Sports Science

The gridiron becomes a physics lab.

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Vince Lombardi, the grand don of football coaches, once said that the sport is only about two things--blocking and tackling. He was wrong:
Football is only about one thing, and that thing is physics. Timothy Gay, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, takes us on a tour of football through the eyes of a physicist in Football Physics: The Science of the Game (Rodale Books, $22).

Gay approaches football like a detective, constantly trying to strip away the superficial aspects to attack the core questions at the center of the game. For example, he demonstrates why it's important to stay low while tackling. It's not because you'll exert a larger force on the ball carrier that way but because you'll impart a torque around your opponent's center of mass and rotate him straight onto his back. From there, Gay proceeds to examine optimal pursuit strategies, the flight of a spiral pass, even the flow of the "wave" around the stadium and how its speed depends
on how cold the fans are. In a sport so dominated by force, energy and momentum, Football Physics serves as an insightful user's manual, your guide to understanding the true essentials of the game.