The history of sports networks making things on the field of play glow in order to make them easier to follow is lined with the graves of good intentions gone bad. Lest we remind you of FoxTrax, a.k.a. Fox’s Glow Puck technology that tried to make following the puck during NHL games easier but only ended up distracting and annoying audiences. It was considered, by one poll, to be one of the worst sports innovations of all time.
ESPN thinks they’ve figured out the key to making things glow during games: using the technology less-distractingly and sparingly. They’ll put their theory to the test this Saturday when they debut ESPN Virtual 3, which illuminates the 3-point line every time a player attempts a shot from beyond the three-point arc. You’ll be able to watch the three-point line glow for yourself when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the San Antonio Spurs at 8:30 p.m. ET during NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC.
How it works: The 3-point line will be illuminated in red during a possession where an offensive player is beyond the arc. If that player shoots a successful 3-point shot attempt, the 3-point line will remain illuminated. If the player misses the 3-point shot attempt, the illumination will end instantly.
Ultimately, the point of the illumination is to make it crystal clear when a shot is actually a three-point shot and when a player’s foot is actually on the line, making it good for only two.
Of course, the technology isn’t binding, which means in theory that referees could end up ruling differently than what the illumination says. It’s less about improving the game on the court than it is improving the viewing experience. Plus, if that did happen, it would give ESPN a fantastic talking point to use.
The glow is subtle and the red color isn’t terribly distracting, so it’s less likely to bother viewers than the glowing puck or something flashier. Will it make the game experience better? Check Twitter on Saturday night to find out.