A Modified NFL Overtime Rule …

Surely, you have read about or heard about the NFL decision to change the regular season overtime rule by reducing the time of the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.  The “cover story” for all of this is that this is done in the interest of player safety.  While that may in fact be an outcome here, pardon me for my skepticism related to the idea that this was the concept that sprung from nowhere to mesmerize the NFL Competition Committee and now the NFL owners.

If, indeed, player safety is the paramount concern here, can I ask why there is overtime at all in the regular season?  Fans “hate tie games” – – or at least that is the standard narrative that sports leagues operate upon.  The fact is that the NFL existed until 1974 without the benefit of any overtime rule for the regular season; that means for more than half of the league’s existence, it was “OK” to have tie-games in the regular season.  Tie games are not apocalyptic; they may be unsatisfying to the fans but they do not threaten civilization as we know it.

If player safety is the driver here, there should be no overtime games at all until the playoffs where a singular winner is needed to ascertain who moves on to the next round.  If some other factor(s) are at work here, please identify them clearly and unambiguously.  If I asked you to guess what the NFL record is for a team playing tie games in a season, what would be your guess?  Here is the answer:

  • In 1932, the Chicago Bears played 6 NFL games that ended in a tie.  The team record for the year was 7-1-6.
  • The Bears began the 1932 season with tie games in the first 3 games of the season – and all of them were 0-0 tie games.
  • In the 4th game of the 1932 season, the Bears suffered their only loss.  The Green Bay Packers beat the Bears at Wrigley Field by a score of 2-0.
  • The Bears did not score a single point until their 5th game of the season and finished the year with a 7-1-6 record.

The NFL has had overtime in existence for 43 years now.  First it was sudden death; then, it was modified to give the loser of the coin toss an opportunity to possess the ball; now we have this change.  If the rules mavens cannot come up with something people perceive to be fair and effective at the same time, I have a radical idea:

  • Why not end the game after 60 minutes of play; and if the score is tied, record it as such and move on to the next game on the schedule?
  • That worked for the first 54 years of the NFL’s existence.

Since I started with an NFL topic today, allow my mind to wander in the space-time continuum of the NFL and television.  We know from recent personnel reductions that ESPN is in a cost cutting mode and that much of that is driven by the number-crunchers who oversee ESPN from corporate mahogany offices in Disney Corp.  So, let me accept as a fact that ESPN is not nearly the cash-cow that it was 10 years ago.

Earlier this week, I read a report that speculated that Turner Broadcasting – TBS – might be interested in getting a piece of the action for NFL television rights.  Let me be clear; I have no insight into that corporate thinking if indeed it is actually ongoing.  Let me channel Will Rogers here:

“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.”

Never being one to allow my own ignorance to stand in the way of an opinion, consider that MNF costs ESPN $1.5B per year in TV rights.  According to reports, ESPN signed on with the NFL for $15.2B for TV rights to MNF for 2001 to 2021.  Might the mavens at ESPN/Disney think that a way to ameliorate the financial burdens at ESPN in 2017 might be to sell off part of that “inventory” to TBS?  Here is what math tells me:

  • If ESPN fired 100 staffers to save their salary costs, the $1.5B that MNF costs would cover all of those salaries unless all 100 of the fired staffers made more than $15M per year.

By comparison, NBC pays a little less for SNF than ESPN pays for MNF and NBC gets the benefit of flex scheduling which is logistically impossible for MNF.  My take-away here is that the good folks at ESPN need to find a better contract negotiator to represent their interests when they seek to carry NFL games after 2021.

A former colleague and long-term reader of these rants sent along a link to an article on Deadspin.com about a communication between the Athletic Department at LSU and the “student-athletes” at LSU.  Earlier this month, the United States DoJ decided that it would not press charges against two police officers who had been involved in the killing of Alton Sterling.

Summarizing the communique from the Athletic Department, they asked the student-athletes not to wear LSU “gear” or uniforms if the “student-athletes” felt that they wanted to participate in protests over this decision.  Forget your opinion on the entire matter of Alton Sterling’s death for a moment.  This communication phrased as a request from the LSU Athletic Department is well-positioned.  It recognizes that some of the “student-athletes” will choose to participate in protests and the Athletic Department does not seek to stifle that in any way.  However, they do ask that the “student-athletes” help the Athletic Department in protecting the “brand” of LSU athletics” by not wearing uniforms or gear.  My summary:

  1. The “student-athletes” have full freedom of expression.
  2. The “student-athletes” are requested to ignore their freedom of attire.

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“A squirrel ran on the field during a Twins-Indians game and eluded members of the grounds crew for four minutes. I’m sure this was more entertaining than any dumb between-innings hot dog race.

“A study reveals that rodents that run on the field at baseball games tend to have a higher IQ than fans who run on the field.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………



2 thoughts on “A Modified NFL Overtime Rule …”

  1. The NFL deal was an 8 year extension… if it has been from 2001 to 2021 it would have a lot less than 1.5B a year, it would be a little over 700M (21 years, 15.2B). It’s 2013-2021, 1.9B per, according to the NY times

    1. Ed:

      First of all, that was a typo on my part. I read a report saying that it was an extension from 2011 to 2021 – a 10-year extension. If the NYT is correct and it costs ESPN $1.9B per year, then maybe they have an even larger incentive to try to sell off a piece of it to TBS.

      Sorry for not catching the typo here…

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