Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unidirectional Football

In American Tackle Football, each team defends its end zone, and attacks toward the other team's end zone, scoring a touchdown when it carries or passes the football across the goal line. At the end of each quarter of play, the teams swap end zones and face the other direction, to more-or-less equalize the advantages conveyed by one direction or the other.

Traditionally, that is how it is done.

Yesterday, though, the University of Illinois played Northwestern University in a Big 10 showdown, and the teams chose to play in Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Wrigley Field, of course, is a baseball field, the famous home of the Chicago Cubs; it is named for William Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate, who was part of the syndicate that brought the Cubs to Chicago and who owned the team in the 1920's.

It's not that unheard-of to hold a football game on a baseball field; for example, Notre Dame played Army yesterday in (the new) Yankee Stadium.

But it had been 40 years since a football game was played in Wrigley Field, and now we know why: the field was too small. After laying out the standard-sized football field on the grounds, there was no extra space left around the east end zone, and the playing field terminated with only 6 inches to spare before the brick wall that marks right field. After reviewing the layout:

the Big Ten said that the layout at Wrigley was too tight to ensure safe play. The conference instructed players to run offensive plays only toward the west end zone, except in the case of interceptions.

So, each time the ball changed possession, the players switched sides.

And, the teams shared a sideline, rather than being on opposite sides of the field.

There even was an interception, run back for a touchdown, by Northwestern safety Brian Peters.

Meanwhile, yesterday was also the Big Game in these parts, as Berkeley hosted Stanford in the annual classic. Stanford won easily this year: they have a phenomenal team and should finish the season in the top 5 nationally. After next week's Berkeley vs. Washington game, Berkeley's Memorial Stadium will be closed, and the long-delayed earthquake reconstruction project will begin in earnest. Memorial Stadium, which is situated in one of the most beautiful locations in the country, also happens to be right on top of the Hayward Fault, one of the most dangerous earthquake faults in California. So the stadium will be closed, and extensively overhauled to try to make it safer.

Meanwhile, the Golden Bears will play their 2011 season across the bay, in San Francisco's AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.

That's right, they'll be playing football all year in a baseball field.

I wonder if they'll play Unidirectional Football?!

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