5 Stupid Overtime Schemes

(Also posted on RoskillSB)

Why do so many people hate tied games? It’s a simple explanation really; fans want closure, they want to be able to say “my team was the better team on the day” and would like to have a score-line to justify their claim. In accordance with popular demand, most sports leagues around the world try their best to ensure that someone ends up winning the game. The leagues come up with some form of tie breaker, something to keep the fans excited and on the edge of their seats. Not every league manages to pull it off too though, they often seem to miss out something that removes the fairness factor from the game. Here are some overtime schemes that I don’t particularly find user-friendly.

DISCLAIMER: The schemes and implications mentioned here are based on my interpretation of the rules and fact checking done via the leagues’ official websites; please let me know if I have gotten anything wrong.

1. NBA regular season

Description: if scores are tied at the end of regulation, we have ourselves 5 minutes of overtime… If scores are tied after that, then we have another 5 minutes… This keeps going on until one team ends up winning.

Why I find it stupid: this will end up being a recurring theme, but in a lot of sports leagues; regular season game statistics are quite important. When it comes to the NBA, everyone is looking for “who has the most points per game” or “did anyone get a triple double”? Overtime gives players an unfair advantage to accomplish feats that they might not have been able to in regulation time. Imagine if someone breaks Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game record after having played a game that went to 7 overtimes.

Recommended changes: stop adding to player statistics at the end of regulation! Keep the statistics board a level playing field where everyone has the same amount of minutes to get the job done. Just have overtime as a special category where the only thing that gets decided is who wins and who loses and leave all other statistics out of the picture!

2. Cricket: the bowl-off

Description: if a limited overs cricket game is tied, 5 bowlers from each side deliver one or two balls at an unguarded wicket. If they hit the stumps and the bails fall, they score a wicket. This works as a shootout with the team having the most wickets winning the game.

Why I find it stupid: firstly I would like to thank most of world cricket for removing the bowl-off and replacing it with a super over which, despite still being quite unfair, is a LOT better than a bowl-off. I think that a bowl off is absurd because it’s just target practice. When a player bowls, there’s nothing stopping him/her from hitting the wickets apart from his/her own accuracy. The scheme has no real ties with a standard game of cricket and it doesn’t really give an indication of which team was better on the day. All it tells us is which team has the more accurate bowlers.

Recommended changes: scrap it! It’s garbage. I am glad to see that the system has been made redundant for the most part and replaced by better things, but I really hope that the few pockets of cricket that still endorse this system get rid of it and fast. I never want to see another bowl-off again!

3. NHL regular season

Description: if a game finishes in a tie, we have ourselves a 5 minute sudden death overtime period. If scores are still tied after this, we have ourselves a best of 3 shootout followed by sudden death until one team ends up winning.

Why I find it stupid: well in general it’s a pretty good scheme; it keeps the fans glued to their sets and proves to be a reasonably quick and exciting way to conclude a game of ice hockey. What I hate about it though (apart from the skew in player stats), is the fact that the NHL has 3 possible team results; a win (2 points), a loss (0 points), and an overtime loss (1 point). Why give the team one point for losing in overtime? Why not penalize the winning team for not being able to finish the game off in regulation? The overtime loss statistic is one of the most annoying things to keep track of; it gives a real strange advantage to a team just for having gone to overtime.

Recommended changes: this one occurred to me a couple of years back during the Vancouver winter Olympics. They had a well planned group stage here where you could either score a win (3 points), an overtime win (2 points), an overtime loss (1 point), or a loss (0 points). I suggest that the NHL employ this system, it’s easier on the eyes and adds more value to a regulation win.

4. NFL (all season long)

Description: if teams are tied at the end of regulation, the game goes into a modified sudden death overtime (the NFL has adopted this for its regular season games as well now). Each overtime period is 15 minutes long and the game ends when the scores are no longer tied after each team has had at least one possession of the ball, unless the team that had first possession scores a touchdown on its opening drive.

Why I find it stupid: just read the description!!! What the hell are they trying to prove? Why does scoring a touchdown on the opening drive nullify the need for both teams to have possession of the ball? This system came into place after the 2010 playoffs because people didn’t find the initial “sudden death” system to be very fair. What I fail to see is how the hell this is fair. The Broncos made it to the divisional playoffs ahead of the Steelers this year thanks to Tebow passing to Thomas on the first drive of overtime. Who’s to say Roethlisberger wouldn’t have responded with something similar? The Steelers weren’t even given a chance! You might as well flip a coin for a tie-breaker instead of making everyone go out and play again.

Recommended changes: give each team possession of the football at least once REGARDLESS of what happens on the first drive of the game, that way both teams have been given a fair opportunity to show what they can do on offense. And stop counting stats after regulation finishes! I don’t want the record for the most season passing yards to be broken thanks to overtime performances! Keep statistics standardized and within the bounds of regulation timing!

5. US Open Tennis 5th set

Description: if the 5th set of a (men’s) US open match ends 6-6, we go to a tiebreaker (first to 7 points) to see who wins the match. This is different from every other tennis grand slam where the 5th set does not have a tiebreaker, but rather keeps going on until someone manages to win by a margin of two games.

Why I find it stupid: before the tiebreaker was introduced into tennis, every single set needed to be decided by two games. This was definitely quite excessive, there having been some marathon matches where every one of the 5 sets went beyond 12 games (6 each) and so having a tiebreaker in the modern game is justified; it hurries the game along a little. When a match goes into the 5th set however, it is a true testament to how closely fought the contest has been. Both players have worked quite hard to reach this 5th set and a tiebreaker here seems like too much of a luck/chance scenario. Sure, without having a tiebreaker in there the likes of Isner will just keep playing incredibly defensively until their opponent gets worn out. Ultimately though, removing the tiebreaker from the 5th set makes it a battle of mental strength rather than just having the match settled on a couple of lucky shots.

Recommended changes: remove the tiebreaker; let the players fight it out until one of them has clearly dominated the other. Otherwise, modify the tie breaker to make it fairer; don’t just leave it at “first to 7”, make it “first to 10 and leading by 4 points”. This allows us to quite clearly differentiate who the better player is.

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