Before TV, tennis balls were white, the NHL centerline was solid and uniforms were almost uniformly drab. But a white ball was hard to see, as was that solid centerline. And who wants to see the old Cleveland Browns uniform in close-up? Color plays well on TV, so color is the new norm.
TV coverage allows colors to pop not only on the field, but also in the stands. Think about the Raiders Nation or Lambeau Field's cheeseheads. TV allows players and fans alike to be seen in close-up, rather than as pawns jostling for position on a faraway pitch. Players and fans become characters in an event that's as much story as it is sport.
And this includes not only adding literal color to a game, but figurative color, too -- end-zone dances and slam dunks both developed in direct response to the evening highlight reel [source: Zoglin et al].