The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Two Football Questions

I will for the moment refrain from commenting on my lowly football team, however I do have two questions of Madden, Michaels, and the rest of the Monday Night Crew.

1. When they translate the speed of a throw in a football game into "baseball speed," what does that mean? I understand that when Jennie Finch throws a pitch in fast pitch softball that the mound is closer to the plate than it is in baseball, and so a 70 MPH pitch in softball can look like a 95 MPH in baseball, but all season long on MNF they've been telling us that Favre throws at about 68 MPH, and that that is the equivalent of throwing 96 MPH in baseball. What does that mean? Last night they did this on Favre's first 15 yard TD pass to Donald Driver. The pass actually traveled much further than 15 yards, as Driver caught it in the middle of the endzone near the sideline. I did a quick back of the envelope calculation and discovered that the ball probably traveled between 24-32 yards (if I remember the play correctly, adding distance for the end zone depth and Favre's dropback, and doing a little Pythagorean theorem action), or farther than the 60 feet, 6 inches that a MLB pitch travels. How can the ball appear faster in that kind of a situation? It makes no sense.

I think they are just making this up out of thin air.

2. Does Minnesota's line spacing really keep them from running between the tackles? If so, isn't this an easy problem to fix? Madden mentioned this at least 4,000 times last night. What made him think of this? Did some scout tell him? Was he thinking back to his coaching days? And if he felt so strongly about it, doesn't that mean the he implicitly thinks that Mike Tice and Co. are incompetent?

Personally, I think it has more to do with the loss of Matt Birk than it does with line spacing.


  • I would guess that the point is to quantify arm strength to impress football viewers. If that is so, the football to baseball translation probably means the amount force required to produce the result is the same. So if Favre had thrown a baseball as hard as he threw the pass to Driver, the baseball would have gone 96 mph. Softball is probably calculated differently because the relevant criteria is how much time the batter has to react.
    As for the conversion. I am certain that footballs have a higher drag coefficient (numerical calcuation of force exerted by opposing air resistance). Using this coefficient they can use the distance (how long opposing wind force is exerted) and the time it took to travel that distance to calculate the initial force.
    This is at least what I recall from basic physics, which was not my favorite subject and I took 6 years ago. So I may be wrong.

    No idea on the line spacing. I watched at a bar so I couldn't even hear the comments.

    By Anonymous Scott, at 11:35 AM  

  • That makes some sense, but it's still a weird way of tranlating speed. And they could expalin it at some point. Maybe they have, but I don't miss many MNF games and I don't remember any explanation.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:50 AM  

  • Drag coefficients and initial force are all well and good, but I think the formula for the MNF crew goes more like this:

    Brett Favre = real strong
    football speed = real fast
    real strong + real fast = 102.64 mph

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:06 PM  

  • I think they just took a range and extrapolated it out. For example, if the fastest that a football can generally be thrown is 70 mph (I don't know what that number would be), and the fastest that a baseball can generally be thrown is 100 mph, then a 65 mph football throw is the equivalent of a 93 mph fastball. At least, that's what I think they're doing. Seems like a pretty worthless stat to me.

    By Blogger Mike, at 12:53 PM  

  • The whole thing just makes no sense at all and it's stupid to try to make a comparison to baseball. Last night I emptied the dishwasher in 48 seconds, which is the equivalent of reciting the Gettysburg Address in 39 seconds.

    As for line spacing, I'm not sure what Madden's point was. One thing that annoys me about all of the announcers is they'll refer to their pregame chats with the coaches, then during the game they'll refer to something the team is doing well, but they never give any indication that they asked the coaches about it. I wish ABC would have filmed Madden asking Tice about his line spacing. A minute of that would've been better than Jimmy Kimmel.

    By Blogger MDS, at 12:57 PM  

  • Last night I emptied the dishwasher in 48 seconds.

    Dude, that is a record!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:45 PM  

  • Oh my, I don't really want to defend the MNF practice because it is just a gimmick that I couldn't care less about.
    I do like quibbling over irrelevancies though, so... 2 reasons:
    (1) If they wanted to quantify pass speed as part of selling the game, posting speeds that are really low compared to baseball would be unimpressive if they didn't explain them.
    (2) Baseball speeds serve as a known standard of comparison that people understand, so without the baseball statistic the pass speed stat would be meaningless (like how far a punt was in decimeters) until it was widespread and established enough to have its own comparative meaning.
    (3) The comparison is not as meaningless as the mocking examples because both speeds are measurements of the same underlying attribute arm strength. So maybe 50 years from now we can compare Favre's arm strength to Peyton Manning III's arm strength.

    I do not dispute the relative unimportance of the stat. I will say that it is probably no more useless than repeatedly saying "Wow that is really fast." repeatedly like they used to. I also do not refute the possibility that no one at ABC knows any physicists and they are doing what mds suggested.

    By Anonymous Scott, at 3:09 PM  

  • I remember watching the NHL skills competition one year. One of the commentators (don't remember who) was talking about Al Iafrate's killer slapshot and explained that the reason Iafrate is able to shoot the puck so fast is because force is equal to mass plus velocity.

    By Blogger dhodge, at 4:08 PM  

  • haha i'm going to go with the real strong + real fast formula above.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:34 PM  

  • there was this show called "sports science" or something and they said that a QB's arm actually travels 5-10 mph faster than a MLB pitcher's.The QB's arm travels around 85 or 90 but the ball travels somewhere around 60-ish. no doubt that Favre has the strongest arm in NFL history

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:14 PM  

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