As a sixty-something male who grew up in the southern United States, I got my indoctrination in American football (AF) early in life, and have been a staunch fan ever since. I always wondered why the rest of the world didn’t seem to care much for our style of play and preferred soccer, which seemed to be a pretty boring display of ordinary looking guys (or women) running up and down a field kicking a ball around. Then, in 2010, everything changed. I actually watched a few soccer games during the World Cup in South Africa. Suddenly, I realized that soccer was the right game for me. I’m still a fan of AF. I check scores and news articles, but I rarely attend a game, or watch more than bits and pieces of one on television.
Two things led to this transformation
The people running around on the soccer field (the “Pitch”) look like ordinary men and women, athletic to be sure, but otherwise just like regular people. AF players, on the other hand, have turned into hulking giants that look nothing like the people I see on the streets.
Maybe I value my time more than I once did, but it seems that AF games have become much longer than they once were. As a result, the entertainment value ratio (the amount of action time relative to the time invested) has declined, and it probably wasn’t great to begin with. Most NFL games take about three and half hours to complete. That’s a lot of time to invest for 11 minutes of action, which, according to a Wall Street Journal study a few years ago, is what you get. That’s right. The average play lasts about eight seconds and there will be about 130 plays during a typical game. That’s eleven minutes.
A soccer game, on the other hand, takes two hours to play. You can count on it. The clock starts when the official puts the ball in play and it doesn’t stop until the half-time break at the 45-minute mark, with a couple of minutes usually added for stoppage time. The same thing happens in the second half. The game ends when the second half stoppage time has elapsed. The officials determine stoppage time based on the amount of time they had stopped the action to attend to injured players.
Here is a simple table that illustrates the action time relative to the time invested.
American Football (AF) Soccer
Total time invested to watch game on television (minutes) 210 120
Game clock time (minutes, including stoppage time) 60 95
Game action time (minutes of ball in play) 11 90
Percentage of action time to time invested 5.24% 75.00%
I’ve also learned to appreciate the action in soccer. Those men and women aren’t just kicking to ball around for the heck of it. They move the ball from player to player with remarkable precision; constantly looking for a weakness in the other team’s defense that they can exploit in order to rush the goal. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. Now, I understand why virtually everyone in the world knows who Lionel Messi is, but outside the U. S., few people would know Peyton Manning.