British Guy Figures Out That NFL Refs Have Biased Ball Placement
It's important to know where you want to place your balls and everyone has a unique set of different preferences -- everyone except NFL referees, who routinely put theirs on the even numbered yard lines.
Joey Faulkner -- an Astronomy PhD student who we assume did not grow up watching American football because he's British -- collected a massive amount of NFL game data to prove that the official spotting of footballs is neither arbitrary nor accurate. In a nutshell, Faulkner found that balls are disproportionately marked on certain yard lines, just inside midfield going toward the end zone, but then quickly become more specific inside the 20-yard line. The most frequent ball placements? The 25, 30, 35 and 40-yard lines (in that order).
His conclusion was pretty awesome.
[gutterstats] The only explanation that has stuck with me is that when a official thinks “oh damn this is a mess, there are seven separate six foot tall millionaires all piled up on top of the ball and I have 100 rules to try and remember, where did that ball stop?” their subconscious makes them grab for the safety blanket of a line drawn and place it down on there.
Does this anomaly actually have an impact on the outcomes of NFL games? Probably not -- Faulkner illustrates that refs become aware of when they need to be more precise with their spots (near the end zones, of course), so the effect of an inaccurate ball placement most likely has a negligible effect on a team's ability to score. That being said, there's a strong likelihood you've seen your favorite team miss out on a first down due to one of these biased spots on a 10-yard run on second down near midfield that's been hastily marked a yard shy just because Ed Hochuli likes neatly resting his balls on the 35-yard line.
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