When did the National Football League introduce a facemask penalty?

The National Football League (NFL) was established, as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), in 1920. Rudimentary facemasks were available well before that time, but the invention of the facemask or, at least, a specific type of facemask, is usually credited to Vernon McMillan, an entrepreneur from Terre Haute, Indiana. In 1938, McMillan was granted a patent application for a ‘nose guard’ consisting of rubber-coated wire, which could be easily attached to the harden leather helmets of the day and provide protection for the nose, eyes and cheekbones without interfering with the field of vision.

In 1949, the NFL officially adopted plastic, rather than leather, helmets and the next major step in the evolution of facemasks was the so-called BT-5, which was patented by Cleveland Browns co-founder Paul Brown in 1954. Manufactured by Riddell and popularly known as the Single Bar, the BT-5 consisted of a semi-circular, rubber-coated steel tube, which could simply be bolted to either side of a plastic helmet.

In any event, facemasks started to gain greater acceptance from the mid-Fifties onwards, such that, in 1956, the NFL introduced facemask penalties. Originally, penalties were limited to facemasking any player other than the ball-carrier but, in 1962, the rule was extended to all players. Likewise, deliberate facemasking originally incurred a 15-yard penalty, whereas accidental facemasking incurred just a five-yard penalty. However, since 2008, facemasking of any description has been classified as a ‘personal foul’, incurring a 15-yard penalty regardless of intent.

How did Indian batsman Axar Patel score 12 runs off one ball?

Strictly speaking, in all forms of cricket, six is the maximum number of runs that can be scored from one ball, so you might think that 12 runs off one ball must involve a five-run penalty of some kind. Such penalties can be imposed by the umpire on the fielding team – or the batting team, for that matter – for various indiscretions, such as illegal fielding or the ball, while still in play, striking an unused protective helmet belonging to the fielding side.

However, Axar Patel scored 12 runs off what was effectively one ball without any penalty runs during a One Day International (ODI) match between India and Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens, Kolkata on January 12, 2023. After 36 overs, India were 168-5 in response to a modest Sri Lankan total of 215 all out and therefore required 48 off 84 balls to win. Facing fellow bowling all-rounder Chamika Karunaratne, Patel drove the second delivery of the next over to the cover boundary for four runs. However, Karunaratne had also marginally overstepped the popping crease with his front foot, so the third umpire signalled a no-ball which, of course, is followed by a ‘free hit’.

Going back over the wicket, Karunaratne compounded his error by bowling a short ball that bounced above head height, well outside the off-stump and was called a wide. That took the total to six runs off one ball, so far, but India retained a free hot and Patel took full advantage. For his third attempt, Karunaratne bowled another short ball, this time a steepling bouncer on a good line. However, Patel nonchalantly rocked on the back foot and pulled the ball into the stands beyond the wide long-on boundary for six, making it 12 runs off one ball. For the record, India made 219-6 off 43.2 overs, thereby winning by four wickets with 40 balls to spare.

Who was the youngest darts player to achieve a televised nine-dart finish?

The vast majority of televised professional darts matches consist of single games, or legs, in which the object is to score exactly 501 points, ‘straight in, double out’. What this means, in plain English, is that players require no special shot to start scoring, but must finish scoring on a double or the bullseye. The minimum number of darts required to score 501 is nine, so a nine-dart finish is considered the pinnacle of achievement in a single leg of darts, akin to a ‘maximum’ break of 147 in a single frame of snooker (for all that, in the latter case, a break of 155 is theoretically possible).

The first player to achieve a televised nine-dart finish was John Lowe, who did so at the MFI World Matchplay on October 13, 1984. In his quarter-final match against Keith Deller, Lowe hit 180, 180 to leave 141, which he finished with treble 17, treble 18 and double 18. According to Unicorn Darts, Lowe lists the bullseye as his favourite double but, to finish 141 that way, he would have needed to score 91 with his first two darts. Of course, that’s possible, but less than straightforward, so he can be forgiven for taking the route that he did, particularly as he collected £102,000 for his trouble.

Anyway, the youngest darts player to play a perfect televised leg was Michael van Gerwen, who was just 17 years and 298 days old when did so against compatriot Raymond van Barneveld in a semi-final match in the Masters of Darts, at the Expo Center Hengelo (ECH) in Hengelo, Netherlands, on February 17, 2007. ‘Mighty Mike’ began his effort, in the second leg of the fifth set, unconventionally, hitting treble 20, treble 19 and treble 19 for a total of 174 on his first throw. However, he followed up with 180, to leave 147, which he finished in conventional fashion, by hitting treble 20, treble 17 and double 18. Apparently, of the 3,944 different ways of scoring 501 with nine darts, 782 finish on double 18, which is second only to the bullseye, which is the target for the last dart in 2,296 combinations.

What is the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method?

Formerly known as the Duckworth-Lewis method, the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method is calculation algorithm used to fairly compute the revised target in any limited-over cricket match in which overs are lost due to rain, bad light, etc.. The original method was devised by English statisticians Frank Duckworth and the late Tony Lewis, who died in March, 2020, but was subsequently revised to better handle higher run totals by Steve Stern, who is, nowadays, Professor of Data Science at Bond Business School in Queensland, Australia and, in his own words, ‘official custodian’ of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method. Stern was, however, keen to point out that his revision was ‘simply an adjustment and enhancement’ of the existing method.

Prior to January 1, 1997, when the Duckworth-Lewis method was used for the first time in a One Day International (ODI) match between Zimbabwe and England at Harare Sports Club, revised targets were calculated in direct proportion to the number of overs available, based on average run rate. This older, simpler method typically favoured chasing teams, but not so in the case of the semi-final of the Benson & Hedges World Cup between England and South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground in March, 1992. South Africa bowled only 45 overs, rather than 50, in the time allotted but, chasing 252/6, they were 231/6 off 42.5 overs when rain stopped play. When play resumed, the over limit was reduced by two, but the target reduced by just one, so that instead of needing 22 runs off 13 balls, South Afrrica now needed an impossible 22 runs off one ball.

To avoid such farcical circumstances, the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method takes into account the remaining resources at the disposal of each team – in other words, wickets in hand and overs in hand – at the stage of the match when interruptions occur. Obviously, as wickets fall and overs are completed, remaining resources fall, but all possible values can be pre-calculated and tabulated, while various calculators, official and unofficial, are also available.