Sweetness And Light
6:27 am
Wed July 2, 2014

The Time Of Our Sports Lives: How Europe's Games Neglect The Clock

Originally published on Wed July 2, 2014 7:58 am

Why is it that Europeans don't pay as much attention to time in sports as we do?

You American novices to soccer, who climbed on the World Cup bandwagon this summer –– you must have been completely baffled by how soccer has a thing called "stoppage time." That means that the game goes on after regulation time is up for an undisclosed period that only the referee knows.

Or, if you've been following Wimbledon, you know that in the final fifth set for men or the deciding third set for women, the tie-break doesn't apply as it does in the United States. The match is forced to drag on eternally — even, if you recall John Isnur and Nicolas Mahut four years ago, for 11 awful hours to a score of 70 games to 68. Even Camille died faster than it took to play that dreadful set.

Cricket you don't have to know much about, except they actually break for tea.

Americans, on the other hand, only dilly-dally for crucial, life-affirming reasons: to allow commercials. The American way of life. We Yanks are crass-conscious.

Thus, especially in basketball, the last few minutes of most games are interminable, as everybody calls time out and shoots fouls, allowing for commercials that you can't avoid because the game is on the line. Football is almost as bad.

But say this for both basketball and football: they have time clocks. You can't just kick the ball back and around. You gotta shoot in 24 seconds. You gotta get a play off in 25. That's the American way. That's what Henry Ford taught us on the assembly line. Move it!

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's conclusion on the issue, including, in honor of the World Cup, the extra point he gets to make during stoppage time.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And back here on dry land, plenty of Americans cheered the U.S. team against Belgium in the World Cup until the bitter end. But many were probably confused about when the end of the match actually occurred. Commentator Frank Deford thinks this confusion might have something to do with soccer's official roots across the pond.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: What is it about the Europeans that they don't pay as much attention to time in sports as we do? Especially you American novices to soccer who climbed on the World Cup bandwagon this summer. You must have been completely baffled by how soccer has a thing called stoppage time. That means that the game goes on after regulation time is up for an undisclosed period that only the referee knows. Or if you've been following Wimbledon, you know that in the final fifth set for men or the deciding third set for women, the tiebreak doesn't apply as it does in the United States, and the match is forced to drag on eternally - even, if you recall four years ago, for 11 awful hours to a score of 70 games to 68. Even Camille died faster than it took to play that dreadful set. Cricket - you don't have to know much about that except they actually break for tea. Americans, on the other hand, only dillydally for crucial life-affirming reasons - to allow commercials. The American way of life - we Yanks are crass-conscience. Thus especially in basketball - the last few minutes of most games are interminable as everybody calls timeout and shoots fouls, allowing for commercials that you can't afford because the game is on the line and on the bottom line as well. Football is almost as bad, but say this for both basketball and football - they have time clocks. You can't just kick the ball back and around. You've got to shoot in 24 seconds. You've got to get a play off in 25. That's the American way. That's what Henry Ford taught us on the assembly line. Move it. And I believe one of the reasons that football has become so much more popular is because it runs on time. You know it's going to be three hours a game. You know exactly how many beers you can consume. Alas, there's been a Euro-ization of some of our sports. Baseball has always, like cricket, prided itself on having no clock. However, Commissioner Bud Selig and his ignorant owners have somehow overlooked the rather salient fact that everybody watching does have a clock. And after a while, they are clock watching more than they are baseball watching. And golf - the sport is in decline because it takes so long to play. Small vertebrates are born, mate and die before most guys on the PGA Tour venture to put. No wonder young people are eschewing the links. They have a life to live, college loans to pay off - tweets to send. Furthermore - oh, good. I've just been notified that in honor of the World Cup, an indeterminate amount of stoppage time has been added to my commentary. So I would like to make this incredibly important point which is that...

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)

MONTAGNE: commentator Frank the Deford will be back for another three minutes - no overtime - next Wednesday. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.