Jewish Journal

The Super Bowl Will Last 16 Minutes

by Jared Sichel

January 28, 2014 | 1:15 pm

The New York Times came out with a cute little video Monday, "Super Bowl 2014 - Breaking Down the Numbers," which highlights some interesting tidbits about Super Bowl history in advance of Sunday's big game.

The part that really caught my eye (video below, scroll to 1:30), is how many minutes of actual play there was in last year's Super Bowl between San Francisco and Baltimore. Real, genuine gameplay. Four 15-minute quarters comes to 60 minutes of clock time. But the clock is often running when the offense is in the huddle, or when the quarterback is saying "Omaha" seven times, or when Richard Sherman is staring down Demaryius Thomas as the latter walks to the huddle after catching the ball. That's not actual play. That's the noise in between. 

So, guess how many minutes of actual live football there are...and now watch the video.


16 minutes. The Seahawks and Broncos will play football for barely half of a half-hour on Sunday, assuming there's no overtime. If you're the guest of a Super Bowl party or just laying low at home, you could spend a good four to five hours watching the game, the crap before, the junk in between, and the garbage after. If you're hosting a Super Bowl party, that could turn into eight hours, ten hours, or more, of total time investment in Super Bowl Sunday...and all of it is for 16 minutes of football (!).
It almost seems like a big waste. Giving hours of precious, limited time to watch, or play 16 minutes of anything seems, intuitively, like a poor decision. NFL players and coaches spend entire days practicing and studying film--entire lives. Hell, apparently Peyton Manning rewatches Sunday Night Football broadcasts of his own games to see if his former coach, Tony Dungy, gives away any of Manning's signals.
Assuming playing and watching football is not a waste of time (and I posit that those who believe it is should have their American citizenship revoked), should we view the disproportionate amount of time that's spent in necessary alternative activities (for the party host, preparing the house; for the player/coach, preparing the playbook) as a waste?
No, and here's the lesson that 16 minutes of actual football imparts. Some of the most important moments in life can only be attained after far greater investment has been made in the road to get there. Parents who work long days to support their children may only see them for a couple hours per day, if that. Soldiers who rescue hostages spend their lives preparing for that situation, which may last for all of a few minutes. Firefighters train for years for a handful of actual emergencies. The CEO of an organization spent longer working to reach that level than he'll likely be CEO. A journalist spends more time getting a story to the point where it's ready to be written than he does on the actual writing. Researching, interviewing, transcribing--that all takes way more time than it does to actually write a story. The path to becoming a doctor in America is, what, 10 or 11 years? And how much time has a surgeon, upon retirement, spent in actual surgery? Not the side stuff, like examining x-rays and briefing the nurses--the actual, real, gooey stuff.
This is life. It's reality. Many of us spend far more time pursuing something than we actually spend on that thing. And that's how it must be. What 16 minutes of football can teach us this coming Sunday is that the preparation and the anticipation is nearly as important, if not as much so, as the destination. Without a doubt, the preparation is necessary. The place can't be reached without the prep. Peyton Manning wouldn't be competing Sunday if he were not an insane perfectionist before the game. But the investment before is more than a prerequisite to getting to the promised land.
Manning's preparation has changed him. The effort that parents put in to preparing their children for life changes them. The training that soldiers endure to succeed in a mission, which may last minutes, or just seconds, changes them.
The effort before isn't just preparation for the destination. It is also the destination. That's what 16 minutes of football means.
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Jared is a staff reporter for the Jewish Journal. Raised in North Potomac, MD, a sleepy suburb 30 minutes outside Washington D.C., Jared attended Tulane University in America’s...

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