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A Throwback look at technology; how we watch the game.



As we get ready for throwback weekend, I've been making some videos of past Bucs/Packers games. Sometimes I look at these games so much that I lose sight of how much has changed in the world of football from when I first started watching.  In this side by side comparison, lets look at some of the differences, big or small. The image on the left is 1981 Green Bay at Tampa Bay. The one on the right is from the last time we played the packers, 2008.


  • 16x9 vs 4x3- The first difference hits you right in the face, todays game is filmed in high definition which mostly comes in a 16x9 format. This is only if your watching the HD version though, otherwise your still looking at a standard definition picture, your still getting the 4x3 version. With the switch to digital signals this year, more and more people will get to check out an HD football game, which is what the digital signal will give you. If you havn't seen a football game or any sporting even in HD yet, it is amazing and will change your whole world, its that  different of an you can see from the photo above.
  • First down markers- The yellow line that is computer generated on the field was created by a company called Sportvision. The New York City based company revolutionized the way we watch the game first in an ESPN game between the Bengals and Ravens on 9/27/1998; hard to believe this has been around for its 12th season huh? Of course its only been universal in half that time, and we are told all the time that the yellow line is not 100% accurate, but boy when someone crosses it it sure seems like they got a first down huh? 
  • Text and Graphics- The "3rd down and 6" looks so primitive doesnt it? Yet at the time that was state of the art, along with John Madden being able to draw on the  game! Today, the down and distance are as part of the field as the yellow first down line, if not more so, which really leads to a non-intrusive image that we watch.
  • Score Ticker- This basic part of the football telecast does not even owe its origin to football, or at least our football! It does to the ticker began as part of the World Cup coverage, or at least that is the popular origin. Truth is, ABC used a score bug in its 1994 Purolator 500 NASCAR event, and again during the 1994 Indianapolis and Brickyard races. But it was the use in the 1994 World Cup that really sprung it..because up until then, US coverage for soccer games was not exactly highly regarded due to our constant commercial breaks that miss action in a game that really doesn't stop for TV timeouts like football does. Well problem solved, as ABC ran commercial banners from the score bug, and the rest is history. Fox called theirs the FoxBox, and now that is a long banner that goes at the top of the screen, or sometimes at the bottom. Its now hard to believe there was a time when all that info wasn't shown all the time!                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  • Audio- And finally, what good is a great picture when it sounds like its coming from a little tiny transistor radio! Since the first televised football games, the audio has now come with secondary channels that provide different language (SAP), and full surround sound that when listened to with a good audio system, has you swearing your at the game listening to every little sound from the field, stands, and more! 


One can only imagine what engineers will come up with for the future; I'm waiting for the day the  ball has something in it that is picked up by lasers that mark the endzone. Any part of the ball crosses the goalline, and its confirmed; TD. Of course unless knee pads have sensors too, someone will always say " He was down"!!!

The more things change...