On Monday, National Football League legend Mike Ditka admitted he did not know NFL games could end in a tie, even though there was a tie in a game last season.
When the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings played to a 26-26 overtime tie Sunday, it threw the red-blooded American NFL audience into a tizzy. Repeated over and over Sunday night and Monday was the mantra “NFL games should have a winner and a loser.”
Which is why American audiences will never understand soccer.
In soccer, games end in ties (or draws, as they are called) all of the time, unless a championship is being decided, or the game is to decide which team advances in a tournament.
Americans hate ties. The National Hockey League, in order to invite more American fans into the game, instituted a shootout in the event the game was still tied after an overtime period. In the NHL, they have games that end in both wins and overtime losses, apparently, somehow.
For you youngsters out there, know that NFL games used to end in ties all the time. In 1973, there were seven tie games, and the Packers and Cleveland Browns each had two ties in their 14-game season.
In 1974, the league changed its rules to allow for overtime, in which the first team to score won. That system was in place until 2013, but it created the unfortunate system in which the “second” game - the overtime period – could be played with only one team getting to be on offense. If the first team with the ball scored, even with a field goal, they won the game.
Two years ago, they changed the rule for the regular season. Now, the team with the ball first can win the game if they score a touchdown on the first possession. If the team with the ball first kicks a field goal, the other team can tie it with a field goal, win it with a touchdown or lose it by not scoring before turning the ball over.
If the team with the ball first fails to score, the former overtime rules apply – first team that scores wins.
I like this rule. While the team with the ball first still can win the game without giving it to the other team (which stinks), they do have to punch it into the end zone, or stand the chance of losing the game. And I love that a tie is a real possibility.
I love soccer, and one of the things I love about soccer is that the games CAN end in a tie. I hate the fact that the entire world can grasp the beauty and pain of a draw but Americans can’t. It is a lacking of maturity in the American personality, to my way of thinking.
It’s pretty simple to understand. If two equal teams play to a tie, then you witnessed a classic contest of equal wills and skills. If a tie ends between two teams not believed to be equal, then the lesser team has scored a moral victory (and gets a standings point for it) and the better team suffers whatever the opposite of a moral victory is (I have never figured out if it is an immoral victory, a moral loss, or an immoral loss).
The tie game situation in the NFL is even better. Coaches now have the choice, to kick the field goal to accept the tie, or go for the touchdown and accept the possibility of a loss. It’s a meaningful dilemma.
I wish the American sports fan would just grow up.