Monday, January 8, 2007

"1st and 9.144": The Chaos of the NFL Switching to the Metric System

Watching the Philadelphia Eagles battle the New York Giants yesterday, it occurred to me that if the metric system of measurement is ever officially mandated in the United States and enforced, the American game of football will only be able to be enjoyed by those proficient in mathematics. 1 yard = .9144 meters, which seems simple enough as long as you are dealing with 1 or 10 "old yards"—but what about when it's 2nd down and 4.557 meters? Beer-swilling, overweight men, with painted faces will be replaced by frail, conservatively dressed men, with horn-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors. Cheerleaders will, consequently, act less enthusiastic and wear baggy clothes. Hot dog vendors, too, will suffer after these new football-going nerds run a full analysis on a hot dog specimen and highlight the number of rodent hairs and bug parts contained in them.

The players may change as well. When it's 4th and 109.728, you have to be able to make a quick decision as to whether that's a manageable distance or whether it's even humanly possible to travel that far on one play. Athleticism will be replaced by book smarts, and thus, games will become more like comedies of utter ineptitude rather than "sporting events." Progress, my friends, is destroying our game. Enjoy it while it lasts.

(Photo copyright Jeff Victor.)

1 comment:

Randy said...

I hate to break this to you, but the NFL has slowly been going metric for years now. It all started with the great quarterback of the Cleveland Browns' post-war dynasty, Otto Graham.

Amid rapid globalization following World War II, the US government was keen to convert the nation to the metric system so it could standardize trade to cement its foothold as the economic superpower. The federal government encouraged many American businesses to do the same, including the National Football League.

When the All-American Football Conference faltered and the Browns, 49ers, and Colts were absorbed by the NFL in 1949, one of the conditions of the merger stipulated that professional football's greatest star, Otto Graham, had to drop the "ha" from his name and become Otto Gram. What better way to promote the metric system than on the back of the man who had just quarterbacked his team to its fourth consecutive championship?

Although metric conversion proceeded slowly, you can see its inexorable progress...if you look carefully.

Jack Lambert, the ferocious middle linebacker of Pittsburgh's vaunted "Steel Curtain" defense, agreed to change his last name from the obsolete unit of luminance and was known during the latter part of his career as Jack Candela Per Square Meter (although his Hall of Fame plaque denotes his original surname due to limited space). Nate Newton, offensive lineman for the Cowboys' dynasty of the early '90s, is now Nate Dyne, the newton's metric-unit equivalent of surface tension. And don't be surprised if our own David Akers is soon known around NFL stadiums as David Hectares.

The future is here.