Friday, September 05, 2008

The Chains

Well folks, it is that time of year. Every fall I have to do a post about the chains, so here we go for 2008.

Before I get into the meat of the matter, a quick little story about the NFL.

Last night I watched a bit of the Giants vs. Redskins game over the internet on It was a freebie that the NFL offered to everyone, which is nice.

Their server was crushed so the picture was a little jerky. The main reason I bring it up is that you could choose your favorite camera angle to watch the game by! There were five angles to choose from and all of them were very good. I especially liked the camera that is suspended over the center of the field. It gives a picture of the game that you don't usually see. It is so good that it makes me almost want to give the NFL a little $ and subscribe to to get all of the games this way, but their server speed issue just doesn't make it worth it yet. But there is no question that this type of coverage is the way of the future. It was incredible.

But now we must go from this futuristic, awesome technology back a whole century to two sticks joined by a ten yard length of chain.
This archaic tool is what all football games use to measure whether one team has achieved a first down. Brutal.

On top of that, I would like to remind everyone how random the game really is.

On a kickoff, a return man runs the ball back as far as he can, and a referee places the ball down where he thinks the guy is tackled. Random.

The guy holding the back chain stanchion on the sideline EYEBALLS where this ref has placed the ball down and puts his stick on the ground, signifying the starting point for the ten yard distance the offensive team must go to make a first down. Random.

Now there is a sweep to the sidelines and the refs are fighting for their lives to get out of the way of the thousand or so pounds of steroid pumped rage coming to kill the runner at the edge. The ref has to somehow figure out where to put the ball down after this mass of humanity goes cascading out of bounds. Random.

After third down we are close to the first down marker, so we need to bring in two sticks and a chain (that were laid down randomly to start) to help us figure out if the offensive team is allowed to continue. Randomly random.

You get the idea. I still cannot believe that college football and especially a marketing and tech savvy operation such as the NFL can't come up with something better than two sticks and a length of chain to measure first downs (anyone ever heard of lasers or GPS?) but so it goes. I am thinking next year around this time I will be doing another chains post. Sadly.


Mark said...

I am pretty amazed at how close they do get it in the NFL.

Back in my high school glory days I remember one series where we were on offense (1st and 10) and the D went offsides. The ref walks the ball up 5 yards. Still first down and the D goes offsides again. The ref walks the ball up again and signals 1st and 1. What? After we point out the flaw in his math he picks up the ball and takes another big step forward and signals 1st and 10. Ugh

Dan from Madison said...

That is a GREAT comment. Oddly, I think some high school physics class somewhere will pioneer a laser or GPS device to use instead of the chains. College football and the NFL are probably not open to that type of innovation.

Anonymous said...

surveyors have equipment that would work. It would speed up the game and be accurate.