LOCATING THE CHAINS (REVISITED). A few days ago, I posted on something that I had been puzzled by for many years: the casualness with which football chains are located on first down and the ceremony of exactness when there is a measurement to see whether a team has gained the ten yards for another first down. Today an article in the New York Times by John Branch addresses the same question. I learned that the chains go back to 1906 when the rule that provided for a first down when a team gains ten yards went into effect. Dozens of inventions have been patented for more accurate replacements for the chains, but it seems unlikely that any new method will be adopted. I had referred to the ceremony attached to bringing out the chains. The National Football League’s vice president for officiating acknowledges that it is a ceremony: “When we measure, we make sure the players are clear so that TV can get a good shot of the actual measurement.” I had suggested that one reason why the chains might show that a team had gained ten yards even though it had started at the 20 yard line and had not reached the 30 yard line was that there was less than 10 yards between the 20 yard line and the 30 yard line. Today’s article quotes an official of the NFL rules committee: “Who’s to say that the yard lines on the field are perfectly measured in every stadium?”

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