Play ‘Til You’re Dead: Why Overtime is the Best Way to Decide a Game

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when-playing-for-a-championship-only-the-strong-survive

Two recent events added to the case against having penalty shootouts decide a game, the gold medal game of the World Junior Hockey Championships and the MLS Cup final game.

I’m not sure if Team Canada would have won the gold medal game against the Americans last Thursday in Montreal if they were able to continue playing in overtime. If anything, the Canadians looked pretty listless after coughing up their second 2-goal lead of the game. The last ten minutes of regulation and all of the 20-minute sudden-death OT, save for a power play, was controlled by the US. Perhaps Canada’s only chance to win the gold medal was to have the game decided in a shootout. Had Canada lost in overtime, there would have been disappointment but I can bet you no one would be complaining about the method used to decide the winner.

The same goes with soccer (or football as Europeans call it). Fans of Toronto FC were left disappointed that the MLS Cup final was decided on penalty kicks. Unlike Canada’s Junior Team, Toronto FC players were dominant nearly winning it in extra time. Only a great acrobatic save by Seattle’s goalkeeper prevented the game from ending. Often the championship game in soccer in any level ends in penalty kicks. And like the hockey shootout, it is also a dull, lazy way to decide a game.

One argument for a shootout or penalty kick to decide a game is that players can not play for that long a period. But I would say that if these athletes are indeed the most fit and are in great physical shape as everyone claims, then they should be able to play as long as it takes until someone scores. In fact, stamina and fatigue should be as much of a factor as skill when determining a winner. If you can’t overcome being out of breath then you probably shouldn’t deserve being called a champion. The game should take as long as it wants to decide a winner. That to me is a true champion.

Overtime in the NHL playoffs showed us why playing until the next team scores is not only the best way to decide a game, it is also the most exciting. Hardly anyone leaves before the winning goal is scored regardless of how late it goes. I was at a pair of Blue Jays regular season games this past season, both went into extra innings and both ended in Blue Jays comeback victories. My friend and I stayed until the very end and so did many of the fans at the Dome. This despite the fact both games were played on a weeknight and many in attendance probably had to get up early the next day.

The consensus against shootouts to decide a championship game, and even in regular season games, is growing. I’m not sure how anyone can continue to allow games of this importance to be decided this way. But until people start to become tired about hearing players getting tired, or that the game goes too long, the skills competition portion will continue to reign in sports.

Also see:

International Rules in the NHL? No Thanks
Lessons From the World Juniors
The Lack of Animosity is Hurting the World Cup of Hockey

 

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Everyone has World Cup Fever… Except Me

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World Cup Trophy
While millions around the world are tuned in to see which country is the best in soccer, you won’t see me joining the crowd. It not just the World Cup tournament, I’m just not into soccer (or football to my European friends) at all.

I played soccer when I was in school. I wasn’t a great player but it was to fun to play with my friends. I usually played goalkeeper mostly because that position utilized my skills in baseball, basketball, and (North American) football. But as much as it is a beautiful game to play, I can’t push myself to watch it on TV. Same with basketball and golf: I’m good at playing both sports but it is tough for me to watch. On the other hand, hockey is a great game to watch but I couldn’t shoot a puck, deke out an opposing player, or deliver a crushing open ice body check if my life depended on it.

One of the reasons I can’t watch soccer is the slow pace of the game. I’ve seen rush hour traffic in Toronto go much faster. There is also hardly any contact, at least legal contact, one that won’t get you a red card. Another is penalty kicks, whether it is to serve as punishment on the offending team or to decide a game after regulation. That part of the game is too easy in my mind. Those are just three reasons and I haven’t even touched on the diving that often occurs.

You kind of wonder what is it that attracts people to the game of soccer? Allegiance to one’s team or country maybe one reason. Perhaps if Canada had a team in the World Cup it would have been worthy of my attention. I haven’t gone to a Toronto FC game since they joined Major League Soccer. None of the hype during the off-season, though, has made me reach for that red scarf.

Soccer maybe a beautiful game but, for me, an ugly hockey game with more players in the penalty box than on the bench is a sight for sore eyes.