Jewish World Review Nov. 2, 2004 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Keeping football when it goes into the NFL stands; metal used for foil capsule covering cork on a bottle of good wine; Why are they called wisdom teeth?; more | Q: My wife and I are NFL fans who have season tickets in the end zone. If the ball reaches the stands, do fans get to keep it or do they have to give it back? - Chuck Balkcum, Lancaster, S.C.

A: I was sure they had to give it back.


"If a ball does enter the stands, fans are able to keep it," says NFL spokesman Michael Signora.

But that doesn't happen often. (The NFL has no statistics on how often, but says it's "relatively infrequent.") This wasn't always the case. It used to be up to each team to decide how they wanted to handle the situation.

Any fan who's ever watched a field goal can tell you what keeps the balls out of the stands - nets that rise up behind the goal posts. Certain stadiums began using these in 1977, and they've been required since 1996.

They seem to go up like clockwork, but did you know that they're manually operated? Two people on each side pull the ropes, the NFL told me.

It was part of the Arena Football League's sales pitch that fans got to keep their footballs, which fly into the stands regularly. You have to return the players.

Here's something I didn't know until I started poking around for this question: In the past, many baseball parks required you to throw foul balls back. Seems un-American, doesn't it? Killing yourself for a ball worth a couple bucks is part of the game.

According to The Associated Press, in 1904, a rule let major league teams put employees in the seats to retrieve fouls. In 1921, New York Giants fan Reuben Berman caught a foul at the Polo Grounds. When he refused to give it to an usher, he was ejected. Berman sued for mental and physical distress and won. The Giants, and eventually other teams, changed their policy. And that's how foul balls became souvenirs.

You can buy official Wilson NFL footballs at, starting at $80.

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Q: What kind of metal do wine makers use for the foil capsule that covers the cork on a bottle of good wine? - Bill Christie

A: Now wait just a doggone second. Do you people REALLY expect me to address questions on football AND wine?

What's next? Are you gonna ask me if it's good to take a little nap with your honey after the game? (Yes.)

The capsule was invented to protect the cork from insects in the wine cellar, experts say. These days it's mostly decorative.

Capsules (the word is the same in English and French) used to be made of lead foil. Was that dangerous? Probably not, but the lead that ended up in landfills certainly wasn't good for the environment.

If you get a capsule of soft, heavy metal that you think might be lead, you might just wipe the wine bottle's neck with a cloth after you've pulled the cork.

In the '90s a variety of other materials began to replace lead capsules - tin, paper and plastic among them.


Q: Why are they called wisdom teeth? - Laura Stratton

A: The third molars are the last teeth to develop and erupt into the jaws. They usually come in during the teen years, sometimes called the age of wisdom. I certainly knew everything then, didn't you?



On women of sci-fi TV

1. What did Sarah Michelle Gellar slay in a show beloved by its cult following?

2. Who portrayed "The Bionic Woman"?

3. Who played Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek"?

4. What were June Lockhart and her family lost in?

5. True or False: Lucy Lawless, aka Xena the Warrior Princess, stands an impressive 6 feet 3 inches tall?



1. Vampires

2. Lindsay Wagner

3. Nichelle Nichols

4. Space

5. False; she's about 5 feet 10 inches.

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


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