One Way Soccer Is Superior to Basketball: Time

As someone who spends a regrettable amount of time watching sports, one thing I look forward to about all the World Cup soccer games I’ll see this summer is, the games end in a timely fashion. Soccer games go 90 minutes. Throw in stoppage time and halftime, and the whole shooting match rarely tops two hours. You can’t have anything like that confidence about the basketball playoffs.

In the NBA, a highly unsportsmanlike trait—the desire by the team that’s behind to drag out the the clock as long as possible— has been fostered by American legalism and commercialism. The legalism is the NBA’s time-out and foul rules, the commercialism is the networks’ need to jam ads into the end of a game, when they have the audience in suspense. The result is that games drain off in ten or fifteen minutes of staggering tedium: intentional fouls, ads, timeouts, more ads, foul-shooting etc.

When you tell your wife “Just five more minutes,” you’re not lying if it’s a soccer game. You see the end coming, there’s little the losing squad can do except play its heart out, and you don’t feel like you’re wasting your life sitting there. Basketball should end so cleanly.