THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Ball handling: Trying to bring fairness to overtime
You've waited for it. You've begged for it. You've prayed for it. And now, tacitly, you just might get it. The NFL is considering changing its overtime rules. A little bit. In the postseason. Kind of.
Have you ever heard anyone gripe about major league soccer? Specifically, the way important tie games are resolved by penalty kicks? Imagine playing your heart out for 90 minutes and then having to settle the score with a few lame kicks from the line. Talk about being robbed– it's a travesty. Perhaps the only thing more idiotic is a team's having its fate decided by a coin toss.
Surprisingly, the NFL has decided to consider dropping that idiocy in favor of an overtime system that could be considered fair. If implemented, the new system would provide both teams with a more equal opportunity to have the ball. Not an equal chance, but a more equal chance.
In case you've never seen an NFL game go into overtime, here's the rundown.
The referee flips a coin. Whichever team calls it receives the kickoff. If they score, whether a field goal or a touchdown, it's game over– even if the team that lost the toss never touches the ball.
Remember this past NFC championship game? The Vikings never got the ball in overtime (not that Brett Favre normally does much with it in OT anyway), and New Orleans ended up going on to win the Super Bowl.
Criticism of the system has waxed and waned for years, but the Saints/Vikings came finally dragged the problem into the bright light of day. However ironically, that explains why the NFL's evolved concept of fairness is even more unfair than the system it would leave behind.
There's little doubt that even the tiniest change to NFL's rules would improve overtime and please fans, but there's the small matter of the continuing inequity. As unbelievable as it may seem, the proposed changes don't guarantee each team a possession.
"Both teams would be guaranteed a possession unless first team w/ball scores TD," tweeted Greg Aiello, the League's senior VP for public relations. "If first team kicks FG, other team gets ball. If it doesn't score, game over. If second team w/ball ties it w/FG, game continues till someone scores."
In other words, both teams are not guaranteed a possession, and not at all in the regular season– these changes would apply only to the postseason. (Just when you think someone over at the NFL has some sense, they're more than happy to prove otherwise.)
So why is the NFL even considering such a change? Certainly not to promote fairness and sportsmanship. No, like all new rules protecting quarterbacks, any change is designed to appease the offense, plain and simple. It's no coincidence that the idea of requiring a touchdown to win comes in the wake of Favre's not touching the ball in overtime.
We can't let the NFL's most famous and controversial quarterback return to the sport and have his bubble burst by an overtime sudden-death field goal. When the NFC championship game ended with Favre on the bench, the system's inherent unfairness was bruisingly obvious, and the NFL had to at least pretend to consider a change.
"It's just something the League is looking at to make sure the playoffs go as good as possible," Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "I don't think it's going to get passed, but they're thinking about it."
Are they really? Aiello also tweeted a caution: "Keep in mind: this is a concept being discussed and to be taken up @ league meeting in late March." When asked about the proposed changes, Commissioner Roger Goodell told a reporter "Don't hold your breath."
Thank goodness for that. The proposed change is like throwing good money after bad. There's a way to bring parity to overtime (see college football), but in all fairness, with the NFL's insultingly senseless attitude, I wouldn't expect to see it anytime soon.
Juanita Giles lives in Keysville where she makes videos and updates her Sports Doctor site.