It’s taken us all a few days, but we are now finally recovering from the Super Bowl, and I don’t just mean the collective national hangover. I mean the insane ending.
In case you weren’t watching and also spent the last few days in a cave, the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in overtime after the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. For those of us watching and paying attention to the game, it was clear that the Falcons’ defense was not only demoralized as the fourth quarter came to an end, but was also completely exhausted. They then, thanks to the randomness of a coin flip, were given the monumental task of stopping the Patriots offense to start the overtime period. New England naturally took advantage and drove the ball down for the winning touchdown without Atlanta even having an opportunity possess the ball.
Many will argue that Atlanta had its chance. Its defense could have shut down New England and gotten the ball back. A meteor also could have fallen from the sky and wiped out the entire Patriots O line. That is not how fairness in sports is supposed to work. An overtime where the MVP of the entire league doesn’t get to take the field is not a fair outcome to a championship game of the biggest sports league in the country. The Falcons’ fate was essentially sealed by a flip of a bizarre nonstandard coin.
Overtime rules in sports are complicated. Look at soccer. In most leagues around the world, a game that ends in a tie in regulation ends in a tie. End of story. This may be why soccer is not popular among middle age sports bros in the US. Americans want a winner. American soccer also has playoffs to determine its champion, a feature unique to MLS. Pro soccer game that goes to overtime in the playoffs play the entire overtime regardless if one team scores. If it tied after OT, they go to a highly controversial and absurd penalty kick shootout. Soccer is not the model we want to follow. Can you imagine if football reverted to a field goal kicking contest, or basketball went to a free throw shooting contest? Actually, watching those 300 pound lineman kicking extra points would be totally worth sticking around for.
Hockey has made an effort to improve the overtime. They took the five minute overtime, made it sudden death, and then made it 3 vs 3 to encourage someone to score. Unfortunately, they still then move on to a shootout like soccer if no one scores in OT. Soccer tried the sudden death OT. For one tournament. They realized how stupid it was and went back to the old, full-length-OT rule.
So back to football. No OT rules are perfect. But how do we keep the game actually fair without ruining the game? Personally, I think of all the major pro sports, basketball has it right. You play a mini quarter of a game. Period. If that ends in a tie, you play some more. Soccer, football, and hockey could all learn and benefit from this. What fan wouldn’t want endless football? Well, maybe Browns fans. Baseball plays an extra inning, and continues playing more innings until you have a winner. Perfect, although fans would probably find it amusing to see it revert to a home run contest.
I for one was disappointed I did not get a chance to see Matt Ryan take the field in overtime to try and make Brady cry. Hopefully the NFL will consider changes to its OT rules that guarantee both offenses get to take the field. Or we can just watch 346 pound Dontari Poe kick an extra point. Either way, we win.