Birth of The First and 10 Line

Filmstudy Birth of The First and 10 Line

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Ravens Part of TV Broadcasting History

The Ravens played their first home nationally-televised game on September 27th, 1998 versus the Bengals.

That week 4, Sunday Night contest had notable highs and lows:

–The Ravens jumped out to a 21-0 lead on a big first half from Priest Holmes, who would finish with 173 yards on 27 carriers.
Eric Zeier would deliver the best start of his career with 254 passing yards and a 133 QB rating.
Jermaine Lewis caught 4 passes for 122 yards including a 73-yard TD.
–Lewis also returned a punt 87 yards for the final Ravens TD.
Michael McCrary registered consecutive sacks, the first of which knocked Neil O’Donnell from the game (he was replaced by Jeff Blake).
–The Ravens let the Bengals back in the game with a Zeier fumble, 2 pass interference calls on DeRon Jenkins, a 67-yard TD pass where Jenkins was unable to stay with Carl Pickens, and a 136-yard rushing effort from Corey Dillon.
–The game remained in doubt until CB Rod Woodson registered a diving PD to deny 4th and 1 (Q4, 1:46).

The Ravens prevailed 31-24 to even their record at 2-2 going into their bye.

The other historical first was the introduction of the yellow first-down line, which made its debut that game.

Just before kickoff (from the 30-yard line), with the line superimposed on the 32-yard line, Mike Patrick intoned:

“To help you better enjoy our Sunday Night coverage, ESPN unveils its latest technical innovation on tonight’s game. It’s ESPN’s first and 10. The gold colored line you’ll see appears to be painted on the field, but it’s really being electronically generated by us. It’s a visual reference so you always know the yard line an offense has to reach for a first down. While it is accurate to one-tenth of a yard, it won’t be used to question official’s marks or measurements. It is purely to help you enjoy and understand the game. ESPN’s first and 10…we think you’re going to like it.”

There have been a number of innovations to football broadcasting over the years, but this ranks up there with continuous clock/score/timeouts. Those 360-degree cameras they set up for Super Bowl XXXV never really caught on. I wouldn’t even call many of the pass-plotting graphics as significant. Only the DirecTV Sunday package and the introduction of HD stand clearly above the first-and-10 line as an innovation from my perspective.

What will be the next quantum leap for NFL broadcasting?

I’ve got 3 things I want to see:

1. Helmet chips for every player that provide instantaneous on-field personnel.
2. Player cam (which is now available for Nascar and European Soccer) that allows viewers to have separate screens for key matchups.
3. Real-time top view and all-22 (the 2 angles provided as “Coaches” video on NFL Game Pass).

Ravens all 22

With the exception of bandwidth, I can’t see a practical constraint to providing any of these.

Getting back to 1998…

On the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage, the late Michael Jackson caught a 17-yard pass and became the first player ever to register a first down with the first-and-ten line projected on the screen.

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick


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