The Yellow Line

I’m not much of a sports fan. I like baseball and tennis, but I don’t have cable so I only watch either occasionally (though I’m very excited for the Nationals this year). I hardly ever watch football; not even the Super Bowl. I like the yellow line, though. This piece about sports graphics made me think about it again.

My sister’s husband, Tom, invented the yellow line, you see. Well, he probably didn’t invent invent it, but he worked for one of the companies that was doing sports graphics when the yellow line came about and (I think) has a patent on it. He’d go to games and sit in the production van and run the program that drew the first down line onto the field. There was a lot of math involved, making sure that it looked good as the sun and shadows changed the color of the field during the game. Making sure it didn’t bleed onto the players. He wasn’t even a football fan, Tom, but he found it to be an interesting problem.

Years after he left that job, we’d be somewhere where football was on, and sometimes he’d comment on how his version of the line was better than the one being used on that particular broadcast. Not in a bragging way, just in the sort of way that said, “Oh, I had that problem they’re having, and I figured it out.”

We lost Tom to cancer last year, but whenever I happen to see that yellow line, it makes me think of him, in that production van, not caring much about the sport but trying to put on a good show. 🏈

David Ely @davextreme