Timeouts Are The Curse Of Notre Dame Football (Indianapolis
As a true Notre Dame fan in this autumn of discontent, I can only blame
one source for the current football failures of the Fighting Irish. It's
Like 30 years of weekly tanning bed visits, too much TV exposure has caught
up with America's most televised college football team. It's time to face
up, Irish faithful. Notre Dame home games on NBC are in need of an extreme
Compare the 1973 ABC broadcast of USC-Notre Dame to this season's NBC
broadcast of Notre Dame-Washington State three decades later, and you'll
see that it's now impossible to expect the Notre Dame players and fans
to have the energy of glory days gone by.
Frankly, they're bored. The result of too much momentum interruptus.
With the ebb and flow of the game destroyed by crass commercialism, the
coaches, players, and fans are now glassy-eyed slaves to the predictable
onslaught of TV timeouts.
TV timeouts, the curse of college football. A pseudo-ref steps onto the
field and sticks up his foamy orange right arm like a runway cop at the
airport. The game stops.
While the players hurry up and wait during the two-and-a-half minute interlude,
we football fans have been trained like house cats on how to deal with
TV timeouts. We know exactly where and when to go. In fact, in the stadium,
it's a game unto itself.
Beat your neighbor to the john.
I pop off my Seat 18, Row 39 in the south end zone, climb over three elderly
chaps to my right, skip down 27 steps, shuffle down the ramp past four
ushers, hustle into the men's room, urinate, wash my hands, then hot foot
it back to my seat before the next snap.
I'm not the only one well schooled in this practice. When Notre Dame expanded
its stadium in 1997, the synchronized flushing of toilets during a TV
timeout flooded the stadium and two nearby campus buildings. A plumber's
It's a potty ritual repeated often on Saturday afternoons that are much
longer today than they used to be, thanks to almost an hour of insidious
In 1973, when TV timeouts were 60 seconds long and far less frequent,
Notre Dame's biggest game of the year took two hours and 40 minutes to
complete. This year, four quarters occupied a whopping three hours and
That's 71 minutes longer, the length of a Disney animated feature film…which
is what it took to appease my two toddlers while mommy and daddy (sandwiched
between a couple of sweaty guys with space-sapping thighs) twiddled our
thumbs through a mind-numbing twenty-one TV timeouts.
In doing my research, I didn't even count the additional length of the
overtime in this year's game…an overtime that tacked on ten bucks
to my already bloated babysitting bill. It now costs more to pay a 12-year
old to watch my future Domers during a Notre Dame home game, than it does
to buy the coveted ticket into the stadium.
I should send NBC an invoice.
But it's not just NBC's fault. The same script applies to CBS, ESPN, FOX,
and even ABC, who over the decades has abandoned their brilliantly simplistic
approach to televising the college game.
Once upon a time, ABC telecasts basked in the pageantry and tradition
of the college game. Today, the networks have sucked the college out of
In 1973, the Notre Dame student body flooded the field, not just at the
end of the game, but unthinkably during halftime. They joyfully rode on
each other's shoulders forming a massive tunnel for their team to run
through before the start of the second half. ABC captured it all, along
with the marching band's entire seven minute halftime performance.
In 2003, the band gets 30 seconds of airtime at the half, squeezed between
a parade of commercials. Of course, this corporate bombardment is not
unique to Notre Dame games. It rules college football in general.
Even the students, once streaking bundles of anarchic joy, are now shameless
network promoters. John 3:16 has been replaced by "Sportscenter Is
Next" on the chests of America's inebriated underclassmen. Don't
expect Johnny Sigma Epsilon to run onto the field naked at a Notre Dame
game without an ad painted on his rear.
And if he did, no one at home would see him do cartwheels at midfield,
or see the five state troopers drag his face through the end zone. Instead,
they'll be watching two minutes of promos for next week's Must See TV.
Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre
at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2004 Ted Mandell.