HOW TO MAKE A FIRST DOWN
This is apt to shake the foundations of mathematical orthodoxy, but in Dayton the other day six inches of a football field disappeared. The University of Detroit freshman football team was at one point just six inches shy of making a first down. On the next play the Detroiters were declared offside and duly penalized five yards. On the next play the opposing Dayton freshmen were in their turn offside and penalized, and Detroit regained the lost five yards. Mathematics, not to mention logic, would now hold that Detroit was once more six inches short of its first down. The officials, however, had no faith in such logical folderol. Like good pragmatists they measured again just to be sure—and, by golly, Detroit had made it. First down. Never mind how, you in the back of the classroom; facts are facts.
Though you may remember that Einstein held that if two systems are in relative motion with a uniform linear velocity it is impossible for observers in either system to learn anything more about the motion than the fact that there is this relative motion.
Right? Right. First down.
A more serious official slipup occurred in the Michigan-Iowa game Saturday after Iowa's Don Dobrino intentionally grounded a pass, which is, of course, illegal. Referee Ross Dean stepped off a 15-yard penalty that set Iowa back to its seven-yard line.
Iowa Coach Forest Evashevski, his view of the field partially obstructed, phoned his press box spotter and asked what the penalty was for.
"Intentional grounding," said the spotter.
"You're crazy," snorted Evashevski. "The penalty for intentional grounding is only five yards."
Evashevski was right; so was the spotter—so far as they went. The fellow who was all wrong was the ref, who had indeed signaled intentional grounding, and then paced off a penalty of 15 yards instead of five. Iowa, leading 14-10 at the time, never recovered, really, and Michigan came on to win 17-14.