Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Watching The Clock: A Sport All Its Own

Baseball romantics always make such a fuss about how there is no clock in baseball, so the game is eternal or something and the team behind always has a chance.

This is literally true, of course, but, hey, if you're behind 11 runs with two outs in the ninth, you haven't got any more chance than if you're down three touchdowns with 28 seconds left. But it sounds good in baseball Shangri-La.

Maybe this anti-clock phobia is why umpires never punish a pitcher when he takes too long to throw the bloody ball. There is, you know, that one clock in baseball — a pitcher has to pitch the ball in 20 seconds. Of course, he seldom does. But baseball umpires don't know from clocks.

The sports that have clocks are all different, too. I've never understood why they stop the clock in football after an incomplete pass but not a completed one or a run. What's the logic in that?

Basketball was saved by the 24-second clock, which was dreamed up in 1954 by Danny Biasone, who owned the Syracuse Nationals of the NBA. Danny also owned a bowling alley, where you can't make any money if the bowlers hang onto the ball. Pro basketball was being destroyed because teams froze the ball. One game ended 19-18.

You know how Danny decided on 24 seconds? He just took the average total number of shots in a game and divided them into the total number of seconds. Today, they'd spend four years testing stuff out with computers, and at the end of the day, it wouldn't work as well as what Danny dreamed up on a scratch pad.

If a team in any sport, in the vernacular, sits on the clock, it's a bad game — bad for the game. I hate it when somebody says that some football coach exhibits good "clock management." Basically that means he just knows how to waste time.

Soccer, of course, has the goofiest clock ... well, at least from our American point of view. The soccer clock rarely stops, but the soccer referee keeps the official tally himself and calculates what's called stoppage time. Then he adds this on to the end of the game — only nobody but the referee knows how much extra time it is, so of course, you miss all that wonderful suspense about there only being 38 seconds or 5.9 seconds or whatever it is left in the game.

Of course, nobody ever scores in soccer, so it really doesn't matter that much. And ties are very common in soccer.

We've created overtimes in sports because we Americans hate ties. As someone once said, snarling: A tie is like kissing your sister. There used to be lots of ties in American football and hockey, but they added overtimes to the clocks so there would be no sister-kissing in the United States of America!

And you know what I like best about clocks in sports? When time runs out, there's a buzzer.

Commentator Frank Deford reports from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford