as a complement, or evolution, of the yellow line. Throughout development I was referring to it as the ‘First-and-10 Line 2.0.’ We picked green because we didn’t want it to be distracting, yet we need it to be distinctive. I think we accomplished both.”
Is Gaudelli convincing you at all? Or does it still feel like unnecessarily messing with perfection? Or is this going to play out for you like it almost surely will for me: I’ll be slightly annoyed for roughly two weeks, then cease to notice it at all, and by October I’ll be unable to remember a time when the Green Zone didn’t exist.