I Was Watching a Commercial and a Football Game Broke Out

Football fans like me (How ’bout them Cowboys?) like to think the sport is more action-packed than more boring games, like golf or soccer. But research shows that minute-for-minute a Samuel Beckett play has  more action than an NFL game:

According to a Wall Street Journal study of four recent broadcasts, and similar estimates by researchers, the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes.

In other words, if you tally up everything that happens between the time the ball is snapped and the play is whistled dead by the officials, there’s barely enough time to prepare a hard-boiled egg. In fact, the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays.

So what do the networks do with the other 174 minutes in a typical broadcast? Not surprisingly, commercials take up about an hour. As many as 75 minutes, or about 60% of the total air time, excluding commercials, is spent on shots of players huddling, standing at the line of scrimmage or just generally milling about between snaps. In the four broadcasts The Journal studied, injured players got six more seconds of camera time than celebrating players. While the network announcers showed up on screen for just 30 seconds, shots of the head coaches and referees took up about 7% of the average show.

Another surprising fact is that cheerleaders get no love from the cameramen: “In these broadcasts, only two networks showed cheerleaders at all. And when they did, they were only on camera for an average of three seconds.”


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