AUSTIN, Texas–Is there a football fan in America who wouldn’t cheer if games weren’t disrupted by television timeouts?That television owns football is undeniable. In the Big 12 Conference there are 14 television timeouts per game, even in ones not televised. In making a travesty of the game by stopping the action just to run commercials the conferences and networks have gone too far and it is time to stop the practice.

There are three regulation timeouts allotted to each team per half with additional official ones for injury and play review. Combined with breaks at the end of a quarter those should provide ample time to sell erectile dysfunction pills.

Anyone watching a game has become too aware of the sight of 22 players and a gaggle of zebras standing around waiting for the “television coordinator” on the sideline, known as a “Redhat,” to give a signal that enough commercials have been put on the air to let a game continue. This is not football but greed ruining the game we love.

I would suggest a three-level approach to ending the abomination of commericus interuptus; flame the advertisers, change the tv contracts, and enact legislation.

The easiest, quickest, and perhaps most effective way to let the business interests know how you feel is available to anyone with an internet connection- just pop online, look up the name of the offending sponsor, and send them an e-mail. Creativity, which in some circles is known as venting, is encouraged. I would suggest the use of graphic detail tell these folks just what you think of stopping the football action to watch their pixiel pitchs.

According to the Big 12 the conference handed out more than $102.5 million to its members for the 2005-06 fiscal year from all sports revenues. (There was no mention of how much they keep.) Changing the present system of contracts with the television networks will require time, to let the current arrangements expire, and some fortitude on the part of athletic directors at universities. Keep in mind that television has to have football. Those high- priced commercials don’t run on bowling broadcasts.

Athletic directors, who are presumably football fans, acting as a group should send word to the various networks that in the future no football game will be stopped for commercials. Simply tell conference and networks that the schools are going to play. Period. If tv wants to broadcast then it will have to fit their electronic flogging into the format and rhythm of the game.

If the conferences and television networks don’t like it then there is probably enough legal and entrepreneurial talent around the combined universities to set up and run their own sports broadcasting networks and bring the resulting advertising revenues directly to the producing schools. It’s the American free enterprise system and the universities have what the advertisers wantThe last involves legislation. This is Texas and on the assumption that most legislators are football fans the solution is simple- a law that says football games will be played without commercial interruption. The officials will determine the flow of the game and let it be played on the field, not dictated by someone in a production truck. I predict that it would be a bipartisan winner, certainly anywhere in this state and probably throughout the country.

One additional thought on the “promotional events” that are also breaking up football games; stop them immediately. These are nothing but stylized commercials (note the banner advertising strategically placed for the cameras to shoot) while people kick or catch footballs wearing t-shirts of the sponsoring company. Meanwhile the players again stand around waiting for the game to continue and the fans get irritated.

While I am normally of a civil libertarian bent I would gladly approve a plan for the presidents and/or advertising officers of the offending companies be decapitated (at a halftime ceremony?) and their heads placed on spikes atop the goal posts. Vivisection would of course remain a local option.

(Jim Bryant is a freelance writer in Austin.)

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