Superbowl's special scores could lead to extra entertainment elsewhere
YOU know it’s early February when men who are normally far more interested in the pig’s bladder than the pigskin pretend that they’re experts on the subject of American Football.
In truth, most of us understand more about Roman numbers – and that’s Very LIttle – but it doesn’t stop us sitting up into the early hours, perhaps even taking the next day off work, to watch the Superbowl.
The entertainment factor is usually high – Lady Gaga’s half-time show was excellent, even if she would be useless on Lip Sync Battle.
The action on the pitch is usually lively too, and close, with exciting finishes, and this year’s decider did not disappoint (unless you support the Atlanta Falcons and/ or hate the New England Patriots).
Among the company with whom I usually watch the game (especially when the party hosts’ beloved Patriots are involved), I make no pretence at expertise.
Given the political events of last year, it was fairly predictable that the New England Patriots would, er, trump the Falcons in the showpiece occasion of American sport.
Yet the manner of their victory was absolutely astonishing, involving the greatest comeback since the 2005 Champions League Final in Istanbul (just thought I’d throw in an allusion to that rarely-recalled game).
The Patriots ‘supporter’ gave them no chance at 21-3 down. We had to hold his ankles to stop him heading up his stairs to bed when they then trailed 28-3 early in the second half/ third quarter.
However, even when the Patriots pulled it back to 28-12 I was only really teasing when I suggested that they might still win.
Indeed I thought the real expert amongst us had lost his mind, his brain adversely affected by a combination of pizza crust stuffed with hot dog, jalapeno pretzels, and Minstrels, when he declared: `They just need two scores’.
‘Don’t think so’, I thought. ‘Three, surely’, I may even have muttered. Six points for a touchdown, one point for the extra point (the clue’s in the name). You didn’t need to understand Roman numerals to know that would still leave them trailing 28-26.
Of course our expert knew better, having already publicly predicted the scorer of the first touchdown and that the match might well go to overtime – which it did, for the first time ever, in its 51st incarnation.
The Patriots achieved the amazing feat of drawing level by scoring two more touchdowns plus two two-point conversions, which I’d forgotten about due to a lack of sleep and a surfeit of Wotsits.
Despite repeated replays I was still looking at the quarterback as the Patriots dummied in the lead-up to one of those special scores, gawping in the wrong direction, rather like most of the so-called Falcons ‘defense’.
The Superbowl always teaches you something – and other sports could learn lessons from gridiron’s unusual ways to score.
The two-point conversion – whereby a team doesn’t try to kick the ball between the posts but instead has to get another touchdown, admittedly from closer range – could be copied in rugby union.
Rather than attempting the conversion, teams could be allowed to try to score a ‘three-point try’ by running the ball from the ‘22’.
While I’m at it, rugby should make another change to its scoring rules: obviously there should be more points for a try that is run over the line rather than one that’s rumbled over from inches out after minutes of forwards running repeatedly into each other from close range.
There could also be a bonus point for any intercept try; two bonus points for any such score that that starts with a run from inside the scorer’s own half.
And if you manage to pin down a player with the ball behind his own try line, you’d get two points, just like American football’s ‘safety’.
The much-maligned (by me) sport of basketball has its range of scoring rewards too, ranging from one-point free throws to three-pointers from distance.
Gaelic football and soccer could certainly benefit from following basketball’s example.
Scores from distance are just better than tap-ins or tap-overs, even if ‘they all count’.
Admittedly it would be hard to award bonus points for screamers from outside the penalty area in a low-scoring code like soccer, but perhaps the cumulative distance of goals scored could be a deciding factor at the end of a league or even after a drawn cup game.
Or else you could set up some system of rewards for goals scored by `headers and volleys’ – and by the latter I mean real volleys, not just a ball struck in the air after it has already bounced on the ground, as so many stupid pundits seem to think is the same thing. Grrrr. Breathe, breathe.
In Gaelic football, you could give bonuses for scores off a player’s weaker foot; that would have to be designated at the start of the season.
More seriously, awarding something extra for scores from distance would surely open games up more, drawing defenders out rather than so many sitting back and challenging opponents to split the posts from around 45 yards or even further.
We had the experiment with a two-point sideline cut in hurling but the top level of the caman code generally doesn’t need any changes to make it more exciting, or encourage players to go for scores.
If a long range score in football was worth 1.5 points, though, or even 1.25 points, we might get more drama and shots.
Admittedly the media’s heads would be melted, going by the angst caused by calculating scoring difference in the McKenna Cup, but at least all those statisticians in back-rooms teams could come in useful.
Clearly that extra value should apply to long range frees too, to stop all those cynical fouls further out the field which break up attacks at a relatively low risk of conceding a subsequent score.
Michael Murphy would have an absolute field day – but he would do that in American Football too.