In the United States, football is a major pastime. Kids play Pop Warner football, some progress to high school football, some of those play college football, and a select few play professional football in either the NFL or CFL. And on the last Sunday in January, people all over the world gather to watch the Super Bowl, the championship game of American professional football.

One of the main objectives in American football -- and a necessary one to score points -- is to gain a first down. In order to get a first down, the offense must gain 10 yards within a series of four plays. One problem that football players and officials have always had to deal with is how to measure the 10 yards needed. Even with all of our technology, the NCAA and the National Football League still uses a length of metal chain attached between two poles!


Photo courtesy SporTVision
SporTVision's "1st and Ten" line

Television viewers have always been at a disadvantage in knowing where the first-down line is in reference to where the offense is. A small arrow located below the end pole isn't usually visible on the television screen. But if you've watched any football games in the last few years, you probably noticed the fluorescent yellow or orange line extending from one side of the field to the other -- seemingly painted on the field. In fact, the line is computer generated, representing exactly the spot that the offense must get to for a first down.

Sportvision, a company based in New York City, debuted its "1st and Ten" system on September 27, 1998, and football fans everywhere rejoiced! Sportvision provides ESPN and Fox Sports with the ability to enhance their football telecasts with this technology (you can view images from actual games that used the first-down line on their Web site). In this article, we'll look at how the 1st and Ten system works.