Imagine this…

February 6, 2011.  Dallas.  The New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts battle to the end in front of 100,000 fans.  With less than 2 minutes remaining, Garrett Hartley kicks a field goal to tie the game and cap off a Saints comeback from a 4-touchdown deficit.  The Colts don’t score, and the clock runs out.  Then, the public address announcer says… “Thanks for coming, we’ll see you next Sunday as the Colts and Saints replay the Super Bowl!”  And to make it worse, the teams can’t go back to the locker rooms due to a water main break at Jerry Jones Stadium…

Sounds preposterous?

Not in Melbourne, Australia.  Last night, that’s pretty much what happened.  Let me rewrite that paragraph as it really happened.

September 25, 2010.  Melbourne.  The Collingwood Magpies and the St. Kilda Saints battle to the end in front of 100,000 fans.  With 90 seconds remaining, St. Kilda’s Lenny Hayes punched through a behind (single point) to tie the game and cap off a Saints comeback from a 24-point (4-goal) halftime deficit.  Neither team can score, and the clock runs out.  Then, the public address announcer says… “Thanks for coming, and we’ll see you next Saturday as the Magpies and Saints replay the 2010 AFL Grand Final!”  And to make it worse, the teams can’t go back to the locker rooms due to a water main break at the Melbourne Cricket Ground…

While it’s been the rule in the Australian Football League for more than a century that a tied Grand Final has to be replayed one week later, nobody ever expected it to actually happen.  It’s just the third time that the Australian football Grand Final has been drawn (1948 and 1977 were the other two).  So nobody really considered, in this modern television-driven era, the implications of a drawn Grand Final… until the last few minutes of the game.  Over 100,000 fans watched two hours of football only to come away empty.  The only good news?  There’s expected to be less corporate ticket sales for the replay, so “real” fans might actually get into the MCG instead… Smile

The howling started seconds after the game, when Collingwood’s captain called the replay rule a “joke” on the Seven Network broadcast (aired in the US on ESPN Classic).  It continued during the Seven post-game show, when all of the commentators said the rule needs to change.  But you can’t change it at the end of the final, so they’re doing it again in 7 days.  And… the replay will go to extra time if it’s a tie at the end of regulation.   Gee… they don’t want a second replay? Smile

If you’re at all curious about Australian Rules Football (a curious cross of soccer and rugby), the replay will definitely be carried by ESPN’s broadband service ESPN3.com on Friday night/Saturday morning (time TBA, probably midnight or 12:30 am EDT) and might also air on ESPN Classic (if they can be convinced to reschedule the Classic Oklahoma-Texas Football Marathon).

And can you imagine if any American sport had a replay rule?  Well… for a while, one did.  In the early days of baseball, several World Series had tie games – usually due to darkness.  The Boston Red Sox won the 1912 World Series (a best of seven) in 8 games due to a tie.  Nobody really liked it then, either, but suspending the game wasn’t an option.  Nowadays, though?  No sport would ever consider a full-game replay of a tied championship.  We don’t even like regular-season ties, which is why Major League Soccer has struggled for acceptance, and the NHL has the skills competition shootout at the end of tied games.

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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