In American football, why do QBs wear low numbers, while linemen wear higher ones?

William from Chico asks: “In American football, what is the origin of the general number groupings assigned to the different positions on the team, i.e. QBs wearing numbers 1-19?” For most of its life, the NFL was the Wild West as far as numbers were concerned. A 300 lb. tackle could wear number 3. Quarterbacks could sport 60. Then came Rule 5, Section 3, Article 3c. Enacted in the spring of 1973, it established a jersey-numbering system that dictated which players can wear certain numbers. The list of who can wear what is here. The system helped…

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Spectating at YouTube

By now, Zinedine Zidane’s shocking headbutt in the World Cup final has faded from memory, replaced by other sporting scandals. But at YouTube, the whole episode—Zidane’s sudden loss of control, the media frenzy, and the inevitable mash-ups —remains frozen in place. We moved on, but hundreds of headbutt clips settled into YouTube’s formidable databases alongside famous touchdowns, baseball blunders, and marching band moments. All await the curious spectator. Since its May 2005 launch, YouTube has become the site for online videos. It serves up an estimated 100 million videos every day, or roughly 60 percent of the…

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The Champions League

The European Cup was founded in 1955 to determine the best soccer team on the Continent. Each year the champions from the national leagues would fight it out. Real Madrid quickly proved dominant. They won the first 5 competitions and have won nine times over all. A.C. Milan has won six titles, and Liverpool F.C. has five. (The winners’ list is here.) The Cup changed its name to the Champions League in 1992. It now lasts from fall to spring (The final is in May). For all the info, scores, and live commentary, check the official website…

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Gambling Gurus: A Gambler’s Glossary

It’s that time of year when children return to school, the leaves stiffen, and I start worrying about point spreads. For many the end of summer brings existential angst as another browning year is reduced to dust by the boots of time. But every September I turn to the one solace that reliably warms my heart on the coldest afternoons: betting on football games I wouldn’t otherwise care about. How else can you justify wasting a beautiful afternoon watching the woeful 49ers take on the Cardinals, winners of Superbowl MMMLCIX? The truth is, a little action keeps…

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What N.F.L. franchise is the most valuable?

The Washington Redskins are worth $1.4 billion, according to Forbes, which has been tracking the value of teams for eight years. While most of the headlines, and indignation, have focused on players’ ballooning salaries, team owners have had a great run. The average value of a team today is $898 million, a jump of 212 percent, according to Forbes. Since 1998, the average team’s value has increased 11 times more than the S&P 500, the magazine estimates. This growth has two main causes. The first: lucrative stadium deals, many extracted from local governments desperate to keep teams—and…

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The Contrade: Keeping the Feud Alive

(See also: Austin Kelley’s article in Men’s Vogue) A few days before I got married in Siena, I staggered out of an enoteca near the main piazza to the sounds of drums beating. When my pupils adjusted to the midday sun, I noticed that there were men in maroon medieval threads with flags bearing insignia of an owl parading down the street. I thought it was a tourist gimmick, but then I looked at their faces. They seemed serious, if not a little crazed. The next day on a wine tasting tour outside of the nearby town…

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The Pleasures of the Palio

(See also: Austin Kelley’s article in Men’s Vogue) Late summer in Italy. Whether you’ve been there during the dog days or not, you probably have a pretty good idea of what it’s all about. In the big cities, retail stores, museums and other businesses open – if they open at all – for, say, two hours in the morning followed by another narrow two-hour window in the afternoon. A tough target. Ringing phones at the furniture factories go unanswered, while interior designers in New York curse on the other end of the line. Even in the countryside…

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During the U.S. Open how many balls are used?

Between practice and play, the U.S. Open runs through six tons of tennis balls, or roughly 70,000 balls. Wilson, who supplies the “optic yellow” balls to the tournament, estimates that they need 3,900 pounds of rubber and 700 square yards of felt to make their annual shipment to Forest Hills. To insure consistent “bouncability” U.S.T.A. rules dictate that each of the balls in competition must bounce between 53 and 58 inches when dropped from a 100-inch height. For weekend hackers, try dropping the ball from forehead height. It should bounce to around your belly button. Tweet good…

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College football

For many, college football is the only sport, and for good reason. First the fans are great. Second, every game counts (The NCAA has a self-promotional blog of the same name). And finally, players stay closer to the amateur athlete model which so many N.F.L. fans seem to find desirable. This said, the sport is a sprawl of conferences, school rivalries and opaque tradition all governed by a moving thicket of NCAA regulations. A cryptic postseason bowl game system caps it all off. To try to get their hands around it all, sportswriters inevitably revert to lists.…

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Tennis Gets a Little More Virtual

There will be no more complaining about the umpires in tennis. Last Monday the U.S. Open began using something they call “instant replay” to review line calls. Here’s how it works. A player — let’s say, Andre Agassi — hits a ball that lands very close to the line. It’s called out. He swears it’s in. He says to the umpire, “I beg your pardon, sir, but I challenge your assertion.” Then, the big screen above the court flickers to life. On it, a flat yellow circle loops through a blue field. As it changes direction, a…

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