Thursday, March 25, 2010

Backtime On Overtime: NFL Got It Right

At Backtime we hate to say we told you so (actually we love it but we try to feign modesty).

Now there have been several predictions made in this forum, and many have been abject disasters like our NCAA Tournament brackets or Heisman Trophy winners. But when it comes to NFL policy change, we were on the money.

I posted a column on and submitted it to late in 2008, on how the college football Overtime system was a joke and the NFL's just needed some slight tinkering.

Then a year later, still with no change I decided to re-post on Backtime. I doubt Roger Goodell found it in his blogroll, so the NFL Competition Committee probably just caught a blast of common sense. And it really is simple...the first team to six wins:

December 25, 2009 - Sudden Depth: Overtime Needs an Overhaul

The NFL overtime system is often criticized since both teams are not guaranteed to possess the football. The powers that be would tell you that the NFL is for tough guys, so you’d better take control of your own destiny and finish the thing in regulation or you may not get the ball.

It’s not an equitable system like college football in which each team gets a possession. Right? Wrong.

The college football overtime isn’t football. Starting 1st and 10 on your opponents’ 25-Yard line is a video game. All stats count in scoring situations which often lead to score totals that approach a college hoop game. It puts records in jeopardy, and the final score is often no indicator of the way the game went.

Worse than that, football staples like clock, field position and special teams have virtually no meaning. If you’re the punter (unless you’re also the holder) - you might as well hit the showers. If you’re a return guy – take the rest of the day off. By eliminating the specialists, you turn a game of chess into a game of checkers. It’s a hockey shootout on field turf.

So the college system doesn’t work either. But both teams need to have a possession, right?

Not necessarily.

Here’s the plan for both college and pros: One overtime period (15 minutes or 12 or 10). First team to 6 points wins, or whoever has the most when the clock runs out.

If Team A wins the toss, and they come down and score a touchdown, they win. Team B won’t be killed by a field goal, but they’ll have to answer. If they allow a TD, they don’t deserve the ball. Most importantly, the Touchdown is the walk-off Home Run. It’s the exclamation point. Not the question mark.

And there’s a world of strategy involved. It’s 4th Down, if you punt – will you ever get the ball back? If you make the Field Goal, do you squib it or kick deep? There are coffin corners and 2-minute offenses, safeties, and ties, yes the dreaded tie (obviously in Bowl games or Playoff games, you play multiple OTs if unsettled).

If two teams play 60 minutes to a deadlock, don’t take the coaches off the hook. They need to work overtime too.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

An Ole Miss Hit And Run

I joke with people that if they're ever on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and draw a question about college towns, that I am your lifeline. And while every college town is unique in it's own way, there's something truly singular about Oxford, Mississippi.

There's "The Square" where the courthouse sits in the center. It's symbolic of a town that still maintains its ties to the Old South while offering a progressive education and cultural environment, channeling its most famous citizen, William Faulkner.

Nowhere is that dichotomy more evident than this street corner.

Another tug-of-war in the deep south is over the Ole Miss Rebels (former?) mascot, Colonel Reb.

While the costumed mascot has been phased out, the image still lingers all over town. To some he represents the antebellum Southern gentleman, and to some he represents the plantation/slave owner and the confederacy. It depends upon your point of view.

Does American history begin in 1865? Is the word "Rebel" too symbolic of the confederacy as well? Does Ole Miss have to change their nickname too?

The Rebels aren't the class of SEC football. The saying goes, they don't redshirt All-Americas at Ole Miss, they redshirt Miss Americas. But their football tradition is evident everywhere.

The speed limit on campus is the number of Archie Manning's retired jersey. And in the gift shop, you are just as likely to see an Eli Manning jersey, as a Michael Oher jersey. Usually offensive linemen are relegated to the shadows, but when your life is immortalized in film (The Blind Side), that changes the dynamic.

And The Grove is hands down the best tailgating spot in the country. You'll know what I mean when you get there.

And finally, the Bottletree Bakery is a must. Just off The Square, it's my favorite sandwich joint in the SEC. But it's the selection of pastries and sweets (not my thing), that got Oprah Winfrey's attention.

So there's a lot to enjoy at the University of Mississippi if you're staying for a day or recommendation is to get yourself (or at least one of your children) situated for 4 years.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Backtime Official Bracket: 2010 Edition

We refer back to Backtime's Bracket rules, established last year in this forum:

1) Print it the day it's released.
2) Free your mind of any personal prejudice.
3) Grab a pen, not a pencil.
4) Fill it out in 5 minutes or less, relying solely on your instincts.

In this day and age, 3 out of 4 are easy. Item #2 is what gets everyone. How do you free your mind of personal prejudice?

Well, it's simple. Just make your alma mater (Syracuse) and the team you regularly cover (Kansas) #1 seeds. Then they'll face off in the National Semifinals and party like it's 2003 (and in the Elite Eight in '96 as well), only with the Blue team prevailing.

There, that's done. I wish this was one of those wide-open tournaments free of top-heavy super conferences, but unfortunately it isn't. I got two #1 seeds, a #2 (West Virginia), and a #3 (Baylor). Two from the Big East, two from the Big 12. And those two conferences own 6 of my Final 8.

I've got only two dark horses in the Sweet 16, #12 UTEP and #11 Minnesota, both on Syracuse's magic carpet out west.

And only one major 1st Round upset, #14 Oakland over #3 Pitt. Ironic, since Pitt's campus is located in a neighborhood called Oakland. Pitt overachieved this year, after being picked 10th in the Big East before the season, and now they get the early exit.

Kansas over West Virginia in the final for their second title in three years. Nothing exciting, sexy, or outside the box. It's where my instincts led me through the stroke of a pen on Selection Sunday. And it's official.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gophers In The Bubble, Not On It

Why is this man smiling? Because his team is in. Yes, on paper it's still the perfect bubble case.

Minnesota is 21-12 and 9-9 in the Big Ten, and scored huge wins in the conference tournament over Michigan State and Purdue. But their overall body of work says that they finished 7th in their league and the RPI was still #69 coming into today.

But they're in, and you can book it. And there's one factor that may trump the resume.

Minnesota plays Ohio State in the Big Ten title game Sunday, with a tip time shortly after 3 PM EDT. The Selection Show airs on the same network at 6 PM EDT.

As any TV producer knows, a chance of freak event - a fight, extended injury, clock malfunction, or good old-fashioned overtime - can push the finish time of the Big Ten Championship dangerously close to the start time of the Selection Show.

The official bracket has got to go to press before the Selection Show airs. Now if it was Iowa or Penn State that made this run, there would have to be some sort of contingency plan. But if the Gophers are close enough (which they are), they're going to be slotted no matter what. Timing is everything.

What's ironic is that the Big Ten Championship, the Selection Committee, and the Final Four are all in Indianapolis in 2010.

So now Minnesota will have a snowball's chance to return to Indy. But who knows? What are the chances to beat Michigan State, Purdue, and Ohio State on three straight days?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sioux Falls: Sue Gets Up (Front)

She's talked at a record pace for 17 years in the business, but on this day a TV crew in South Dakota was all ears...because Susan Pierce for the first time was calling the shots.

Sue spent years as an accomplished associate producer and associate director, so it would be hard to picture her being lost in her producing debut. Certainly not as lost as she would be without her GPS, and you all know what I'm talking about.

She was in charge of the 4 PM ET Summit League Women's Championship, and believe me she had to jump through some hoops (so to speak).

First she was in at 7 AM and still had to do all the prep work for the Summit Men's Championship later that evening as the AD on my game.

Then the open she'd slaved over got scrapped because the game in front of them went to OT. Happens to all of us. Nothing like a joined-in-progress tap dance in your first game.

Then the game itself went to overtime. So some bonus reps for the resume' reel.

The bottom line is it was a terrific game. The "home team" South Dakota State Lady Jackrabbits defeated Oral Roberts in dramatic fashion in front of a great crowd of 5,400. Much more drama, and a much better atmosphere than I had later with Oakland handling IUPUI for a ticket to the Big Dance.

But the highlight for me was veteran director Scott Hecht calling the 30-something year-old mother-of-two "kiddo" throughout the broadcast. That and the stopwatch that was still glued in her hand.

Some habits are hard to break. We'd all be lost without our favorite backtimer.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Too Big To Fail?


As the Big Love Season Four finale' approaches, we continued to be dazzled with Bill Henrickson's ability to handle everything.

Just to sum up - suburban husband-of-three, father-of-eight, owner of the SLC Home Plus franchise as well as partnering in a casino, he manages the assets of the UEB (polygamist compound where he was raised), and he's running for State Senate.

And if you've pigeon-holed Bill as a provincial nutcase, you should have seen him operate on location in Washington and Mexico.

But meanwhile, Bill's 1st wife is saying inflammatory things and has become a lightning rod for the campaign, his short-lived 4th wife is pregnant, and his oldest daughter is leaving the nest. And a Washington lobbyist is threatening some heavy leverage as the stakes continue to rise.

While Big Love may be just as compelling as ever, the drama has raised to Dallas/Dynasty type levels. And when there are so many storylines escalating, sometimes the line from Point A to Point B goes a little off course. So even though the conflict may at times be a little more contrived, it's still a TV page-turner.

There is no question Bill has the will and the faith to pull it all off, even when those around him waver. But what if the walls finally came crumbling down?

What if in the season finale' Bill leads the clan down a path of disgrace? What if the entire family is exposed and stigmatized? How would Bill resolve this?

How would Season Five begin with Bill trying to resolve his failure? Or does he win, achieve elected office and continue to conquer the world with more and more to lose? Stay tuned.