The Enduring Absurdity of NFL Overtime

I'm not going to start the inane debate between college football fans and pro fans over the superiority of either sport. If you're a true gridiron glutton, you enjoy the opportunity to feast on both Saturday and Sunday, and sometimes Thursday, and then the odd Wednesday and Friday, and then to completely kill productivity by taking Tuesday out of the equation with Monday Night Football imbibing. Given the availability of football throughout the work week, you can now reduce your effective productivity from September through January to one day a week -- and the country still somehow manages to function. America, pat yourself on the back for being so awesome. How the nation doesn't freeze to death in the dark in December is one of our finer miracles. ↵

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↵The Fifth Down at the NYT examines overtime rules today, and highlights the unfairness of the coin toss. If you care to defend the coin toss because "life's unfair," then feel free to introduce other completely unfair elements into the game at random moments, like land mines or random dog attacks "just to spice things up." (Mike Vick joke goes here.) If you think fairness matters, you'll agree that the overtime system needs serious overhauling, since the team that wins the coin toss wins most of the time based on a random, non-athletic event fair only in its unfair application to both teams. ↵

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↵The most intriguing proposal is not the adoption of the Kansas City tiebreaker, the collegiate system for breaking ties at the end of the game. Seven overtime games would kill network executives, and greatly exaggerate the chance of injury. No, the solution that most tickles the ivories involves another thing Americans are very, very fond of: ↵gambling. ↵

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↵⇥3). Silent Auction: Each coach writes down a yard-line at which they would elect to start their offense. The numbers are given to the referee in sealed envelopes; whichever coach picked the lower yard-line wins the auction and get the ball first. The game plays out in sudden death. ↵
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↵Betting on your coach to figure out the optimal strategy for starting the overtime: now there's a lively way to end the game and figure out what coaches actually paid attention during statistics class. Also, we'd start working in penmanship into the equation of coaching excellence. ("Um, Coach Phillips, is that a '48' or a '43?'") ↵

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↵In addition to the random fairness of the plan, you should also note that it gives the Detroit Lions a new and exciting way to lose football games. Whatever the NFL is going to do about overtime, it's certainly not doing anything now: in meetings in March the league deferred any address of the overtime situation since no one had a clear alternative to the current one. This leaves the possibility of a team winning or losing a Super Bowl on the coin toss wide open, and if the NFL wants their Bud Selig moment to happen, well, it's still just sitting there waiting to happen. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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