What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
After the first of the Twelve Greatest Saturdays of the Year, there’s been a consensus opinion that football games are too goddamn long. To be fair, I get my hackles up at that suggestion when it comes to baseball, but there’s really no denying college football has a problem.
That tweet was about Thursday night’s plod-fest between Ohio State and Indiana. The second half was even tougher to watch because once again, not only was there too much dead time, but the world came back into order as the competitive nature of the opening half was replaced with the expected Ohio State seal-clubbing of the Hoosiers.
The die was cast for me on Saturday during the Penn State-Akron game. A first-quarter fumble by the Zips led to an almost 4-minute video review. Think about that. In an attempt to meet the ridiculous standard of “indisputable video evidence,” we wasted almost four minutes looking at a writhing flesh-pile in which even the fleetingest glimpse of the ball was not even remotely possible.
Then in the Florida-Michigan game, it only took nineteen seconds before we had the refs watching video for one of those silly “targeting” reviews.
But the time we waste on these reviews is just one thing which needs to be addressed. One of the easy targets in this topic is the length of halftime and the breaks between quarters. Granted, those do need to be part of the discussion as there’s no debating they are in the equation. But I also think that’s the “low-hanging fruit” in all of this. That’s why it’s time for yet another Dubsism look into a situation to give you a view you won’t get anywhere else.
That being said, here’s six ways to tighten up football games.
1) Start games on-time
Some networks are worse for this than others, but they all do it. If you list the kick-off time as 8 p.m., I expect to see a a game underway no later than 8:02. But that usually isn’t the case. Some broadcast outlets will put you through 15 to 20 minutes of time-wastery before toe ever meets leather. I’m not tuning in at 8 to see four jag-offs behind a desk or to see a sideline reporter bothering a head coach who can barely hide his disdain for sideline reporters. I’m tuning in to see football, and that’s really all I want. Everything else is just wasted time.
2) Eliminate TV time-outs
This is the first of several points which is going to point the dirty finger at the real culprit in terms of game-length. The reason why everybody who wants shorter football games has their sights set on halftime and quarter breaks is because you don’t have to take time away from paid advertisements to make those changes. If halftimes were shortened, don’t think for a minute the networks aren’t going to sell less ad time; they will cut time from the aforementioned blow-dries behind a desk.
The bottom line is if you want shorter football games, you’ll need to eat into the time made available for commercials. I know there’s no way on God’s green earth broadcasters are going to do anything which threatens ad revenue. But time allowed for ads and potential for revenue generation are not one in the same if you’re capable of “thinking outside the box.” More on that later.
3) Cut the amount of time in between changes of possession
Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the “score-three minute commercial block-kickoff-three more minutes of commercials” formula. We’re having a discussion about lopping five minutes off halftime, but making this change saves you more time off just one score…just one. Again, I get this is all about TV time for ads, but I’m getting to that…
This is really the “roll-up” for the last two points. You can show less commercials and still keep the revenue right where it is. All you have to do is charge more for the time. I’m not sure where the reasoning came from that says there’s efficacy in showing me the exact same beer commercial 85 times in one game, but it’s dead fucking wrong. “The Most Interesting Man In the World” is totally mis-named; he’s really “The Most Annoying Motherfucker On The Planet.” Those commercials piss me off so much the I specifically won’t buy their product just because of those spots. The point is if you show me a commercial more than twice in one game, you’re not advertising, you’re harassing.
Not to mention, just go look at what NBC Sports does with it’s coverage of the English Premier League. They are swimming in money from their ad revenue during those matches despite the fact that the way soccer manages it’s clock is probably the most-unfriendly format possible for the current television advertising configuration where the 30-second spot is the bread and butter. But maybe…just maybe… its time to re-think that. If they can find a way to put a crawl at the bottom of my screen so that I’m never not completely up-to-date on women’s golf scores, they can find new ways to sell me shitty beer.
5) Get rid of instant replay
OK, football fans, you have a collective decision to make. You can either have instant replay or you can have shorter games. You can’t have both. The idea behind instant replay was that we were going to eliminate the “bad call.” Not only did that not happen, it made things worse. In the NFL, that whole “catch/not a catch” horseshit is a direct result of instant replay. In college, every time two helmets touch, we get a three-minute “targeting” review.
It’s time to admit the use of instant replay as intended as an officiating tool has been a colossal failure. Not only did it not achieve it’s goal, it didn’t address the root problem; bad officiating. All instant replay did is to stuff yet more dead time into football games.
6) Radically change the current clock-management scheme
As it exists now, football doesn’t have a “clock” as much it has a “stopwatch.” As such, the “start/stop” nature of football means there is already a lot of “dead time” built into the game. Worse yet, the way the clock is managed in both college football and the NFL only lends itself to more time in games where nothing is happening. Think about it, coaches get criticized all the time for “clock management,” which almost invariably means they are being judged on their decision as to when to stop the clock.
Part of the problem is how football chops up it’s clock now. American football is the only place in the time-space continuum where 60 minutes takes three and a half hours, largely because the game simply has far too many reasons to stop the clock. There’s far too many reasons for that, and a lot of them have already been discussed here, which is why my suggestion to fix this problem won’t get serious consideration.
I understand anything which threatens ad revenue is a non-starter, and anything which even remotely suggests such a thing will be met with more resistance than the Germans found Paris in 1941. Despite that, there’s a simple solution to this problem, and we already know it works. American football needs to adopt a clock management scheme which closely resembles that of European soccer.
Naturally, there would have to be a few tweaks to fit the specific needs of American football, but the basic concept is the same. Instead of having four 15 minute quarters, football games would have two 60-minute halves separated by a 20-minute halftime. The halftime needs to be that long as an appeasement to the advertisers; they will need to get something in return for the changes coming to “normal” advertising. Also, shortening halftime to the NFL-standard of 12 minutes put the screws to the concession owners in the stadium. Besides, I’m not a bog hurry to eat into the band’s time. The bands are part of the college football tradition, and to be honest, five minutes of a marching band isn’t the problem with the length of games.
As for the game time itself, teams will still get three time-outs per half. Each time out will be two minutes to allow for advertising. There would still be the 30-second play clock started from the time the officials spot the ball. During those halves, there would be only a few times when the clock stops.
You’ll note this plan does not stop the clock for injuries. There would be a provision where the officials can stop the clock for severe injuries where it’s going to be a substantial amount of time to deal with the injured player, but the vast majority of injures can be handled without such a stoppage. Just like in soccer, the referee can simply add time at the end of each half to allow for the time lost to injuries. At the stoppage for the two-minute warning, the referee announces how much extra time will be added (no more than six minutes per half) and adds that time to the game clock.
I’m fairly certain that there would have to be a discussion about how to stop teams from faking injuries to run out the clock at the end of games, but that’s a conversation for another day. The first challenge would be to get this plan implemented in the first place.
Here’s the deal, college football fans. Like I said about instant replay, if you want shorter games, you’re going to have to make some decisions. Going after halftime only gets you a few minutes; you need to get these games much closer to three hours than the four they are running now.
P.S. Feel free to consider some of these for the NFL, Kommissar Goodell.