The League

Tom Boswell
Staff Writer

Tom Boswell

Sports Columnist Washington Post

Nine Reasons Football Rules


There may not be 99 reasons why the NFL's postseason system is better than baseball's, but there certainly are at least nine reasons to go with football. That's a purpose pitch aimed right at baseball -- the sport that used to win this comparison.

1. The NFL never canceled the the Super Bowl for a labor war.

2. Kids can't watch the best postseason baseball games. They're at night. Late at night. Really, really late at night on the East Coast where much of the population still lives. This alone -- the Next Generation of Fans factor -- makes the NFL superior.

3. The first rounds of the MLB playoffs are cluttered with too many games. Who has that much idle time to spend on any sport? So you lose a sense of the flow of the postseason. The NFL has an ideal format, concentrated entirely on weekends in the afternoon and night.

4. You can plan parties around important NFL postseason games. In baseball, you don't know if there will be a decisive Game 7 until the day before. Just one more example, along with tail-gating, of why the NFL has monopolized the Party Sport title.

5. A lopsided Super Bowl only costs you two hours. By the middle of the third quarter, you can turn it off. And at least you had the commercials and halftime show. A lopsided World Series is unwatchable unless your team is involved or it's a big upset. In seven of the last 10 World Series, the losing teams have won a TOTAL of only two games.

6. The NFL has the common sense to hold the Super Bowl at a warm-weather site or indoors. Baseball, the game of summer, constantly runs the risk of holding its showcase event in winter. If the Red Sox and Cubs meet this year, TV ratings may skyrocket. But so could cases of hypothermia.

7. In MLB, one league STILL has the DH -- 10 players on a side. The other doesn't --nine men on a side. And they switch rules in the Series depending on where the game is played. Hello: Can we say, "Insanity?" In the Super Bowl, does an NFC team use 12 men on a side against an AFC team that uses 11 men on a side all season? Of course not.

8. For decades the NFL couldn't beg, borrow or steal a close, exciting game for its Super Bowl -- almost all were blowouts. In the first 35 Super Bowls, only six games were decided by six-points-or-less. But, in the last seven years, there have now been four Super Bowls decided by three-points-or-less. Has a trend reversed? Too soon to tell. But the NFL can hope.

9. It's not just kids who miss the highlight games of the baseball season because the sport sells its soul to TV. Nobody ever comes to work on Monday morning and asks, "Who won the Super Bowl yesterday? I went to bed at 12:30 when they went into extra innings."

By Tom Boswell  |  October 1, 2008; 9:59 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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What's the problem? Games don't go late at all on the west coast!!

Posted by: andrew | October 1, 2008 2:11 PM

I suspect that Mr Boswell can afford to take his children to an NFL game with tickets reaching almost $100 for each seat.

I cannot afford that, so I'll take my kids to a MLB game instead, where the tickets may only cost about $12 each. Minor league games are even cheaper and sometimes even more fun than the MLB games.

Reason Number 1 why MLB is better than NFL!

Posted by: Cubbie Fan | October 1, 2008 2:23 PM

Boz, you must have forgotten that the NFL now has the Saturday night games early in the playoffs. Kids can't watch those games either.

Posted by: Bozo | October 1, 2008 2:25 PM

Those that like the NFL postseason better have short attention spans and can't stomach drama drawn out for several days.

Baseball doesn't obey a clock. That's what makes it great.

I do agree with Mr. Boswell regarding the DH rule. Trash it. Force strategy back into the game.

Posted by: Richard in PA | October 1, 2008 2:30 PM

Selling your soul to TV is what the Super Bowl is all about.

They actually change the rules of the game to accomodate TV. The halftime is 30 minutes long! The commercial breaks are 4 minutes (generally more entertaining than the game). There's no way for an offense to tire out a defense in the Super Bowl, TV rests up the defense every commercial break. That's why defense wins Super Bowls.

Also, playing at a warm weather sight is for wimps. Some of the greatest football games were played in adverse conditions. That's why there aren't any Super Bowls among the legendary NFL games.

Hockey's the best anyway.

Posted by: Tim from Silver Spring | October 1, 2008 2:37 PM


A long time ago, the NFL decided how to split the $$$$$$ between the teams. As I understand the rules, it is as such:

TV - Every team gets an equal share of all TV revenue. This was long before TV was so very profitable.

Ticket Sales - 50/50 visitor/home

The exception is the EXTRA money that $kyboxes generate and PSLs. That money goes to the home team, exclusively.

That is why we have teams clamoring for new stadia, since the old stadia don't have enough skyboxes. And we have PSLs because teams can get 100% of that money, instead of 50% of a ticket price increase.

But on the up-side: Every year most football teams have a possibility in getting to the playoffs. You don't have to have a team from a big TV market in order to be competitive. So a team like the Packers can field a good team (some years) even though they come from a smaller TV market.

So look at how MLB divides the $s:

TV - Each team negotiates their own TV contract. Not only does this lower the bargining position of the team (a TV station in NY can bid for the Mets or the Yankees games, potentially getting them into a downward bidding war)

Ticket sales - I'm not sure, but I think they split the regular ticket price home/away 50/50. But it doesn't much matter; its not that big part of the pie.

Result - A few big-market teams consistantly field a better paid team. Team owners fight for salary caps, fighting the symptom, not the cause. The cause is that some owners can pay big money, but others can't.

This is not rocket science, some MLB team owners would rather get a few more $s in their pocket than to have a good competitive league.

Posted by: cyberfool | October 1, 2008 2:50 PM

ALso, the NFL uses tiebreakers, such as head-to-head results, to determine who makes the playoffs. The Twins, who won their regular season series against the White Sox by 10 games to 8, not only did not automatically advance ahead of the White Sox, but had to visit Chicago to even have a chance to make the post season! What, is 18 games not enough of a smaple for baseball?

Posted by: Dsmac | October 1, 2008 3:29 PM


You're a brilliant writer and perspicacious observer, which I why I'm a little stunned that you've written such apostasy.

Nine reasons why football rules? I can give you one reason why it never will. At least for me.

Football is slow and primarily revolves around two groups of large men forming a pile followed by more than a minute of nothing happening; baseball is challenging physically and mentally and something not just exciting but unprecedented in the history of the sport could happen on any of the 200 to 250 pitches thrown about twenty seconds apart in a typical game.

Posted by: I Find Football Boring | October 1, 2008 4:25 PM

Oh, and I've never asked "Who won the Super Bowl yesterday? I went to bed at 12:30 when they went into extra innings."

That's because I don't CARE who wins the Super Bowl. I think they're boring, even by football standards, and I don't think I've watched one in over 20 years.

I have, however, stayed up late to watch postseason baseball on many occasions in those past two decades. Would I prefer that the games be played in the daytime? Yes. (But, I mean, if your team of choice were to make the World Series you couldn't take a couple of afternoons officially or unofficially off to attend the games?)

Posted by: I Find Football Boring | October 1, 2008 4:29 PM

Dear Boring, how can you say that football is slow? It is a damn sight faster than baseball which is only enjoyable at the stadium with a beer in your hand, better 10. You write that baseball is challenging physically, I think you must be challenged mentally. Have you ever looked the average baseball player? They look like the before picture on weight watchers. You must be the only person in America who doesn't watch the Super Bowl but does watch all the playoff baseball games.

Posted by: Kal, PA | October 1, 2008 4:41 PM

there are only two reasons:

1) 16 game schedule v. 162 game sched.

2) revenue sharing so small market teams can contend every year.

everything else is just preference.

Posted by: ballgame | October 1, 2008 4:47 PM

"7. In MLB, one league STILL has the DH -- 10 players on a side. The other doesn't --nine men on a side. And they switch rules in the Series depending on where the game is played. Hello: Can we say, "Insanity?" In the Super Bowl, does an NFC team use 12 men on a side against an AFC team that uses 11 men on a side all season? Of course not."

This doesn't make sense. One team doesn't get to use the DH while the other doesn't. In the World Series 10 men don't complete a lineup for an AL team while only 9 complete a lineup for an NL team.

Really, Boz, you're known as a brilliant writer and I've often thought that as well. I would expect a breakdown of the season-wide inequality that the DH provides, not to mention the advantage of a pitcher from the AL getting one "free" out more than they're used to.

Instead you give us this, which is just dumb.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | October 1, 2008 4:53 PM

Say it ain't so, Bos.

Posted by: National Pastime | October 1, 2008 5:12 PM

Perhaps so, but are there any Minor League teams in the area?

"Minor league games are even cheaper and sometimes even more fun than the MLB games."

Posted by: Fake Bos | October 1, 2008 5:16 PM

The biggest difference is as mentioned here already is that one has a pretty good idea as to which teams will actually contest for the titles in baseball where as in football, teams can come out of nowhere and often do. yes, every once in a while a Tampa or an Arizona makes it in baseball, but that is the exception.

Posted by: Rink Rat | October 1, 2008 5:25 PM

I watched too many football games in high school and college because I was in the marching band.

Give me baseball or hockey, where the actual players outnumber the cheerleaders and mascots.

Posted by: bat & puck | October 1, 2008 10:38 PM

And ... so what? Is this a personal problem or what you perceive to be a threat to the future of MLB? If the latter, what should they do (within reason).

As for the NFL, with parity there are way too many stinker games. Every year the networks yell louder and louder about how great the NFL game is but really it seems to be getting collectively more boring. Next labor negotiations could make it worse as the NFL loads up on KC Royals types of teams. How many Bengals/Browns type games will we tune into?

Posted by: tslats | October 2, 2008 8:34 AM

Kal, PA wrote: "You write that baseball is challenging physically, I think you must be challenged mentally."

You know, Kal, I was taught back in my debating days that when someone resorts to an ad hominem argument (the Latin phrase can be translated as "attack the person") it's because they're unable to contest or refute that person's argument with facts.

So I am now going to refute you with facts instead of insults.

I never played serious baseball beyond high school so I'm no expert witness. But would you concede that former NBA star Michael Jordan knows something about sports? After his stint as a Chicago White Sox minor leaguer Jordan was quoted saying that while basketball requires better aerobic conditioning, he found baseball to be the hardest game he'd ever played. I'd argue it's fair to say that "hardest game" can be translated as "challenging physically".

And I can say football is slow because it is. Demonstrably. Why else would it typically take three and a half hours or more to play four fifteen-minute quarters if there isn't a whole not of nothin' happenin' going on at every game?

Whereas I, by coincidence of my travel schedule during the MLB season just ended, found myself in the stands for the shortest nine-inning baseball games ever played at two different major league ballparks; Denver's Coors Field and Chase Field (the former BOB), home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both games lasted less than two hours and both were taut, exciting contests that dared you to look away, even for thirty seconds. Watching football does not require anywhere near that kind of focus. In other words, football is slow and boring.

There's even an academic study, done under conditions of scientific rigor. A Syracuse University study analyzed hundreds of NFL games; every game played for two complete seasons. On average, the time between the referee blowing his whistle to end the previous play and the snap of the ball to start the next play was over a minute. That's compared with baseball, where the average time between pitches is a little less than 20 seconds.

There's your evidence, courtesy of a major research university. And if you're thinking, "I don't watch every pitch" -- well, since something happens on every pitch, that's your problem (I might even say fault) for not paying attention, not the game of baseball's for being slow.

In other words, the average game of baseball is both faster and more exciting than the average game of football. The same would be true if you replaced my choice of baseball in that sentence with basketball, ice hockey, soccer, rugby, and a long list of sports that don't require all action to stop for three times as long as it took to run the previous play.

Posted by: I Find Football Boring | October 2, 2008 9:50 AM

It's all about the 162 game schedule verus the 16 game schedule, and the one game playoffs versus best of five or seven.

Any one baseball game is nearly inconsequential. Almost every football game matters. It's easy to follow every football game, because it's only three hours a week. Baseball, 16-20 hours a week.

Posted by: AK | October 2, 2008 10:18 AM

I'm still trying to figure out why this whole thing is found within the "On Faith" discussions of The Washington Post website. Just how important do some people consider their football to be?

Posted by: I Find Football Boring | October 2, 2008 11:02 AM

Perhaps so, but are there any Minor League teams in the area?
"Minor league games are even cheaper and sometimes even more fun than the MLB games."
Posted by: Fake Bos | October 1, 2008 5:16 PM

Sure, the Potomac Nationals and the Frederick Keys...Google 'em. Usually family friendly events.

I guess my real point is that with the high cost of NFL tickets, the NFL is going to become less and less a middle class family oriented event. You are looking at a Grand Plus to take a family of 6 to an NFL game these that what was intended when they created the NFL?


So yeah, why is this in the 'views' section instead of the sports columns?

Posted by: Cubbie Fan | October 2, 2008 3:09 PM

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