Tuesday, September 19, 2006

CFB 2006: New & Improved!
Now With 10% Less Football!

When the new timing rule was announced in the offseason I was like most in that I realized that it sucked but didn't quite grasp how much of an effect it would have. For those not in the know, (1) The clock starts on change of possessions whereas before it did not. For example: Team A punts to team B; at the end of that play the game clock used to stop until the ball is snapped on Team B's next play. Now the game clock starts once the ball is put back into play by the referee. (2) The game clock starts on a kickoff the moment the ball is kicked, whereas before it did not start until the ball was touched.

Why was this done? Essentially games were getting too long. Whereas games used to last 3 hours they were now getting to be 4 hour affairs. Of course the reason for this had little to do with football or rule changes and more to do with networks adding and selling more and more advertising and extending and adding commerical breaks. So their solution wasn't to come up with a creative way to reduce the game interruptions due to commercial breaks but rather to reduce the actual time of the game played on the field. The result is that we are now getting 90% of the football with 100% of the commercials. Good for the networks, bad for fans.

After my first Saturday of watching multiple games concurrently all day, I was really suprised at what a stark difference the rule makes. The numbers are showing that the result of the rule changes is a loss of around 18-20 plays per game, which is about a 10-12% reduction in actual football. Doesn't sound like much but it is quite noticeable and seriously affects the end of games. 18 plays is more than four 3-and-out drives or the about 2 significant drives per game. What is amazing is that the games are significantly shorter even though every other play is being reviewed this year (and some for 5+ minutes) with the latest instant replay guidelines; without the review of every major and several minor plays the results would be even more drastic from a time elasped standpoint.

Anyhow, I'm not saying anything here that everyone else isn't saying or isn't obvious to any fan. But my raison d'etre with this is to offer 2 predictions:

1. Sometime this season, the following will happen in a big nationally televised game:

-Team A kicks a FG to take a 1 or 2 point lead on Team B with 0:24 to play in the game.
-Team B used all of their timeouts on Team A's just completed drive.
-Team A kicks off deep. Dude for Team B runs the kickoff all the way back to the 20 yard line of Team A where he is finally tackled.
-The game clock is at 0:06 when dude is tackled thanks to rule (2) above.
-Time runs out and the game ends before Team B can attempt a 37 yard game winning FG thanks to rule (1) above.
-Cue massive buzzkill of seeing an important game between two ranked teams end in pure, unadulterated anti-climax.

2. There seems to be a hopeful, rational thought among hardcore CFB fans that the NCAA will realize their error after this season and change the rule back for next year. This will never happen What will happen instead:

-After a year or two for claiming that the rule change "works" and it "good" because game times have in fact been reduced to what they were say 10 years ago, networks will again begin to sell more advertising and extend the length of commercial breaks until it causes games to be way too long.

- To "Fix" the problem the NCAA will "shorten games" by eiminating the CFB rule that the game clock stops when a 1st down is made so that the chains can be moved and adopting the NFL rule where the clock keeps running after a 1st down.

- This will result in a further 10-20% reduction of actual football during games. Yay!

I understand the capitalism that causes these changes to happen - if I had paid hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast the games then I sure as hell would want to sell lots of ads. But there are also other creative ways around the problem rather than reducing the amount of the product that people are tuning in to see. One off the top of my head would be to reduce the size of some of the TV screen game clock/scoreboards that take up way too much room and have either intermittent or scrolling advertising like they do in soccer, which does not realistically allow for commercial breaks suring play. As Swindle pointed out a while back, what they really should do is air the games commercial free and use this instead of traditional commercial breaks. Another would be to put constantly scrolling advertising in the score ticker at the bottom of the screen (yes this would suck but it is better than carving 10% of the football game off and throwing it in the trash).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen. This is another solution for a problem that doesn't exist. Do any ordinary fans really need to have games end 20-30 minutes earlier? Probably not. I know that networks get real fussy about overlap between games, but other than diehards of the teams involved in the second game of an overlap, who for some reason don't live in an area that automatically switches to the second game when it starts, I don't know abody relevant who cares about overlap.