Female football fan befuddled by ‘bye’

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: I agree with all the readers who love your column. I read it every day as soon as I finish the sports pages. I am a huge NFL fan. I watch all the football games with my husband and his cronies.

I’m pleased to say I’m considered an expert on NFL rules and regulations, team and player stats, as well as every bit of NFL info you can imagine. Having said that, there is one itsy-bitsy situation where I need to take you into my confidence.

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Every fan knows what a “bye” week is. During the regular season every team is given a week off from playing another team. During the early part of playoffs, a bye week is granted to teams based on their regular season performance.

I have absolutely no idea what the actual term “bye” stands for or where it originated.

Also, I want to know how the networks superimpose the first down markers on the field.

And during the games, the officials have two helpers on the sidelines, one has a huge K on his vest, the other an X. What are these guys called?

Thank you for your research and answer that will allow me to save face with my fellow football fans. — Grace, No Town

ANSWER: Sun Spots found some answers at wiki.answers.com:

In a sports context, it comes from cricket, where a bye is a type of play where the batsman can advance and score without ever hitting the ball. . . . The same meaning was applied to other sports where teams advance to a later round without playing. You can see that in the NFL during the playoffs, where the top two seeds advance to the second round without playing in the first round. The meaning was then further extended to signify simply getting a week off, effectively “skipping” that week without playing and starting up again the following week.

The bye during the regular season is necessary because there are 17 teams but only 16 weeks in the season.

As for K and X, according to a 2002 ESPN post, there are two sets of ball boys at NFL games. The ones with the X jerseys handle the balls for the normal plays. The ones with the K jerseys handle the balls for kicking plays.

As to the first down lines, they are another miracle of the modern computer age. According to mentalfloss.com:

“Long before the game starts, technicians make a digital 3-D model of the field, including all of the yard lines. While a football field may look flat to the naked eye, it’s actually subtly curved with a crown in the middle to help rainwater flow away. Each field has its own unique contours, so before the season begins, broadcasters need to get a 3-D model of each stadium’s field.

“These models of the field help sidestep the rest of the technological challenges inherent to putting a line on the field. On game day, each camera used in the broadcast contains sensors that record its location, tilt, pan and zoom and transmit this data to the network’s graphics truck in the stadium’s parking lot. These readings allow the computers in the truck to process exactly where each camera is within the 3-D model and the perspective of each camera. (According to How Stuff Works, the computers recalculate the perspective 30 times per second as the camera moves.)”

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