Those 3-Hour Football Games Contain A Whole 11 Minutes Of Play Time

That’s what the Wall Street Journal discovered during the NFL playoffs back in January 2010, after watching four games and adding up all the time that the ball was in play — that is, after the snap and before the ball was pronounced dead by the coroners officials. Other “researchers” found similar amounts of play time, in the 12- and 13-minute range. The WSJ’s precise figure was 10:43 out of 60:00 of game time which — thanks to out of bounds balls, time-outs, commercials, penalties, reviews and injuries — gets stretched out to about 3:05:00, and means that one minute of game time takes three minutes of real time and also, that one minute of play really takes about seventeen.

You're more likely to see this than play action during a game. Photo by Sarah Korf.


So for 94% of that three hours spent in front of the TV, you’re generally watching replays, commercials, and players standing around. (Cheerleaders get three seconds per game, for some awful reason.) Of course, this is part of football’s appeal: it’s just on in the background, and every so often, you pay attention to it — unless you’re a stats junkie, wanna-be coach, or just feel like vegging out. But for most people, that other 94% of filler time is when you hang out with your friends, sip your drink, eat chicken wings, comb your long-haired dog, polish your middle school spelling bee trophy, or fill out your passport application.

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From Wall Street Journal, via Neatorama


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