NFL: Why America loves a result
On Sunday the NFL witnessed the first drawn game since 2008, when the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals failed to score in overtime. The San Francisco 49ers hosted the St Louis Rams in a divisional clash that ended 24 points apiece. The concept of a draw is alien to the American sports fan, “we have winners and we have losers, by God, and ties are for losers,” (Jeff Otte, New York Times).
American sport appreciates clearly defined lines between winning and losing. As the teams trudged off on Sunday, SBnation.com (a popular American sports blog) was awash with negative comments about the game ending in a draw. The summary was that both teams had effectively lost and it was actually claimed that a draw was more detrimental than a loss. The fan backed his claim by pointing out a win would take the team a step closer to the playoffs and a loss improved future draft position. It would be fascinating to see this particular individuals reaction to test match cricket, where a five-day contest can end without a winner.
In ice hockey, ‘ties’ or draws were commonplace until the collective bargaining agreement in 2005 halted them altogether. “Since then, about 12.9 per cent of games – slightly more than one in eight – have on completion of ‘overtime’, gone to a shootout,” (nhl.com). More than 1,000 games have now had a winner or loser in the last seven years, with teams having to plan and train for shootouts. If any drawn Premier League game led to penalties, then teams would start recruiting penalty-taking and saving specialists, creating an entirely new aspect to the sport in England.
Baseball and basketball have never had the option of drawing any game. Both continue until a winner is found. So is this due to the American psyche, or is it more to do with the way a win is translated? All of the sports mentioned base playoff representation upon wins and losses as opposed to a collection of points in a league table.
Eddie Erdelatz, a former professional player and coach, stated in 1953 “a tie is like kissing your sister”. Such a statement is ludicrous but could help us to understand why such events are avoided as much as possible in American culture. “A draw in any event, for example an election or sports match, is a completely unsatisfactory way to conclude business,” (Craig Whitelock, Washington Post). Compare this to the reaction of Brendan Rodgers following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea at the weekend, “this draw is a good result and keeps us moving forward.” Surely a draw is a result as much as a win or a loss? Or is it defeatist to be positive having not got a win.
If a team can come away from a hostile venue, or having played a team thought to be far stronger, without losing then European sport rewards such an effort. The belief is in direct contrast with the principles American sport is based upon. The phrase, “any given Sunday” stems from the fact that all teams can be competitive at any given time. The draft system is further evidence, as the worst teams are given the chance to take the best prospects each year.
The Rams were 11 point underdogs heading into the game on Sunday, to come out with a draw should be championed. When the game ended, Danny Amendola the Rams number one receiver, didn’t understand that the game was over. (Shades of Donovan McNabb, 2008, Cincinnati). “I thought we were going to keep playing,” he said (Sports Illustrated). Players not understanding the intricacies of the rulebook is not overly important, for instance two Arsenal players threw their shirts into the crowd at the end of ninety minutes against Reading in the League cup two weeks ago. The game went into extra time and they had to go and retrieve their shirts. It is more an indictment of how uncommon a drawn game is in the NFL. Major League Soccer only allowed teams to draw after the 2005 season, prior to that they had extra time and then ice hockey style shootouts.
When Tiger Woods conceded the final hole in the 2012 Ryder Cup to hand Europe the win on paper, many Europeans were surprised at the actions of the greatest golfer in history. We should not have been surprised, as in the American mind a draw is the equivalent of losing. “Nothing about me is more American than that I don’t like ties” (Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated).Tagged in: Eddie Erdelatz, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles
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