Last Friday I wrote about a 1950s gadget designed to more accurately measure first downs. It turns out that reader Mako Mameli is interested in such devices, so he shared some of his research with me. I’ve put together a timeline based largely on his findings:
1954: Lou Peresenyi invents the Pere-Scope, which is used in 21 college football games. [This is the device discussed in last Friday’s post.]
1955: The Pere-Scope is used in the East-West Shrine Game.
1958: Peresenyi receives a patent for the Pere-scope.
1960: An aerospace and automotive engineer named George Dicker watches a college football game played on a muddy field, notices the officials having a difficult time measuring first downs, and thinks to himself, “There must be a better way.” He will spend the next decade pondering this question.
1966: Theodore Goff and several associates receive a patent for “a visual instrument for use in determining the exact position of a football on a playing field,” which they say has been used successfully at the high school and college level.
1970: The Los Angeles Times publishes an article about George Dicker, who after 10 years has invented his device for measuring first downs, called the Dickerod. “Really,” he says, “my method is essentially the same as the chain gang. I’ve just eliminated the chain and the gang.”
1972: Dickerod business is booming, as Dicker has made 250 of the devices and claims they’ll be used in over 600 games during the ’72 football season, mostly at the high school level.
1973: George Dicker receives a patent for the Dickerod, described as a device “concerned with the measurement of the ten yard distance required in football games for the achievement of a first down, and the accomplishment of this measurement by one person.”
1974: The World Football League begins play, using the Dickerod to measure first downs.
1975: The WFL folds midway through its second season.
1993: Alvin J. Caywood receives a patent for “a device for measuring the position of a football on a football playing field.” It’s not clear whether this invention ever ends up being used in a game at any level.
So at least five different first down measurement devices have received patents (which means they were not only distinct from the chain gang but also distinct from each other), yet the chain gang stubbornly holds its ground.
One of the most interesting things about all this is buried within one of the Dickerod articles. When asked to assess the invention, the commissioner of the California Collegiate Athletic Association listed several potential problems, including this one: “What happens when the public misses the drama of the chain measurement?” Indeed. A gadget may be more precise (or it may not — I really have no sense of how accurate any of these inventions were), but it can’t possibly deliver the entertainment value of a chain gang measurement. Which is no doubt why the chain gang, despite all these attempts to build a better mousetrap, remains the gold standard.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Man, first Shep, then the Boss, now Ralph Houk. Will the Yanks add a black armband to go with the two new jersey patches? … Syracuse’s annual football uni revision is now circulating. … New uniforms for Utah State, too (with thanks to Ryan Hare). … Former Bucs safety Tony Bouie is now running for the state senate in Arizona and has ripped off the NFL logo for his campaign (with thanks to Matt Williams). … Tennessee football’s ticket design this season will feature a gallery of former coaches (with thanks to Lee Wilds). … A Texas high school has updated its logo after a copyright-infringement claim by Penn State. … Yesterday I ran a photo of Phog Allen in an awesome Kansas Jayhawks jacket. Now Michael Russek has provided a much clearer photo. Damn, that is one sweet jacket. … Paul Carr has launched a new blog about baseball caps. … Good contribution from Dan Cichalski, who writes: “Alyson Footer, who’s the director of digital media for the Astros, put up a blog post about the visitors’ clubhouse at Wrigley, with a video of the long walk to the dugout. It’s a neat look into the Friendly Confines.” … Here’s the latest batch of pin-up foxiness from Rob Ullman, who I had the pleasure of meeting during his recent visit to NYC. … Oooh, check this out: a Red Sox championship menu from 1912 (great find by Baroness Karen McBurnie). … Skip ahead to the 55-second mark of this video clip and you’ll see an odd sight: Wilt wearing No. 54 (good spot by Bill Scheft). … Hmmm, I didn’t realize the indie music crowd had so many NBA fans, but there were lots of NBA jerseys at the recent Pitchfork-fest (with thanks to Aaron Rich). … Larry Bodnovich wondered why some Indiana linemen in this 1981 shot had black tape inlining their helmet logos, so he inquired on a football message board. The response he got from another forum member: “Guards Jim Sakanich and Mark Filburn doctored their own helmets with the black tape, just to be different. Coach Corso didn’t let them keep the black tape! On a sadder note, the black star on the front of the helmets was in remembrance of teammate Kevin Burke, who tragically died of leukemia in the summer of 1981.” … Looks like the Penguins’ new red line will have inlaid white diamonds. … Y’know, I think I could get into soccer if the teams all dressed like this. That’s a Canadian team, not sure of the date (big thanks to Kevin West).