With apologies to Dick Vitale, I need a T.O. (time-out) baby -- from time-outs.
Watch an NBA game and you'll see both teams get 5 time-outs per half. That's 20 in all at their disposal, and a lot of times they use every last one of them. There's a reason why the last "two minutes" of so many games take about a half hour. Too many damn time-outs.
Near as I can tell, each team gets 3 "regular" time-outs and two 20-second time-outs each half. In theory, the regular time-outs are supposed to last one minute, but in reality, they're more like 2 or 3.
True 20-second time-outs don't exist. After one is called -- nobody seems to know for sure exactly when the 20 seconds start. Somewhere around 25-30 seconds after it's been called, the arena horn will sound, evidently signalling the time-out is over -- but coaches and players routinely ignore it to keep discussing strategy on the sidelines. It appears they won't come back on the floor until they're good and ready, regardless of the supposed 20 seconds, and worse, the officials let them get away with it. If it's supposed to be 20 seconds -- then dammit -- make it 20 seconds -- or call it something else. Like 30 seconds, 60 seconds, or "when we get around to it", whatever.
Football games are more devious with their time-outs. Yes, each team gets 3 per half, for a total of 12 for the whole game, but those sneaky devils have found another way to make games last so long. If one is in a stadium watching a game, they'll notice that at times, play is stopped for several minutes for no apparent reason. A look up at the scoreboard will reveal that neither team has been charged with a time-out, and no players are sprawled on the field with an injury. So what gives?
Enter the wonderful world of TV time-outs. Thou shalt worship the "sponsors" whether thou like it or not. All those commercials cut both ways. For the people sitting at home watching on the tube, it gives them a chance to reload their refreshments or perhaps "relieve" themselves without missing any of the action -- a good thing. And, after all, if it weren't for the advertising folks, the game wouldn't even BE on TV. But the fans in the stadium that paid big bucks to attend the game are left in a sort of purgatory. Those time-outs aren't long enough for them to dash to the refreshment stand or rest rooms, without likely missing something spectacular happening on the field (because that's the way it seems to go) but definitely long enough be annoying -- a bad thing. At any rate, they definitely prolong the games.
Baseball is different. The very nature of the game dictates at least 17 time-outs in a regular 9 inning game as the teams switch from being on the field to being at bat. Yet they're guilty in a few other ways of dragging the games out too long. Pitchers shaking off 4-5 signs from their catcher when they only know how to throw 3 different pitches, and generally taking WAY too long between pitches anyway. Confabs at the pitcher's mound that never end until the home plate umpire has to break them up. Even players on the field calling time-out, sometimes for dumb reasons. Let's say a player just "stole" second base. After that runner slides -- he usually wants time-out. And why? To dust off his uniform? Hey, the dude's making millions of bucks. A little dirt on his pants isn't going to hurt him. Play ball. Let's GO!!!
Hockey is much better. Each team only gets one time-out -- for the whole game. That's more like it.
Soccer is a whole different animal. During each half -- nothing seems to stop the clock in the game. Player substitutions come and go, but the clock keeps running. A player down on the field, perhaps with a serious injury? The clock keeps going. What's very strange about soccer is that even when the clock has expired at the end of the game -- it's not over. There's always "extra" time, at the whim of the head official on the field. Nobody in the stands or watching on TV has any idea how much time this is. It's a secret, known only to that official. Play goes on until he decides to stop it. How nuts is that?
Soccer isn't chock full of commercials like another American sports. Then again, soccer hasn't really ever caught on much in the US -- popularity-wise.
Could it be that Americans have been brain-washed into actually LIKING all the stoppages in action in their more popular sports?
Somehow it reminds yours truly of Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men".
We want these commercials. We NEED these commercials.