On August 18, 1984, television screens across America flashed an image never before seen: a close overhead shot of the huddled San Francisco 49ers. The red-jerseyed football players appeared to be so near it seemed natural to try to hear quarterback Joe Montana calling the play. As the 49ers broke their huddle and squared off against the San Diego Chargers, CBS announcer Pat Summerall explained to the fans watching at home: "That rather unusual view is from something we call Skycam, which is a camera suspended on wires above the field. Very mobile. And that's all I can tell you about how it works."

Several press boxes down from Summerall's booth, hunched over the controls, sat Skycam's creator, Garrett Brown, 42, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips. This was not the first time he had come up with a revolutionary camera. His earlier creation, Steadicam, had won him an Oscar for technical achievement. But the challenge of Skycam was even more formidable. Any major technical failure in this, its debut on national TV, might well scuttle its acceptance. Any piloting error would be disastrous. And Skycam had its share of both in earlier runs. Brown, clad in an orange-and-white-striped polo shirt, jeans, and sneakers, wore a look of anxious determination, his eyes fixed on his invention.

Moving the joysticks on the remote control console, he piloted Skycam into position so that the CBS cameraman seated beside him could capture the next play using a separate set of console controls. A splendid picture of the 4 1/2-foot tall, dumbbell-shaped Skycam against the floodlit sky was aired coast to coast. Next on the monitor appeared an aerial shot taken from Skycam. This one-two punch brought whoops of excitement in the Skycam press booth, jammed to overflowing with CBS officials, a representative from the National Football League, and even observers from NBC, scheduled to rent the Skycam for their football broadcast the next day. "You should be paying me for a shot like that," joked Ray Savignano, director of operations for CBS Sports.

Meanwhile, the people who, with Brown, had spent a frantic year working to get Skycam ready were scattered all over San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Walkie-talkies pressed close to their faces, they monitored the four computerized winches that let out and pull in the steel cables that fly the rig. Despite the excitement in the press booth, however, all was not going well for Skycam in this, its maiden television voyage. At halftime, its battery, which wasn't charging properly, had to be changed. What's more, the motor for winch number one was groaning loudly. The crackling of the walkie-talkies among the Skycam crew spelled trouble: "The voltage is 106 . . . . Needed, 110 . . . . Everything is running starved . . . . Best to avoid straining the motor further by avoiding certain spots above the field . . . . Play it safe . . . . Keep the speed way down, no more than five miles an hour." Skycam, capable of speeds of up to 23 miles an hour, was operating at a fraction of its potential.

Worse, the crew had less than 16 hours to figure out what was wrong, reload their rented truck, drive to Los Angeles, set up in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and be ready to cover the Raiders/Miami Dolphins game for NBC at one o'clock the following afternoon. Brown and his crew were counting on successful coverage of these preseason games to lead to an NFL contract for the regular season -- and, not incidentally, to turn on potential investors.

At that very moment in Jack Murphy Stadium, the company was virtually penniless. The wild, year-long rush to perfect and market Brown's machine was proving to be tougher than expected. The 40-pound Skycam had gone through $1.5 million in venture capital. About half of Brown's two dozen employees were on "leaves of absence," awaiting a second round of financing. And Brown and a core group of engineers, who had been over-worked for months, were strung about as tight as the wires supporting their creation. Although Brown had been a non-smoker for six years, his fingers were beginning to show the stains of too many unfiltered Camels. All of which suggests just how complicated it is to bring a radically new bit of technology to market -- even for somebody who has done it before.

From an early age, Garrett Brown had tinkered with things mechanical, and had shown himself to be something of a maverick as well. When he was around 11 years old, he built a ham radio, and in time became a late-night relayer of messages from servicemen stationed in Antarctica to their families back home. By his mid-20s, Brown, a college dropout, had set his sights on a career in film work -- although he had never so much as owned an Instamatic camera. He spent a couple of years in a Philadelphia advertising agency, first as a copy writer and then as a television producer, but, tired of corporate life, left to start his own film production outfit, The Moving & Talking Picture Co. Indeed he was the company, equipped with a $50 Bolex camera from Fotorama Corp. -- which could shoot only 24 seconds of 16 millimeter film at a time -- and $1,000 worth of lights, a dolly, and other gear from a bankrupt local producer. "Hand to mouth" is how Brown now describes the operation -- until he turned to special effects. There he discovered a niche, and began to compete in the ad market against the big agencies.

For one customer, a bank, he crafted a spot in which the film ran backward, but the actor, miraculously, spoke forward. Brown had hired a linguist, and together they had concocted nonsense sentences that, when played backward, created the mouth movements they wanted for dubbing in the desired script. "Fix or pitch the ocean up," for instance, was dubbed: "Money sure is slippery stuff." To this day, Brown says he can speak sentences backwards, a claim he demonstrates by twisting out this bit of a tongue twister: "Beaf norf bistlebash beduncanezer phunerim besiae." Recorded and played backward, he says, the garble becomes: "A submarine offers a unique mode of travel to Port Said."

On another assignment, for Subaru of America Inc., Brown filmed a commercial aloft in a helicopter -- with his camera attached to the end of a 30-foot pole. The camera turned out to be pretty stable, and that observation, combined with the chore of loading and unloading his 800-pound dolly from a pickup truck on every job, led him to the the idea of the Steadicam. A stable hand-held camera, he decided, might be the only thing between himself and a hernia.

For his first experiment, in what turned out to be a long, evolutionary process to develop the Steadicam, Brown used lead sash weights to counterbalance a videotape recorder at the end of a six-foot long, T-shaped piece of plumber's pipe. Not counting the camera, he spent $13. Simplicity soon gave way to sophistication, however. Brown worked evenings, weekends, and in between his commercial film jobs, and hired a freelance engineer to help him execute his designs. At one point, about two years into the project, he holed up in a motel for a week. There were no phone calls to break his concentration, no interruptions, except for room-service meals. He needed time, he explains, to "sort everything out, assemble some order from the chaos." The motel maids no doubt thought he was nuts, as he scurried up and down the corridors balancing their brooms lancelike to simulate the feel of what he had down on paper.

In 1973, three years and about $30,000 after his first trip to the plumbing-supply store, Brown had a working prototype of the Steadicam, a complicated device with a simple function: to stabilize the motion picture or video camera by, in effect, absorbing or video camera by, in effect, absorbing or tuning out the movements of the operator. "At that time, the idea of [manufacturing] it myself was inconceivable," Brown says. "I was burned out. I wanted help." After months of getting nowhere with Panavision Inc., a subsidiary of Warner Communications Inc., he called Ed DiGiulio, president of Cinema Products Corp., a small Los Angeles company that in the mid-70s was establishing a reputation for manufacturing innovative technology. "I had never seen anything like it," says DiGiulio, himself an experienced camera engineer, recalling their meeting 10 years ago. That same afternoon, he and Brown shook hands on the deal. The licensing arrangement they eventually agreed to runs for 35 years and gives Brown a royalty somewhere under 10% on every Steadicam manufactured and sold by Cinema Products. To date, close to 400 orders have been filled. The basic system sells for about $33,000.

When the first Steadicam rolled out the door of Cinema Products in 1976, Brown says, he "cheerfully gave up his ad business" for a career behind the lens of his new camera. And once filmmakers realized the creative possibilities opened up by the light, mobile Steadicam, he was in great demand. Beginning with Steadicam's 1976 film debut on Bound for Glory, Brown has focused the camera on the sets of some 200 films. In 1978 Brown received his Oscar. It was the Steadicam that captured Sylvester Stallone in Rocky on his legendary run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More recently, Brown shot the forest scene in Return of the jedi. And he risked his neck for Steven Spielberg to help capture the suspenseful rope-bridge sequence in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Brown crossed the bridge many times, 350 feet above a raging river, in 103-degree heat, carrying the 65-pound Steadicam. As the camera's most experienced operator, he considers himself one of a score of "living masters," people who can do anything with it.

"It's an artistic, athletic adventure," he says. "It's photography on the run, a much larger experience than just pointing and focusing a camera. It's a diabolically hard thing to use and many a man has gone down in flames because he simply wasn't good enough. In it's way, the Steadicam is as personal an instrument as a violin. Alone, it's just junk; with a good operator, it's magic. It's my favorite activity -- barring one."

With Steadicam royalties pouring in quarterly on top of his operator's wages, which run more than $1,000 a day, Brown moored a sailboat in Chesapeake Bay and began scouting for a country house in the lush, post-and-rail-fenced meadowlands of the horse farms west of Philadelphia's Main Line. Even something he had started as a lark was making money for him. In the early 1970s, he had teamed up with a former ad agency colleague, Anne Winn, to try some Mike Nichols/Elaine May-style humorous ad patter. In a sound studio in Brown's Philadelphia townhouse, with him at the engineering controls and just a few key words in front of them, they started ad-libbing the first in a series of award-winning advertisements for Molson Golden ale. To be sure, it was Winn's alluring, sexy laugh (and the question raised for millions of men: What does she look like?) that helped carry the ads to an almost cult status. In any case, Brown will tell you, the two of them are "the highest-paid radio folks on the planet by a factor of two." Brown seemed destined never again to face red ink.

"I have every intention of simplifying my life," Brown says, "but I get myself in trouble with a scheme or an idea. And then I get committed."

The idea for Skycam came five years ago, when Garrett Brown and his Steadicam were filming from the back of a moving buckboard on the set of "Little House on the Prairie," and he found himself sitting next to actor Merlin Olsen, a former professional football player. their conversation drifted to TV coverage of football -- how the typical telephoto shots from the stands and the sidelines foreshorten distances and give an often unrealistic, disjointed view of the action on the field. "Suddenly it blinked on me," Brown recalls. "The only place in a stadium you could place the camera was on the very skin of a vast volume of space. Almost the entire volume was denied to you. I wanted access to that space, and a high degree of mobility." What he wanted, he realized, was a camera that could fly.

The more he thought about films and the more televised sports he watched, the more excited he got. The shots were there, untapped, just waiting for him. "Imagine watching a running play from 30 feet up, watching the holes open up and seeing where the play is going to go. And then actually staying with the running back as he moves downfield. For a guy swimming, I could be six inches above the water, just in front of him, right there, with the water splashing at the lens. For a diver, I could wait until he hits his apogee, then plunge along with him. I can stop just short of the water going 20 miles an hour." He wanted the tool to show those images to the world.

Once he had set his mind to creating a flying camera, Brown started out in his kitchen, with tiny motors and spools of thread, sending a bolt flying past the stove and refrigerator -- and sometimes to the floor. As with the Steadicam, at irst he financed his escalating research and development efforts from his outside earnings -- Steadicam revenues and royalties from the Molson ads. But he decided early on not to turn this invention over to somebody else, since bringing it to market was going to be so complicated. "I found out with Steadicam and Cinema Products that there's a stage when you've got to be hands on with these things," he says. "You know more about them than they do. I was afraid the whole thing might sink into a [corporate] swamp and disappear."

He figured, too, that on the verge of production he could raise the necessary capital: He would have a working prototype, some spectacular footage, and his reputation to dangle in front of investors. First, though, he had to round up the talent he needed to help him get his dream airborne: Larry McConkey, a Steadicam operator with expertise in remote control; John Seitz, a crackerjack electronics maven; Larry Cone, a computer software wizard; John Russell, an engineer and machinist. Brown sold them on his dream. He would cover all the necessary expenses, but until there was money to hire them full-time, everybody would work, as he would himself, without salary, after their regular jobs and on weekends. Instead of stock, he promised film-style points, or percentages of earnings of the project.

"None of us entered into this as a business proposition," says Skycam pilot and designer Larry McConkey. "I always figured if I were trying to make money, this was the absolute wrong way to go bout it." Like everybody else, he came aboard to be at the edge of a developing technology. He was fascinated with the idea, the challenge of Skycam. As for his "points" in the project -- the potential of perhaps a good bit of money down the road -- McConkey considered them "just a way to justify what otherwise seemed like lunacy."

Some of Skycam's unpredictable maneuvers along the way do fall into the realm of the mad, or at least the madcap. There was the voyage of an early prototype in the gymnasium of Haverford (Pa.) Junior High School, Brown's alma mater, in January 1982. instead of flying smoothly around the gym, the weight that was being used in place of a camera took a nosedive. Someone, it turned out, had typed a seven instead of a nine into the computer that told the drums how much cable to let out. "One goddam keystroke," recalls Brown.

In Baltimore, not long after, while another early version of Skycam was being set up on a commercial shoot, one of the pulleys broke loose and sent the dummy rig -- a 25-pound padded weight -- swinging toward the plate-glass windows of a federal building. Luckily, the weight harmlessly banged into a narrow section of marble between two windows -- believed to open onto a judge's chambers.

Despite the occasional errant flight, by July 1983 Brown felt confident enough to arrange for a demonstration of Skycam in Philadelphia's spacious Veterans Stadium, home of the Eagles and Phillies. A time clock had started ticking in his head. When ABC beamed the 1984 Olympic games worldwide in February, he wanted Skycam to be flying over Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. So he picked up the phone and invited ABC Sports to come to Philadelphia to see what Skycam could do. The ABC executives were impressed, so much so that they started making noises about exclusive television rights to Skycam. Brown demurred, his sights on all three networks. But yes, he said, he would be happy to take a shot at readying the still-rough Skycam for the Olympics. He then showed his demonstration tape to NBC and CBS. It was time, he felt, to found a company and gear up.

In August 1983, Skyworks Inc. was born. By his estimates, Brown had enough money to keep things afloat until October, so he put everybody, excluding himself, on a modest payroll, and looked for a facility in which to step up his Olympic dash. He settled on a nondescript industrial park off a lane of fast-food restaurants in Aston, Pa., that rented for about $3 a square foot. Standing in the center of his office, Brown could just about touch all four walls. "I didn't want a fancy company," he says. "I wanted to spend money on the machine."

Brown called John Jurgens, former executive vice-president in charge of engineering for Cinema Products, who arrived on the next plane from San Diego to become Skywork's production manager. Soon, he had 23 people on the payroll -- and a pressing need to hear from the venture capitalists he had approached on the strength of the successful stadium demonstration and the encouraging responses from the networks. In October, on the verge of missing a payroll and the day before he was to leave for Italy to teach a Steadicam class, his phone started ringing. First on the line was a venture capitalist who said no thanks. Then his bank called to turn down Brown's application for a mortgage on the house in the country he had cherished. His account was $17,000 overdrawn. His last hope was venture capitalist Richard Woosnam of Capital Management Corp., a subsidiary of Innovest Group Inc., in Philadelphia. Woosnam finally called and said, "Look Garrett, we've thought about this very carefully . . . and we've decided to do it."

When all the papers were signed, Capital Management had anted up $1.2 million, and an additional single investor chipped in $250,000. In return, Brown gave up 40% of his company. His original four partners and Jurgens, now president, retained their point interest. Meanwhile, Brown's clock continued to tick.

In the factory, the engineers were redesigning and fine-tuning different components of Skycam. Each part of the rig had to be light to keep down the weight of the payload, be durable, and be accurate to the most minute specifications. Many components didn't even exist before Skycam called for them. The computers commanding each of the cable-wound winches, for instance, are a product of Skyworks. "In their own way," Brown says, "they are as much computer as [Apple Computer's] Macintosh."

At the same time, in his cubbyhole of an office, Brown wrestled with some of the less technical, but no less demanding, aspects of introducing Skycam. As word of the project got around, the requests had started coming in: Would Skycam be ready for the Orange Bowl game? How about auto racing? Film directors and cinematographers called, too. Brown soon realized that he had an idea that didn't need so much to be marketed as to be merchandised properly. The potential users already were eager and calling. The beneficiaries -- television viewers and moviegoers -- were bound to be enthusiastic. His primary job would be to persuade those who would be subject to Skycam's use: the actors, the athletes, and the sports officials.

"I realized the almost Orwellian implications, if you will, of this ultimate medium," Brown says. "I knew there would be a distance at which athletes would be uncomfortable, and that had to be respected. And there would be a size and shape and color of machine that could annoy the fan in the stadium." At one point, Brown thought of personalizing Skycam, maybe painting the face of a cameraman on it, cap askew. Perhaps he should give it a voice. "Given a virtuous invention," he says, "you can still fall on your ass and be unable to sell it. It isn't just inventing, it's merchandising."

As November turned to December, the push in the Skyworks factory turned to shove. The lights burned long into the night and the demand for speed burned money. In a few wild weeks straddling year end, expenses ran to $110,000 a week. The "need it yesterday" spirit had taken over. There was no time to order a part, test it, and, if necessary, order a different version -- "for God's sake get them both. And fast." The Federal Express man was in the door nearly often enough to make coffee.

But in spite of the scramble, Skycam never made it to Sarajevo. It was grounded by a last-minute glitch in some high-frequency motor controls. The disappointment weighed heavily on the staff, and did nothing to soften the necessary personnel cutbacks. The runaway spending engine had to be set at a lower idle. Two dozen employees became nine. The clock was reset for the summer Olympics.

And, finally, one spring day, Garrett Brown demonstrated Skycam in the L.A. Coliseum for Olympic officials and representatives from ABC. In the process, he managed to introduce Skycam to one of the goalposts. He described the incident in a letter to his insurance company this way: "I did not hear a spotter's warnings [over a walkie-talkie], beause of either dropout in one of the radios, or perhaps because of the loud cheering and comments all around me caused by the quality of the image. The consequence was that the Skycam cable, and subsequently the camera itself, strongly contacted the goalpost." The goalpost was bent, the camera unharmed. It was an inadvertent demonstration of the durability of Skycam -- and of the project itself. For although the Skyworks chairman would for months endure the tag, "Goalpost Brown," the incident was overlooked. Skycam was wanted in Los Angeles in late July.

New problems cropped up in May, with Skycam strung above a block of Philadelphia row houses on location for the film Birdy. Director Alan Parker stood by with high hopes that Skycam could give him the swooping, aerial point of view of the movie's canary. "Garrett Brown is a cross between an eccentric genius and totally mad," said a nervously expectant Parker. "Who else would think of something so ridiculous?" A couple of days later, a disappointed Parker ended up not with minutes of Skycam footage, but seconds. There was trouble with low voltage into the system, and possibly harm from the soaking effects of a surprise thunderstorm. Among those who thought they had exterminated that sort of bug, the term "Skyluck" was batted about. Even the hydraulic cranes raised as perimeter mounts for the pulleys seemed guilty of conspiring against them -- sinking perhaps only 1 foot of 150, but enough to throw off the precision computer programming and to send the rig, at one point, into the ground during a shot calling for the camera to skim along just above the ground. More disturbing, though, was a problem with the Kevlar cables used to fly the camera. The wires within the Kevlar (the stuff of bullet-resistant vests) were not conducting power reliably enough.

Because the steel cables needed to replace the faulty Kevlar ones were not quite ready, Brown turned s down Skycam's Olympic invitation. He could have flown it on battery power, but he would have had to ground it periodically while crew members inserted a fresh power supply. Brown wanted a soaring premier for his Skycam, not, in his words, a "lame" one. He may have been one of the few people in America disappointed by the spectacle of the opening ceremonies of the summer Olympics. Tears streamed down his face as he watched at home on television. In his mind, he could see all kind of missed Skycam shots.

By August, Brown felt he was ready to launch Skycam in its "soaring premier" -- when the San Francisco 49ers met the San Diego Chargers in preseason play. He admitted, flying out from Philadelphia, that he had pushed too hard for the Olympics. "We weren't ready. I was out too early selling it to ABC. It was one of the few times I allowed myself to consider a particular sale more important than it should have been. I'm convinced there is no crucial sale. Ever. Even the games this weekend."

Still, a lot was riding on those two scheduled games for CBS and NBC. New financing was desperately needed, and if all went well, an NFL contract for the regular season would do a lot to excite potential investors -- and might go a long way toward meeting the $2 million to $3 million Brown figures he will need to meet his ambitious goals for Skyworks. "Round two financing will require a dilution of the present shareholders by about 30%," he says. "We hope to issue about 500,000 shares at around $6 a share." His five-year plan goes something like this: By the end of the decade, he expects to have 15 road machines working one day a week, generating $3 million annually. And he plans to have 37 Skycams permanently prestrung in various multipurpose arenas and stadiums that host both sports events and entertainment, such as rock concerts, each renting for $250,000 a year, which would bring in more than $9 million. A training school for Skycam pilots, following the pattern of his Steadicam classes, would add perhaps another $75,000 to annual revenues.

Right after the game in Jack Murphy Stadium on August 18 -- and Skycam's crippled although successful enough performance -- Brown and his crew began dismantling the apparatus. Three hours later -- with hundreds of feet of cables rewound, Skycam and console and computers back in their protective trunks, and the trunks safely stowed in the big rented truck -- it was time to confront the questions everybody had been raising as they worked together packing up. It was 1:15 a.m., less than 12 hours to game time in L.A. The discussion went back and forth, from the problem with motor number one, to the possibility of flying with only three wires, which would limit the field coverage, and to money.

"We're flat broke," said Brown. "If we don't go, we'll have to return the $4,500 deposit. We'll have to find some cheap motels, hang around here in California, try to fix the motor, and then do the game next week [Skycam's next scheduled preseason assignment, also in the Coliseum, and also for NBC]. It's your call."

As McConkey said later, everybody was working too many hours, and too hard, and for too little money for such decisions to have been made at the top. Besides, Brown's brand of leadership could be seen in the deep calluses on his hands from hauling equipment around. They decided to head back to the hotel, gather in Brown's room, and share their predicament with NBC. Just short of 3:00 a.m. Pacific daylight time, (6:00 a.m. eastern), with Brown talking to a just-awakened Ken Aagaard, vice-president of operations for NBC Sports, they decided not to take a chance flying with three wires. They scrapped Skycam's coverage.

Late the next morning, Sunday, with all but one of their rooms canceled and a conference room in an annex building secured as a makeshift workshop, they pored over the suspect motor trying to pinpoint the problem. A spare motor, or other backup parts, might have kept them on the job instead of in the pits, but Skyworks has seldom had a spare anything; for want of money and hands, a second Skycam lay half-built back in Pennsylvania. By Sunday afternoon, equipment littered the room. Several tables, stripped of their white cloths, were converted to workbenches. The crew had unwound about 50 feet of cable from the drum of the suspect winch/motor combination and had strung it through a pulley jerry-rigged to the rough-hewn ceiling beam. From there, out the ground-level door, the cable ran across a sidewalk to the parking lot and, finally, around the rear axle of one of the crew's rental cars.

The Skycam computer, still programmed with the stadium configurations for the football game the day before, had no idea it had a Mustang by the tail. As far as it was concerned, it was still in Jack Murphy Stadium, flying a camera. In quick succession, the crew meshed instructions:

"Are you ready to chance it?"

"Here we go."

"Watch yourself, just in case the cable goes wild."

A mere upward tug on the elevator joystick, as always, signaled the winch to wind in cable. Obediently, it did, pulling the Mustang across the parking lot toward the door. But when a buck/boost transformer was brought into play, to lower the system voltage to the level detected in the stadium, the motor emitted the horrible groaning of the day before. The groaning was loud enough to drown out the yells of confirmation; loud enough, too, to drown out the warning cry from outside. When the Skycam brake was finally applied, the Mustang stood perched with one wheel up on the sidewalk.

With some of the crew staying with friends to save money, and all of them living off their unused return plane tickets, they got the system working smoothly again. On Friday, it flew virtually troublefree in the Coliseum, above the crashing bodies of the Raiders and Jets. Flying faster and more expansively than in San Diego, it occasionally popped up, unannounced, in some of NBC's coverage. But peering over the line of scrimmage and flying with the ball on a few kickoffs and punts, it also provided some exciting new views of a sport with sagging TV ratings.

Brown and his crew returned to Philadelphia, buoyant. Then, a few days later, in what has become the roller-coaster tradition of Skycam, crushing news arrived from the NFL's director of broadcasting, Val Pinchbeck: There would be no NFL coverage for Skycam this season. The NFL just was not ready "to jump in and say, 'Let's go." said Pinchbeck.

Things looked as bleak as they had for some time -- more depressing than missing the Olympics at Sarajevo, more frustrating than the nosedive on the set of Birdy, more damaging than bumping into the goalpost in its tryout for the summer Olympics. For the time being, Brown had lost the sale. But even with no schedule of NFL coverage to wave in front of would-be investors, he would not call it the crucial sale. Skyworks would stay dark for a week, then attempt to run for a while on rental revenues (the current rate is $6,800, but additional costs for set-up, piloting, travel, and insurance can bring the tab to more than $20,000). A couple of rock concert jobs were lined up . . . some soccer matches . . . some college football games. . . . The company would try to rekindle film interest.

Brown has begun preliminary discussions with a division of Bechtel Group Inc. about the possibility of using Skycam, or something like it, for hazardous jobs inside nuclear reactors. And he will continue a conversation -- already in the works before the news from the NFL, but suddenly turned up a few notches -- with a representative of Japanese industry. The NFL decision, he said right after hearing it, "might prove to be crucial to the failure of Skyworks as a business. We'll have to see. But I don't think it will be crucial to the future of Skycam. It will be sad for me if this thing flies west [out of the country].

"But," he added, "I'm sure it will fly."

A few days later, CBS Sports called: Was Skycam available on December 1 for the Army/Navy game in Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium? Perfect, Brown thought, a hometown show. No travel. Easy setup. Some of the rigging was still in place from the earlier demonstration. Perhaps his "Skyluck" was about to change.

"Yes," he answered in mock seriousness. "I think we're available for that weekend."