By Ken Reed
I want to look at the Super Bowl today from a purely athletic competition standpoint. That’s hard to do because there are so many political and economic issues surrounding the game. The Super Bowl is certainly much more than a sporting event. But sometimes, to remain a sports fan, you need to compartmentalize.
First, one must note what a great Super Bowl game that was on Sunday. Incredible plays, amazing athleticism, outstanding effort, terrific teamwork, great resilience, etc. You name it, this game had it.
It’s hard not to appreciate the human drama of sports. From the Patriots’ perspective — down 25 points — to exhibit the poise, teamwork and competitive spirit they did until the final horn is truly beautiful stuff.
But I have a beef today. It’s a beef with the structural foundation of the game itself, the rules. In particular, the overtime rules.
The NFL’s overtime rules are ridiculous from a justice standpoint. It’s simply unfair that both teams don’t get a shot at the ball in overtime. The NFL rule in this regard is completely convoluted. If the team that wins the overtime coin toss only scores a field goal, the other team gets a chance to have the ball and score as well. However, if the team that wins the toss scores a touchdown, the game’s over, the other team doesn’t get a chance to score.
What?! That’s nuts. If a score in the form of a touchdown ends the game, why doesn’t a score in the form of a field goal end the game?
Problem one is that there’s way too much emphasis on the pure luck of winning a coin toss. NFL training camps start in July. The Super Bowl ends in February. That’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears to have the championship game come down, in large part, to the outcome of a coin toss.
In college football, both teams get a chance to have the ball and score. Winning a college football game requires contributions from a team’s offense and defense. In the Super Bowl, the Patriots defense never even had to take the field in the overtime period.
Like college football, in soccer and hockey, overtime shootouts allow both teams to take an equal number of shots on goal. And in basketball, of course, both teams will have control of the ball multiple times in overtime. In baseball, extra innings allow both teams to get a shot at coming to the plate.
Only in the NFL can one team be shut out of a chance to be on offense. That flaw is especially egregious in the Super Bowl, where there is so much on the line.
At League of Fans, we spend a lot of time on social and economic injustices in the world of sport. Those are important issues, much more so than the fairness of an overtime rule.
But an injustice is an injustice and the Falcons got screwed by the NFL’s overtime rule.
It’s a rule that needs to be fixed.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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