NBC telecast displays digital yardage numbers

Denver’s Snowy Field Was No Match for NBC’s Innovation

For its broadcast of last night’s snow-covered clash between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, NBC debuted a feature that allowed them to display yard numbers on top of the field when the on-field numbers and yard lines were obscured by all the white stuff.

The network uses similar technology to display the first-down and scrimmage lines shown on most major football broadcasts. No word yet on whether or not the faux digits helped CJ Anderson score the game-winning touchdown for the Broncos, but they sure helped Patriots fans at home see the exact moment at which their undefeated dream drifted away into the winter night.

This is straight out of the Hogwarts School of Football Broadcasting. These TV people can do all kinds of techno-alchemy with football fields these days, and I’m glad they’re using their immense power for good. Sure, these numbers aren’t exactly perfect. And God’s will is to cover up the numbers with His dandruff, so Al Michaels might be going to Hell for this. But imagine what this technology could mean. A giant FanDuel ad in the middle of the field. A CGI Chevy truck driving around the sideline. CBS could have Sheldon Cooper and the Big Bang Theory crew in the huddle with Brock Osweiler.

So thank you, NBC, for showing restraint. With great power to put cool things on a football field comes great responsibility to avoid uncool things that make the football-watching experience worse. Even though it cut into to the Robert Frostian beauty of a snowy game, it made my yelling at the TV a lot more informed. And that’s something we can all get behind.


Raynell Cooper is a writer who was mentored by Robert Frost. You should follow him on Twitter.