The actual playing time of sports

SportTotal durationLive actionPercent of actionCommercial time
(American) Football3hr 10min11min5.79%75min
Baseball2hr 56min18min10.21%43min
Basketball2hr 18min48min34.78%45min
Hockey2hr 20min60min42.86%30min
Soccer1hr 55min57min50.09%19min


An American football game takes over 3 hours but only has 11 minutes of action. That’s wild. And it’s easy to point to that and say “watching football is a waste of time” but I think that’s missing the point.

Anticipation is the greatest joy and football is full of that. After each play, you wonder what they’re going to run next. You debate with your friends about what they’re doing right and wrong. Sure, you could just watch the 11 minutes of action, but then there’s no time for anticipation.

Same deal with baseball, with only 18 minutes of playing time. And most of a soccer match’s 57 minutes of “live action” are spent kicking the ball back and forth, which doesn’t really qualify as action. So there’s time for anticipation there too.

Basketball and hockey are closer to the “lots of actual live action” category, especially hockey. That makes me wonder what one’s favorite sport says about them as a person. Maybe hockey fans are doers and football fans are planners? Or maybe people just like the sport that’s popular where they grew up, and I’m making connections that aren’t there?

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