Really, I’m surprised that members of the pundit class have begun beating the drums for shortening the length of college football games so quickly after we heard some initial grumblings from the grand poobahs running the sport. You’d almost think it’s about making deadlines or something as banal as getting enough sleep.
Two plays before Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson rolled to his right, scanned the field long enough to notice outside receiver Artavis Scott run into Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, clearing the out route and his expertly thrown pass for slot man Hunter Renfrow and the game-winning touchdown, I did something I consider quite lucky.
I woke up. Just in time to see college football history live. Just in time to see mighty Alabama fall and the underdog Tigers finally reach the sport’s mountaintop. Just in time to say I saw the end of one of the best games in big-time college football this season, and maybe ever.
Good news for a guy like me. Bad news for college football, though.
If you’re making the argument that maybe college football shouldn’t be showcasing its premier event during prime time on a Monday night, you’ll get no argument from me. But assholes wanna get paid, and ESPN knows where the money is.
So if you’ve got that late start and you want to tuck yourself in before midnight, what’s left? Blame the clock, of course.
… When too many kids have no hope of staying up the entire game — my 10-year-old and 7-year-old lasted until halftime — college football has an issue to address.
The games are too long. They’re too long for the players, too long for the fans and too long for the long-term growth of the sport.
ESPN and the College Football Playoff want the championship game to reach the point where viewership isn’t impacted by yearly matchups. They want it to be a mini-Super Bowl where it’s appointment television no matter who plays. How can that possibly happen when the dramatic Clemson-Alabama finish occurs after midnight Eastern on a Tuesday morning?
Jesus, is there any CFB-related crisis that can’t be reduced to think of the children?
What’s particularly irritating here is the effort to dress the problem up in fan-concern clothing. The problem is that it doesn’t really sell.
Now, it’s debatable who really finds this to be a problem. Commissioners clearly do. So do reporters, who are more and more often pushing increased work on deadline than they did in the past. So do many fans at home, who don’t particularly want to block out four hours every week to make sure they are seeing their favorite college football team play. But when we’re talking about the fans who are paying more exorbitant fees to attend games, there naturally seems to be less angst over game times.
It’s a catch-22 in a way for college football, which doesn’t want to fundamentally change the game for the paying customer, but knows it ultimately has to do so to placate the television networks.
This is supposed to be troubling for fans who show up hours before a game to tailgate? The only problem we’re feeling is the incessant breaks for commercials during games. And I do mean incessant.
The networks could cut down on their 30-second commercials (average of 68 per game). Who hasn’t attended a game when the fans and players are anxiously waiting for the restart but television isn’t ready? It’s particularly troubling with so many night kickoffs because fans have to drive home very late. Now, whether TV wants to reduce the number of commercials while rights fees continue to increase is another question. [Emphasis added.]
When you’ve got 34 minutes of commercial time interrupting a 60-minute game, you’ve got an issue. Unfortunately for us paying suckers… er, fans, the people who have a problem with game times are those who have a stake in making sure that kickoffs fall neatly into broadcasting schedules. They’re also the exact same folks who have zero interest in reducing the number of commercial breaks. So there’s that.
Now if you read both linked pieces, you’ll see a lot of the same solutions to the problem being pushed — shorter halftimes, no clock stoppage after first downs until late in each half, reduce reviews, etc. — most of which come from that bastion of giving the networks what they want, the NFL. The problem with most of that is again, it’s a strategy of lopping off things that make the college game different, like halftime shows from school bands. It’s also shortsighted in that college football has parity issues that the NFL doesn’t have; an inferior opponent that is challenging for an upset win may need that extra time from the stopped clock after a first down to mount a comeback.
But my real cynicism about the benefits from moves to reduce the amount of time the game gets played is that it’ll be perceived as creating a vacuum that ESPN and its ilk will be more than happy to fill with more commercial time as the opportunity presents itself. And why not? If this is all about making the game more attractive to a certain audience…
The alternative is games continue to creep longer and longer. That could result in casual fans (but likely not the die-hards) losing some interest.
… that is happier with a shorter overall broadcast time frame, it’s likely those are the same folks who won’t care much if the networks can jam seven or eight more of those 30-second pitches into the three-and-a-half hours allotted.
As for the rest of us, we’ll have to be satisfied with being sold on the concept that games with less content represent an enhancement of the sport. Not that you’ll get a discount for that…