How long is too long when it comes to games?
Usually, I come down on the side that most games – football, baseball, basketball and more – take a little too long to play and seem to get longer every year.
But after the Alabama-Georgia national championship game last Monday, which took 4 hours, 8 minutes to play and ended at 12:25 a.m., I noticed that it was so interesting I hadn’t noticed how long it took to finish.
That I didn’t have to wake up early to go to work on Tuesday probably contributed in a big way to not noticing the time at the end of the game.
Time is not usually on the fans’ side. Games are getting longer and nobody has come up with a way to fix it that will make everyone happy.
The average college football game in FBS (the big boys of college football) took 3 hours, 24 minutes this season, up 12 minutes per game since 2010, according to cbssports.com.
Ohio State games averaged 3 hours, 28 minutes this season. The shortest game was 3 hours, 4 minutes against Army and the longest was 3 hours, 43 minutes against Wisconsin. And that was just one minute longer than the Penn State game and the Michigan game.
As recently as 2010, OSU played five games in less than three hours and its longest game was 3 hours, 28 minutes.
Television is an easy target when looking for reasons games are getting longer. But just because it is an easy explanation doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
Urban Meyer might be the most powerful man in Ohio Stadium in almost every area on Saturday afternoons in the fall. But when it comes to when the game can resume after commercials, the guy in the red nylon jacket standing on the field who works for the network televising the game has absolute power.
Some Saturdays it seems like every fan in the stadium at Buckeyes games has had their face on the giant video screen on the scoreboard at least once and some of them twice during the numerous commercial breaks.
The fewer games a team has on television, the shorter the games. The more networks pay for the rights to show games, the more ads they want to run.
FCS schools (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) took an average of 3 hours, 5 minutes to play their football games this season. NCAA Division II averaged 2 hours, 48 minutes and NCAA Division III averaged 2 hours, 40 minutes.
There are other reasons college football games have gotten longer – more passing, the introduction of replay reviews, longer halftimes than the NFL and the college rule that the clock stops after first downs.
College basketball has its own issues – TV timeouts and replay reviews to name two. It took 4 minutes, 25 seconds to decide who the ball went out of bounds off just before the end of the Purdue-Michigan game last week.
Major league baseball has time issues, too. Regular season games averaged 3 hours, 5 minutes last season, up 4 ½ minutes from 2016. Its postseason games averaged 3 hours, 31 minutes, which was up six minutes in a year.
The Reds, copying something the Indians have done since 2015, will start 15 games at 6:10 p.m.
Some people will like that. Other people will hate it. College football seems to be doing just the opposite, with more and more late kickoffs and night games.
Neither sport seems any closer to significantly picking up the pace of its games, though.