TIME OUT with Alex Mitchell: 12-02-11

So there I was in Bobby Dodd Stadium just minding my own business. I was having a good time watching the Tech game this past Saturday even though the Jackets were losing to their archrival UGA. Tech was driving down the field in the first half and was only down by seven points to the Bulldogs.

After a first down play that saw the Jackets gain a couple of yards, Tech faced a second down play from inside its own territory. Then, all of a sudden, one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a college football fan occurred on the field.

The referees stopped the game and that dreadful old man dressed in red stepped onto the field. The man’s appearance signaled a media time out and a five-minute halt to the action.

The media man seems to step onto the field at any given moment, but usually just when the game is getting good. He stands close to the sideline and communicates with the television people through a headpiece and motions to the referees on the field when to stop and start the game.

Maybe it is because of the instantaneous access culture that we live in today or perhaps I am just an impatient person, but I got progressively angrier as each actionless second rolled by.

I endured that timeout and each of the seemingly endless timeouts that followed, but it got me thinking about why I hate sitting through television timeouts so much and I came up with a few explanations.

First and foremost, the stoppage of play due to commercials is a clear middle finger to the fans at the game. Fans at home watching the game on television can just change the channel if a commercial comes on, but a fan at the game cannot do that. The only thing that a fan can do during the five-minute break is check his cell phone, talk to her friends or check the big screen for a race between digital cars.

There is nothing inherently wrong with those things, but there is when you paid 50 dollars for a ticket to the game and expected to only watch the football game. Instead, you will be sitting on your hands for 25 percent of the game while the players, coaches and referees stand and watch, waiting on the red guys’ signal to finally resume play.

Second, the halting of play could provide an unfair advantage to a team. For Tech, a team that cuts the legs of opposing defensive players, a stoppage in play could be detrimental to its drive. An extra timeout in the middle of a drive could allow Tech opponents to rest and recover while Tech’s offense loses momentum. The best example of this situation happening is when Oregon’s offense takes the field. Oregon runs at such a fast pace that defensive players will fake injuries to stop the Ducks’ progress.

Television and media timeouts should not determine the game’s outcome, but one less-than-perfect drive could be the difference between winning or losing.

Third, and what really got me angry, was the idea of commercials in general. There are plenty of ways that we can do without them.

Now I know what you are saying: This guy is crazy; the commercials are how television stations and conferences make all their money. It is true, but there are better ways for greedy officials to make their money while not stopping the game.

Soccer has got the advertisements situation completely right. There are two 45-minute halves with running clocks that are primarily free of commercials. Soccer does have commercials at halftime, but that is a natural stoppage in play and a necessary one to rest players’ weary legs. Halftime is also a necessity in football and could used in the same way.

I am not proposing a running clock in football, but maybe now is the time to start putting advertisements on player’s jerseys, or covering the sidelines in company logos. Perhaps there could be longer quarter and halftime breaks rather than stopping play after every change in possession.

A sport fundamentalist would never want company logos on players’ jerseys or advertisements plastered all over the field. However, they cannot possibly like the constant and endless stoppages in play due to television.

Babe Ruth’s or Otto Graham’s games were never stopped due to a media timeout, so why should Albert Pujols’s or Tim Tebow’s?  For the most part, I am against sports changing at all, but with televised sports becoming more and more commercialized, certain sacrifices need to be made to solve this problem.