The Football Overtime Debate – Fairness Matters For All

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless about whether college football or the NFL has a better system for overtime.



“Free football” is always a gift. Fans pay ticket prices or arrange their afternoons to watch a football game. Rarely does the treat of extra football get bestowed upon fans. The pressure cooker of overtime is always a tremendous amount of fun. But, one level of football’s overtime is better than the other. Let’s figure out why.

Apply each system’s model to the other. Would NFL work in college? Would college work in the NFL? If we are searching for uniformity in our football overtimes, the college model functions better in the NFL than the NFL model would in the college ranks. It is more definitive, it is more balanced, and it is tremendously exciting, too. Without question, the college football overtime format adds excitement to the game, it does not drain excitement.

The current NFL system does drain excitement from a game. America’s sports culture is all about winning and winning now. We don’t like three day cricket matches or ties in soccer or hockey (which is why hockey put the shoot out at the end of games a few years ago). Remember that fateful MLB All-Star game that was declared a tie? The media attention and fan frustration that resulted from that tie along proves American sports fans hate ties. There is a direct correlation between the likelihood of a tie and low popularity in American sports. The NFL system is inconsistent with what American culture wants in our sports – excitement, fairness, and easily defined rules. The college system achieves all three while the professional system only achieves excitement and easy rules. Fairness is not in the equation.

Loyal Homer wins this debate because the argument makes sense. It is correct in supporting the lack of fairness in the NFL overtime system with quantifiable data. If 61 percent of coin toss winners also win the game on the first possession, then that is an advantage. More, because the college system demonstrates such efficiency on all three of the primary overtime factors, there is a model in use right now the NFL can look to for an improvement in fairness. Simply put, there is no reason to withhold good rules that promote fairness. The college system is fair, fairness is good. Fairness, in the case of football overtime, is both teams touching the ball equally.

The college system also better promotes the importance of defense by removing the kick return game from the equation. If the defense holds the offense to a field goal, it is clear what each team has to do to either perpetuate the game or win it outright. The defense is placed in a more precarious spot in the college format, therefore its importance is actually enhanced more than in the professional ranks.

I agree with Babe Ruthless that the NFL system is superior in terms of speed and simplicity, but fairness is equally important, and undervalued in the NFL system. I also contest Babe’s inference that multiple overtimes periods are a bad thing. Perhaps the defenses are coming up with big plays. Just because the offense fails to produce a score does not mean the game is worthless. Regarding overtime periods, the more the merrier, I say. It just adds to the excitement and chance for an instantly classic game. I do not believe Babe’s argument proved that less overtime is more exciting. The build up of one big play after another perpetuating overtime just makes the outcome more highly anticipated.

Overtime should be a special period, and if the game is modified slightly as Babe correctly highlights, so be it. Regulation play is precisely what was unable to determine a winner. Therefore, conditions must be slightly altered to produce the desired outcome – a win. Essentially, the NFL employs the meaning of insanity in its overtime… repeating the same actions hoping for a different result. And, sometimes, the NFL gets its different result – the very fan unfriendly tie.

Babe’s fairness argument is interesting. While I do agree that defenses are allowed to stop offenses, the college system puts more pressure on the defense and therefore more excitement in the air. Further, after first trumpeting the merits of the NFL’s system as more valid because it is the same rules, the next section of Babe’s argument decries that logic by arguing for modifications to the NFL’s system.

And, even teams that are evenly matched in championship games have to determine a winner eventually. Otherwise the entire structure of sports as we know it is thrown into chaos.

Despite the clear logic presented in both of these arguments and the verdict, the NFLPA would likely never go for the college system of overtime. Subjecting players to additional wear and tear is not something the union readily signs up for (well, not for free). With all of the other contentious issues between the league and union right now, overtime is not changing any time soon. But, as Loyal Homer’s argument proves, it should. Fairness matters.

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2 Responses to The Football Overtime Debate – Fairness Matters For All

  1. Fairness! Wow, apparently Loyal Homer thinks completely altering the football game so that it has the competitive nature of tiddilywinks makes it fairer. Maybe the Professional Bowlers Association should add bumpers if there is a tie after the 10th frame, because “regulation play is precisely what was unable to determine a winner.”

  2. Loyal Homer says:

    You mean to tell me you don’t feel cheated when your Panthers lose a game in OT….a game in which the opponent won the coin toss and never gave up possession of the ball?

    In the college overtime, no team has any gripes about how they didn’t have a chance!

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