I watch a lot of sporting events on television for the simple reason that I enjoy doing that. So, my complaint of the moment has nothing to do with some underlying dislike for the TV product. Rather it has to do with maintaining interest.
I have never suffered from ADHD; I do not have the problem of a short attention span. Nonetheless, too many games on TV take too long to finish. MLB has recognized that they do not want a significant fraction of their 9-inning games to take almost 4 hours. They have tried to infuse the game with a couple of “speed-up rules” which have not materially changed the game nor which have caused the majority of games to drop down close to the 2-hour mark. More can be done, but give MLB some credit for doing something. Now let me tell you two other sports that need some “fixing”…
College football games – and I do love college football – are getting longer and longer and… For a college football game to take 3 hours and 45 minutes is not unusual anymore; some games hit the 4-hour mark. The typical NFL game takes 3 hours and 15 minutes and while that does not sound all that much shorter than a college game, remember that both games are played to a 60-minute clock so the question is why such a big difference in duration. Here are two ideas:
1. In college, the clock stops on every first down until the crew sets the chains. In a game where there are 50 first downs recorded between the two teams, that might add a full 10 minutes to the game’s duration. If the clock ran while the crew hustled to set the chains and resume play, that would save the down time plus it would result in fewer plays in the game and potentially fewer first downs to stop the clock. I think the rules mavens for college football ought to take a close look at this issue.
2. Unlike baseball where a retarded pace of play directly adds time to the game duration – think of all those batters who need to adjust their gloves and cups after every pitch and all those pitchers who need to stare down every batter on every pitch – the pace of play in most college football games is plenty fast. For many teams the pace is truly frenetic. However, that frenetic pace produces more plays per game which produces more points per game which leads to more commercial breaks which makes the telecast take close to 4 hours. I do not advocate rules to impair teams that play up-tempo; I do not want college football to return to the Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” mode. So, I have to file this in the bin of “problems identified for which I have not figured out a solution”…
Basketball games – both college games and NBA games – also take longer than they need to. Particularly in college games, the final 3 minutes of a game might take 20 or even 30 minutes to complete. The issue is the number of timeouts that each team has and the number of game delays that officials allow such that coaches create “unofficial timeouts.” Here the rule makers can have an immediate effect on the problem and the “competition committee folks” who create points of emphasis for the officials can also.
Given that each team will get 4 clock-driven timeouts per half, each team does not need 5 timeouts to call at their discretion. In fact, they really only need 2 per team. Right there, you could effect a time savings of 10 minutes per game. One other benefit would be that with only 2 timeouts per team, you would get far fewer timeouts called after grabbing a loose ball on the floor.
Moreover, substitutions for players who have fouled out need not take a full minute with the players going over to the coach for instruction. The sub should be on the court and the game should be resumed in 10 – 15 seconds and none of the players on the floor who have not fouled out should be allowed to go over to the bench for instruction.
One more change will speed things up. On a two-shot foul, there will be no substitution allowed after the second free throw even if it is made.
I think those changes could save a total of 12-15 minutes per game.
Another time-waster which produces no competitive action or compelling viewing is the habit of every foul shooter strolling around and slapping hands with every teammate after every free throw attempt. A very simple rule change here would cover this problem. No free throw shooter may leave the circle on multiple shots; no players in the marked lane positions may leave that position on multiple shots and no player on the shooting team can enter the circle where the shooter is or reach into the circle. Moreover, the official needs to take the ball and put it at the disposal of the shooter a lot faster than they do it now. There could be another 5 minutes of time savings here in a game where 40 foul shots take place.
I do not think that any of my suggested changes radically alters the games in question or makes a mockery of them. And I do think there are time savings to be harvested from all of them.
Anyone who watched the end of the Lions/Seahawks game on Monday Night Football realizes that the official in the end zone on the “batted ball play” botched the call. The ball should have – by rule – gone to the Lions with a first down on the Seahawks 1-yardline with about a minute to play. That does NOT mean that the Lions would have won the game; please recall what happened to the Seahawks with the ball at the 1-yardline in the final minutes of last year’s Super Bowl game. However, it does harken back to another low-point in the annals of NFL officiating.
Remember back in 2012 when the NFL and the officials could not agree on a new CBA and the league used “replacement refs”. That substitution ploy ended after a blatantly bad call in the end zone on the final play of a game on MNF in Seattle. That play has come to be known as the “Fail Mary” play; I wonder how history will recall and label the one last Monday night. Perhaps, KJ Wright will be known as “Batman” for the rest of his career?
Finally, with the MLB playoffs set to go into full swing, here are two comments from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times that seem appropriate:
“A 108-year-old message in a bottle washed up off the German coast.
“Turns out it was a very prophetic epistle from a title-hungry Cubs fan: ‘Wait’ll this year!’”
“A Roman lead scroll from the year 3 A.D. — unearthed in England three years ago — has a curse written on it, researchers now say.
“Talk about prescient: It mentions 25 cubs and a goat.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………