How Long A Football Game Actually Lasts


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While some cheer and others groan, the fact remains: football season is here. And with it comes the pregame show, ads, popcorn, ads, yelling and screaming at the TV, ads, commentary, ads, crowd noise, ads, and then maybe some more ads and commentary. So with all those ads and commentary and replays and such, how much are the guys on the field actually out on the field fighting for that little hunk of inflated pig skin? Well, the Wall Street Journal did some research and calculated that the average amount of time the ball is in play during an NFL game is …wait for it… about 11 minutes. Yup. 11 minutes. Not even enough time to get all your junk food ready, or to boil a hard boiled egg. So where did all the time go? Let’s break it down.

Not surprisingly at all, commercials take up about an hour. Then about 75 minutes, or 60% of air time (excluding the ads galore) is spent on the camera focused on a mass of sweaty bodies huddled on the field, or a mass of sweaty bodies huddled on the sidelines, or a mass of sweaty bodies just generally milling about on the field getting into position. Replays take about 56% of the time. Shots of network announcers, head coaches, and referees take up about 7% of the average show.

So back to the 11 minutes. Football is the rare sport where it’s common to allow the clock to run for long periods of time even when the ball is not in action. After a normal four second play, the clock will continue to tick, even when the players are scraping themselves off the turf and crawling back into formation. That’s 46 minutes of good play time wasted, not to mention 3 hours of your life with all the extra stuff included. If only there was a network that just showed just those 11 minutes.

I did some calculations for you guys. According to a statistics site, about 64% of Americans watch NFL football. That’s approximately 197,564,442.2 people. Let’s say they each watch only Sunday and Monday night football. (I can assure you that a large number of those people will watch more games than that, not including college football.) So excluding all the preseason games, and the other NFL games, and the college games, and that they watch the whole 3.5 to 4 hours per game (I’ll be conservative and say 7 hours for the two nights) that means that people spend 1,382,951,096 hours watching football. That’s waaaay over a billion hours wasted watching mainly ads and replays. If it was just the 11 minutes of actual play time, it would be 36,220,147 hours. That’s 1,346,730,948 hours less time spent in front of the TV! What a waste of time!

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(via my calculator and The Wall Street Journal)

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