September 28th, 2010

Why I like baseball better than football

I was going to title this "Why sports with a clock are always inferior to sports without them", but that's probably overstating my case. I'd much rather watch football than golf. And I don't dislike football, don't get me wrong. I'm in a couple of pools, and running one for my family this year. But I think that the reason that it's seen as such a huge success of a sport is because they only play one game a week.

But anyway, I was watching some games on Sunday, and in most games, the game is over with time still on the clock. Mathematically, irreversibly, coaches-on-the-field-shaking-hands over. And that's always upset me.

I hate that a team losing by just one point can sit there helpless for 2 minutes of a game- over 3% of the entire action!- and have no chance to do anything but watch the other team tale a knee and run the clock out. I remember as a kid making up all kinds of crazy scenarios:

"Ok, we're down by 10 with 15 seconds left. We need them to fumble the snap, and have us run down and score. Then we need an onsides kick, and to run that back for a touchdown, then we can win. Let's go!"

Somewhere in there, it feels like they changed the rule that the play ends right when you take a knee (as opposed to having to be tackled). I may be wrong about that, but now it seems like everyone just gives up (with good reason) when run-out-the-clock time rolls around.

And, I'm sorry, but that's just boring. And lame. And it makes me think about baseball. Since baseball's not timed by a clock, you have to actually go out and fail 27 times before you've lost a game. It's always theoretically possible that a team down 15 runs in the ninth inning will come back and win. Sure, it's very unlikely (as it should be), but the chance is there, and you have to go out and earn your win, rather than just walking off the field and killing time. I guess it appeals to my sense of fairness more, I don't know.

Can it be fixed? I don't know (and really, it's not like anyone is going to listen to me anyway). Someone told me that if you time it, there is only about 10 minutes of actual plays happening in a football game. Maybe if you changed the rules so that you had 4 quarters that were 2-5 minutes each, and stopped the clock after every play, that might help things. At least then "running out the clock" would involve people running plays that took a long time on the field, giving the other team a chance to do something about it.