The implementation of the green zone on NBC broadcasts of NFL games is an exciting first step in taking sports broadcasts to the next level.

american sports

Television is a competitive industry. With an endless list of channels in every genre, attracting viewership is a tricky task that is essential to attracting advertisers to pay top dollar for commercial time on a network. Capitalizing, then, on events like NFL games is crucial to a network’s success. With national sports leagues’ gargantuan fan-base, airing an NFL game seems like it should be an easy ticket to grab onto a steady supply of viewers. Still, there’s competition in this arena, and NBC’s NFL broadcasts have stumbled onto a magic that has only begun to be exploited: the magic of the green zone.
When a team is on its third down, NBC projects the green zone on the field. This is a dark green patch showing how much distance is between the line of scrimmage and the yellow line denoting the position on the field the ball must be moved to earn that coveted first down. It’s a nice visual cue that a crucial down has been reached, but in its present form, is misused. This technology does, however, point to a promising future in graphic technology. The fact of the matter is NFL games can drag on, and graphics can help snag attention, but throwing a green patch on screen on third down is really nonsensical. Each down should have a unique color to indicate the importance of the play. Here is a full proposal.

First Down – “Red” Zone

red wooden surface
Now, this one is a bit tricky because fans shouldn’t be tricked into thinking a team is in the red zone that indicates proximity to the end zone. On first down, the yardage between the line of scrimmage and first down line should be red, because it’s not that big of a deal if the team doesn’t earn the first down on this down. There are several more attempts coming, so just like waiting at a red light in traffic, it’s okay to wait out this down.
Second Down – Orange Zone

football player holding football

Following the logic of the first down’s red zone, it’s not essential that a team earns the first down on their second down. Sure, it’s always nice to get a first down, but the orange zone would be a nice visual signal to audiences encouraging calm vibes, as there’s still plenty of time to get that first down.
Third Down – Yellow Zone

aerial photo of gray and white stadium
Now the pressure is on, if only slightly. Teams should charge through this yellow zone, much like a car races through a yellow light to get to work on time, teams will march through the yellow zone, ever-progressing to the end zone. It’s also a nice indication that all hope does not rest with the third down.
Fourth Down- Green Zone

sport stadium ball game
Alright, it’s fourth down. Conventional wisdom says to punt, but conventional wisdom is wrong. Teams that admit defeat and hand over the ball willy-nilly only show their lack of competitive spirit. This is a man’s game, right? Go out going for glory. Sure, the opposing team may end up with the ball in a better field position, but that’s why teams have defensive players. Have faith in the defense, and go for it on fourth down. Fourth down being green would subliminally indicate to fans that their teams should be going for the first down here, rather than taking a coward’s exit. Implementing this green zone could slowly change the landscape of professional football.
Whether this system is implemented or not, NBC’s implementation of the current green zone excellently highlights the room for growth in on-screen graphics during television broadcasts of major sporting events.

By: Dan Burkett
@DanielBurkett

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