Nicole Skow/Nevada Sagebrush
Defensive lineman Rykeem Yates (55) talks with the referee while fellow lineman Brock Hekking (53) looks on during a timeout in last Saturday’s game vs. Washington State. This was one of 20 TV timeouts in the game.
By Ryan Suppe
Two weeks ago I arrived at Mackay Stadium five minutes into the first quarter of Nevada’s game against Washington State, and then I left at the end of the second quarter because I was bored out of my mind. I couldn’t sit through another TV timeout, so I went home and watched the remainder of the game on my couch. Not only does a live football game take too long, but it’s boring too.
In 2010 the Wall Street Journal published an article called “11 Minutes of Action,” which laid out the facts about TV coverage of football. Reporter David Biderman watched four NFL games and timed how much action was actually going on during the game. On average, the ball was live for 11 minutes. Whether you pay for your ticket to see the game live or you pay for your DirectTV NFL package to watch it from home, you’re only watching 11 minutes of actual football. What’s the point?
The point for the big media company filming the game is advertising dollars. The longer you sit and watch a four-hour game the more ads they can play for you. Biderman’s research found that 75 minutes of airtime in those NFL games was of players huddling or standing around. That was 75 minutes of actual TV time. For the people at the game, that number is practically doubled because of commercial breaks.
I used to enjoy going to football games, but now I prefer to watch them from home. If I’m feeling ambitious on Saturday, I’ll watch three games on split screen with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Television has changed the game. Michigan was the most recent team to give in to the TV industry and make a major change to the fan experience. In 2010 they put an end to an 80-year tradition of day games at the Big House by installing lights.
Every media producer has his/her own style when it comes to filming games, and each game comes with a unique approach about who and what to put in front of viewers. For example, when ESPN was airing a game featuring Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel last year, as you might expect, his face was on screen a lot. The camera operators on those big chairs were sliding up and down the sideline, blocking the fans’ view of the game so the viewers at home could get the best shot of Manziel’s face. When a game is a blowout, you’ll see overhead shots of the stadium from a blimp and close-ups of the coaches. Different situations call for different coverage, but there’s one thing that never changes: the commercials still run. TV timeouts dull exciting games and boring games get more boring.
The fan experience is not dead. There are still many ways to have a good time at Mackay Stadium for four hours, but when you watch Nevada play Boise State in a few weeks and everyone on the field is standing around after a touchdown, think about all the money CBS Sports is making while they show commercials. I’ll be watching the game from the comfort of my couch, only because I care about the team, not because I’m entertained. Football is a truly entertaining sport, and I love it. I just wish I could’ve seen it 60 years ago when television had no effect on the game.
Ryan Suppe can be reached at rsuppe@ sagebrush.unr.edu.