Gutman: NFL needs to rethink tie-breaker system

My eighth grade gym teacher always used to make us play multiple overtimes in our P.E. soccer games to decide a winner. We never tied. “A tie is like kissing your sister,” he would declare. “Now find a winner.”

Granted, Mr. McCabe is probably in jail for pedophilia; as I recall, he hit on every girl in my class. Or incest for kissing his sister — not sure about you but I wouldn’t really know how it feels to kiss a sister. But apparently Mr. McCabe does. He was a real creeper.

Which brings us to the issue of another Mc who kissed his sister this weekend. Donovan McNabb.

His Philadelphia Eagles played to a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals this past Sunday. Yes, a tie. In football. Exactly. You’re probably thinking: Allowing football games to end in ties makes less sense than microeconomics. And you’re almost right. Professional football’s overtime rules are extremely dumb. But nothing makes less sense than micro. Except maybe macro.

In professional football, a coin toss determines who receives the ball first during overtime. The team that scores first wins the game. So basically, a coin toss determines who wins the game. If nobody scores during the 15-minute overtime, the game is declared a tie. It reminds me of my friend’s philosophy on his nights at Toad’s — if you don’t score in the first 15 minutes, it’s over.

College football’s overtime rules are more fair. Each team gets the ball one time from the opposition’s 25 yard line and must score the most points it can with that possession. When one team outscores the other, the game is over. No team can lose without touching the ball, as can happen in the pro game. Also in college football, nobody can tie, since they just move to a second round of overtime if the two teams are tied.

College football upholds the purity of the game. Despite its faulty championship system (which is for another column, another day), college football at least decides that each team will have a winner and a loser. Never a tie-er. College football understands the rivalry and the animosity inherent in sports. Nobody wants to go home without a W, even if they got a T.

Basketball understands it. Who doesn’t love seeing 19-year-old kids jacking up three-pointers in the fourth overtime after all the starters have fouled out? Hockey understands it. People get bored of overtimes, so the NHL instituted a shootout to decide games. Shootouts rock. Ties don’t.

But the NFL is far too greedy to examine any change to their overtime rules. The reason the current system is in place is to keep the overtime for games as short as possible. The first-to-score system means most overtimes last only one possession. The limit of one overtime prevents games from running over by several hours. The NFL values its television contracts and ability to ensure that the 1:00 p.m. game ends before too much of the 4:15 one has taken place. The NFL cares about this more than it values the quality of its game and overtime system.

And why should they care? Even if the Super Bowl came down to a snake vs. mongoose fight or a mascot rock-paper-scissors matchup to decide the overtime winner, America would watch the NFL. America loves football. (Granted, the rock-paper-scissors tournament might disadvantage the Miami Dolphins, whose mascot, T.D. the Dolphin, only has flippers. He always chooses paper, even when he tries to do scissors.)

But maybe the NFL does have a soul. Maybe Commissioner Roger Goodell is concerned about more than money when he protects the game’s image and suspends players. Maybe there is more to the NFL than a desire to obtain the most sponsorship money.

But then again, we’re talking about a league that places games on the “NFL Network,” which most Americans do not get on their cable packages. They essentially extort money from any fan who wants to see their team’s biggest games at the end of the season by forcing them to order this superfluous channel. The channel’s exclusive broadcasts serve no purpose other than to help the NFL squeeze American fans for every penny they can get.

So maybe not.

Or maybe the NFL should just make Mr. McCabe the commissioner. If nothing else, he’d change the busted overtime system before the cheerleaders union filed a class action suit.

Collin Gutman is a junior in Pierson College.

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