It is really rare to read something on the internet that you haven’t at least tangentially come across before, so: THIS IS SOMETHING I HAVE NEVER READ ON THE INTERNET.
That is a brief but wild article on The California Tiebreaker. The format of The California Tiebreaker is butt-simple. The ball starts on the fifty. The winner of the coin toss gets possession, and each team receives four plays to move the ball however they like in the direction of the other team’s endzone.
The weirdness kicks in here: Each team trades possessions, and works the ball from the spot where their opponent left it on the previous play. Complete a pass to the opponent’s 35 yard line on the first play? That’s where they play their first. Because this is a godly solution to football’s overtime problem, field goals and punts are not allowed. If no one scores or turns the ball over after four plays, then the victor is determined by field position.
To pick a random example of how that works: If Iowa has the ball on the Wisconsin 49 yard line after four plays in overtime, then the Hawkeyes win and Wisconsin loses. This is not a random example. If the California Tiebreaker were real, this is a variation of what would happen in every overtime game between Iowa and Wisconsin. The other variation is that Wisconsin runs for a one yard gain to finish the game with the ball on the Iowa 49.
The two teams will then do this until the sun burns out and the solar system goes cold.
It is a frothing-mad way to end a game, a kind of make-it-or-take-it for field position with more pressure involved per-play than any other football tiebreaker I’ve ever seen. It also openly encourages teams to try trick plays, pass like mad, and try every other devious or irresponsible play imaginable to push the ball downfield.
It is also an admittedly stupid way to end a game. But all overtimes are inherently stupid in games with a clock and a scoreboard. Every regulation game with an untied score is put to bed by double zeroes, but once overtime happens football gets confused, sleepy, and irritable. It is a game up past its bedtime, and every overtime solution is an option with negative side effects.
The NFL’s overtime system is taking heavyweight prescription medication: You will fall asleep eventually, but might not even have the chance to take the late night drunkard’s pizza out of the oven that you started when you got home. You’ll wake up to a fire, and not even have had the chance to put it out before it triggered the alarm system. Now there’s a firefighter in your bedroom in a non-porn scene setup-type situation. Nobody wants that, not even the firefighter.
College’s overtime? That’s NyQuil when it doesn’t work or dose incorrectly. If it doesn’t put the game to sleep in one round, then you’re just up and half Robotripping. Sometimes it can go five or six rounds deep, and that’s how you end up seeing things sober people shouldn’t see. Things like a member of Jimbo Fisher’s extended family fighting an LSU legend on the field after the game ends, or a three-hundred pound quarterback scoring multiple rushing TDs after the third overtime.
A tie, though? That’s insomnia forever, and no one wants that. The only options are all bad, and if we’re all choosing between different types of bad, why not opt for the briefest kind of bad? Especially one that comes as close to a heart attack as you’ll get, and favors daring over game management?