In a back and forth email exchange between Carl and myself I was reminded that I hadn't yet put up my "Chains" post for this football season. More on that in a moment.
But for now, lets recap. The only time anyone hears this song is at a football game, when they need a "measurement" to see if a team has a first down:
Yep, time for two guys with sticks and a hunk of chain between them to decide an important play in a football game. This is, and always has been inconceivable for me since I understood the game back in the seventies.
For the better part of a century, the NFL and all of the other leagues on down to pee wee have used the chains to determine a first down. But lets recap all of the random insanity involved in this for a second before we move forward:
Kickoff. Guy gets tackled. Linesman put the ball down "here". Guy on sidelines eyeballs where that linesman put the ball down (random ball placement 1). The chains are set.
First and ten, run up the middle. Linesman pus the ball down "here" (random ball placement 2). Second and six, short pass to the sidelines, side judge gets plowed over, can't see where the receiver went out of bounds, but gets up and puts the ball down "here" (random ball placement 3). Third and 1. Quarterback sneak. Linesman runs from the sidelines, moves six guys off of the qb and puts the ball down "here". Measurement with a fixed ten yard hunk of chain and two sticks.
It is, and always has been, insane.
This doesn't even go into a punt that is 80 feet in the air that goes out of bounds and the ref runs up and puts the ball down "here" although in reality nobody in the stadium knows where that ball should really be. Could have cost you the game, that call.
But back to the chains.
Even when the chains are brought on the field, that doesn't stop a bought off ref from just ignoring them all together. My favorite football moment in the last decade or so was when Steve Spurrier melted down in the Outback Bowl a few weeks ago. I saw it live and it was much better than this abbreviated version, as he carried on for a good thirty seconds after this call - but you get the drift. Fourth down, fake punt. They clearly didn't make it and the chains proved it. But the ref signals first down. Spurrier almost dies on the spot (best viewed in hd):
Of course Spurrier was right, but I hate him so I laughed at the totality of the situation for about an hour.
Sorry, Steve - Vegas called and they wanted their points back.
Any sane person knows that the marking of the football is totally stupid, but we can't take apart every play with replay or we would never get anything done. BUT! There is new technology now that is interesting.
Look at this!
The first down laser!
It doesn't really solve the problems of the football being mismarked randomly and bought off refs, but it would save TONS of time - all they do is snap the laser on and it shoots a beam across the field, rather than waiting for those relatives of NFL owners and other brown nosers to amble across the field, set up the sticks and all of this nonsense. You could even turn it on full time - no need for that dumb superimposed line on the field anymore.
But the NFL says they don't have any use for this.
Sigh. See you next year for my Chains post.