Unconventional Nonsense

You’ve heard of conventional wisdom. Well, sometimes it only seems conventional and often it’s not as wise as the speaker would have you believe. The Footy Bogan presents some of his pet peeves.

Level playing field

We’ve all heard someone refer to the level playing field. Listeners nod their heads in agreement. It’s supposed to indicate that the contest is fair. It’s in many dictionaries and applies to activities outside sport:

a situation in which everyone has the same chance of succeeding

– http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/a-level-playing-field

But in which way would an “unlevel” (inclined or sloping) playing field be unfair? Sure, it might be annoying. But unfair? Think about it. Footy is played over 4 quarters. If the opposition are getting the benefits of downhill play this quarter, we’ll get the same advantage next quarter. Where’s the unfairness?

Wouldn’t it be fairer than the effects of the wind? These days, few followers of the AFL in Melbourne would be too concerned about the wind. In the past it was another story. I remember Teddy Whitten (I think) kicking a goal from the wing at the Junction Oval. EJ was a good kick but on that particular day there was a howling gale from the north. Whitten let a torpedo rip (remember them). He was very crafty: he didn’t try to kick the ball far; he launched it as high as he could to let the jet stream get hold of it. It sailed through goal-post high – after travelling about 80 metres! It might have landed in the bay. Of course it was a long time ago; I might have some of the details slightly out.

You’d be hard put to emulate EJ at the MCG let alone Docklands. But, in those days, the player who won the toss would factor in the wind before electing to kick in a certain direction. If you expected the wind to pick up, you’d start against the wind; otherwise, otherwise. It applies in the VFL at some grounds to this day.

But a sloping playing field is going to maintain its slope for the duration of a game.

The only sport I can think of where a sloping playing surface would be a concern is ice hockey:

A professional game consists of three periods of twenty minutes each …

– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_hockey

Of course, it would be unusual for an indoor rink to have a sloping surface.

Marking the ball

He launches a bomb into the forward 50 where Elliott marks the ball at its highest point.

Really? Let’s look at the physics. A player standing on the ground can reach no higher than 3 metres. If he does an amazing leap and stands on someone’s shoulders, he might take hold of the ball at 6 metres. That’s heading towards the height of a two-story house.

Now let’s consider the various trajectories of the ball. If the kick was indeed a bomb, typically it would leave the player at about 45 degrees. That would send the ball at least 20 metres. How could a player mark the ball at that height?

The goal posts for AFL matches are 15 metres in height …

– http://www.mcg.org.au/The%20MCG%20Stadium/Facts%20and%20Figures.aspx

But there’s another problem. Maybe the kick was a daisy cutter. There’s an interesting analysis here. I don’t mean anything literal, just a kick that never gets higher than say 4 metres.

I learnt some of this at school, but don’t take my word for it.

The center of mass of the football follows a parabolic trajectory.

– http://electron9.phys.utk.edu/balls/Motion.htm

The site is University of Tennessee Physics Department so it’s probably talking about the ball used in US football, but the physics are about the same.

The point is that the ball’s highest point is half way through it’s trajectory, so the announcer is suggesting that a kick intended to travel 50 metres was marked at 25 metres. Where’s the value in that? There’s no doubting that the commentators are all impressed with the mark, so they must mean something else.

I’m guessing they mean the player took the ball at his highest point ie the highest point of his leap.

A goal or a behind?

The goal umpire signals a goal, but did he put his foot through?

You don’t hear it phrased that way much these days, but it used to be all the rage.

The set-up is that a player is close to the goal line; he kicks the ball. What has been scored? The rule is framed around the position of the ball. If any part of it is above the white line or the field of play, it is deemed to be still in play; the whole of the ball has to be beyond the field of play (outside the white line) for the goal umpire to signal a score. If the ball last came off an attacking player’s foot (below the knee), it’s a goal; otherwise it’s a behind.

When the announcer asks whether the player put his foot through, he is asking whether he kicked it before the ball had crossed the goal line. But by framing (phrasing) the question in relation to the foot, he muddies the water because the player may have kicked the ball while it was in play and put his foot “through” (ie over the goal line) in his follow-through – which would mean the score was still a goal. Because it’s not about the foot; it’s about the ball.

The wrap

So there you have it: just 3 examples of comments you might now see in a new light.

About Charlie Krebs

The Footy Bogan is a self-confessed unrepentant Collingwood tragic. For more years than he cares to remember he has been writing about footy, mainly Collingwood, but sometimes, when provoked, about related matters. He started his self-titled blog in July 2011 when - but you can read all about that at http://thefootybogan.blogspot.com.au/


  1. I remember hearing about Tony Liberatore and Jose Romero standing in opposite goal squares at Princes Park in the 90s and being unable to see each other, so steep was the camber, to help with drainage I suppose.

    A particular favorite of mine from another sport would be when players, managers, commentators, etc ad infinitum ad nauseum witter on about Rooney or Gerrard or whoever’s job being to ‘just put the ball in the back not the net’. You morons, the ‘back of the net’ logically has to be the area between the net and the perimeter fence, and the bit of ground the striker is aiming at and the keeper jumps around like a blue-arsed fly defending (and roars out the nearest team-mate any time he’s forced to move too fast) is the FRONT of the bleedin’ net!

    Also wince every time St Kilda players mangle their 15 word club song by screeching about being ‘IN St Kilda’ when the saints go marching in. Anybody who’s lived in Melbourne longer than five minutes knows there’s only one thing you’re ever IN St K for, and it certainly has diddly squat to do with sainthood….

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