Friday, January 30, 2009

Overtime Auctions?

by: Chris Sullivan

At the beginning of every NFL game, there is a coin toss. The winner of that coin toss decides whether they will recieve the ball in the first quarter or the third (well, that's a bit of an oversimplification, but you dig me). This is a fair way of deciding things, because whatever they choose the other team will get the ball at the converse time and things should be fairly even, at least over the course of a season. However, the NFL's sudden death overtime period creates a whole different dynamic, because the winner of the toss again decides who gets the ball (uh, it's always going to be them) and has merely to drive the ball to the 30-35 yard line to win the game.

This makes the overtime period both frustrating and unexciting (despite the attempts at drama by the announcers). The bottom line is, in the 2008 season the overtime coin toss winner won the game more than 70% of the time. This hardly seems "fair." Still, what other solutions are there?

The most popularly mentioned one is the college solution wherein you start at the X yard line (no kickoff) and try to score; regardless of whether you succeed or fail, the other team starts at the X yard line and gets an opportunity to do the same thing. The first one to end the period ahead wins. Yahoo! However, this has typically been seen as unpalatable to most NFL fans, as there's a certain joy involved in watching your team win the sudden death period; it's almost more . . . warlike.

So, we seem to be at an impasse. However, some other folks have been thinking of the same issue. The ideal solution, at least in their minds? An auction, as lined out in an article yesterday in Slate:

An even more elegant solution to the overtime problem was proposed in 2002 by Chris Quanbeck, an electrical engineer (and Green Bay Packers fan). Quanbeck's idea was to auction off possession of the ball in the natural currency of the game: field position. The team that was willing to begin closest to its own goal line would receive the privilege of possession.
Later in the article, an economist from Columbia University and a professor of business information systems from UC Berkeley looked at the auction solution, the "Divide and Choose" solution (where the loser of the coin toss names the starting position and the winner chooses whether to take the ball from there or let the other team take it there first), and the current solution:

They concluded that it [the auction system] would be [fairer], because the auction is completely symmetric — unlike with the "divide and choose" method, neither coach is forced to make the first move, so nobody has a built-in advantage.
So, what do you guys think? Should we stick with the current OT or move towards another form? And what form would that be? ~END~