# measuring in 'football fields'

Ok, this is quite silly. Im reading an article about a new rather large sculpture at the Guggenheim in Spain, and the reporter says

Measuring ART in “Football Fields”? Ive heard of couch-sized paintings, but …

This unit of measurement is coming up more and more lately.

So, my question is, what would be a more scientific equivalent of a “football field” in length, and, should we incorporate “football fields” into the already colorful “imperial measurement system”. Kind of goes with the “foot” theme

hectoyards?

As with some other non-metric measurements, you need to specify what kind you are talking about. American football fields are different in size from Rugby and Soccer fields, and the Australian football field is an inexact measurement, because there isn’t a fixed size there (it’s derived from the inexact size of a cricket field).

This is called “social math” – trying to describe numbers in terms the average mathematically challenged American (don’t know about other societies) can understand.

In fact, I played this game myself recently. Ever try to describe one “acre” to someone? It’s the traditional measurement of land a yoke of oxen could plow in one day.

First, you have to explain “yoke,” “oxen” and “plow.”

It’s 43,560 square feet.

???

It’s a square 208 feet on a side.

???

Okay, take a football field, sideline to sideline, goal line to goal line. Cut 4 yards off one end. That’s an acre.

Everyone on the same page now?

That would defeat the point, which is an attempt to make the measurement more concrete. Clearly, a “footbal field” is 100 yds. 450 ft = 1 1/2 football fields, so the structure in question, at 430 ft, is “nearly” one and a half football fields.

It’s a long-standing cliche in the British press that the two acceptable measurements are ‘size of a football pitch’ and ‘size of Wales’ (the latter normally relating to deforestation).

And of course, real football pitches don’t have an absolute measurement

That seems a bit unnecessarily condescending. I’m not convinced that the ability to visualize the size of an artificat is directly related to mathematical ability. However, we are very visual creatures so comparing anything to an object of know size is a very useful technique.

Is it possible that the desire for accuracy has overwhelmed the original point of units of measure…IE something we can all visualize? I believe that is why the “foot” has held out for so long with respect to our heights, and the “pound” for weight. It would probably help if we had visual samples of the metric units of measurement for people to become familiar with, samples that could easily be viewed by anyone in popular culture. Such as every city has a “cubic meter” somewhere, or mabey a “kilometer” or W.H.Y.

Agreed, I think, but I don’t think it will come all that easy, or maybe its also a case of learning the metric system well enough that any of us can work the other direction to find something we’re familiar with.

Odd mental tricks go on here. I can picture a liter of soda pop okay, but I’m still glad I can buy milk by the gallon, because I can picture that better than I can four liters of milk (nearest equivalent, more or less).

For running a race, lots of us know what a 5k is, but not as many Americans know that that’s the same as 5 kilometers.

100 kg is the size of a good-sized man. 100 mm is the size of a wide fist. (I kind of hope that the US uses mm instead of cm - I actually we’ll have an easier time keeping mm straight from inches.)

Anyhow, football fields is okay by me, as long as we don’t start hearing newscasts about measuring things in milli-fields.

It’s pretty common to describe things in terms of concrete things people can understand. Many countried, for instance, are compared to US states in terms of area (e.g., the CIA fact books says Austria is “slightly smaller than Maine.”)

It’s just an easier way to visualize things.

Well, and then there is the point that a very large number of US reporters either started out as sports reporters or aspire to become sports columnists, so it is probably the one concrete measurement with which they are actually familiar. Add to that the pervasive nature of high school and college football (where most students will have spent some number of rainy Friday nights or sunny Saturday afternoons in the actual presence of a field with its invariable dimensions), and you have a really quick bond between writer and readers.

Back in the olden days, “car length” was a good rough-and-ready unit of shorter measure, but the days when Fords, Chevies, and Plymouths dominated the highways and coupes, sedans, and pickup trucks were all within a foot or so of the same length have receded into the distant past as compacts, sub-compacts, land yachts, and Suburban-wannabes have turned “car length” into an unfathomable river of irregularity.

Any meteorite of great substance will be described as “the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.”

No different from “golfball-sized hail” or “big enough to choke a cat.”

Just a handy thumbnail reference. As a Falcons season ticket holder, I can tell you it’s appreciated - I know EXACTLY how big that chunk of turf is. I just wish it was luckier…

…or, on preview, what tomndebb just said.

The story has it that David Letterman was fired from his job as a weatherman for reporting on hailstones the size of canned hams.

Exactly. Pretty much every American has personally seen a football field. Thus everyone immediately identifies with the length.

Also American football is very exacting when it comes to size. So 100 yards stands out in people’s minds. Although an American football field is actually 120 yards long since there are 10-yard end zones on each side.

And very few Americans know how wide a football field is (160 feet).

And not many people know how big a basketball court is. Unless you grew up listening to Chick Hearn who would often say “Magic, dribbling the ball up this 94’ by 50’ hunk of hardwood.”

When we wen’t to england, we were struck by how every height seemed to be put in terms of double decker buses.

I don’t know if he was fired or not for it, but he did say it - I’ve seen the clip.