TWIR9: Celebrating the virtues of the modern tiebreaker

COMMENTARY — Like most of America, I hate ties. No game should ever end in a tie.

Tiebreakers have become the norm in virtually every sport as administrators realized that no one comes away happy when there’s a tie. Let’s face it, we invest a piece of ourselves when we go to games and root for our favorite teams. Two or three hours into the emotional roller coaster of an athletic contest, whether you’re a player, coach or fan, can feel like a wasted evening when no winner is decided.

Legendary Navy coach Eddie Erdelatz, in 1954, uttered the now famous phrase, “A tie is like kissing your sister.”

For decades, high school football had no tiebreaker. Long-time Cedar High coach Todd Peacock won more than 160 games and lost more than 130. As for ties, he had one.

It has become the habit of sportswriters to interview the winning coach and a couple of players from the winning team after a contest ends. At a recent soccer match, as I stood with my videographer son Dallas watching the beginning of the second overtime, it occurred to me that I had no idea who I would interview if no one scored and the game ended in a draw.

“I just realized that I have no clue who I’m going to interview in postgame,” I told Dallas.

“If it ends up in a tie, maybe you can interview your sister,” he countered, with a wry smile.

“Ha ha. Very funny. I really am at a loss. I like both coaches, maybe we can interview them both, if there’s time. Or maybe we’ll just talk with players from each team. Or maybe I should just do a voice-over,” I said, with panic beginning to set in.

Fortunately for me (and my sister), someone scored and ended the game with a clear winner celebrating on their sideline. But it did get me thinking about ties and tiebreakers.

A few days later, I covered a softball game that went into extra innings. In fastpitch softball, when the game goes into extra innings, each team begins its at-bat with a runner on second base. That international tiebreaker was put in years ago when the most common score for softball was 0-0 or 1-1. But things have changed a bit. The pitching circle has been moved back a few feet and the extra split-second has helped hitters. It’s no longer common to have no-hitters and scoreless games in softball. In this case, I think the rule known as the “international tiebreaker” needs to go.

Back to soccer, in high school the rule has the two teams play two 10-minute sudden-death overtimes. If no one scores, the game ends in a tie. If it’s a playoff game, where someone needs to advance, it then comes down to penalty kicks, with each team getting five PKs and the one with the higher total is the winner.

Many soccer purists hate this, saying it’s like deciding a basketball game with a free throw shooting contest or a football game with game of catch. Soccer, they say, is a game of speed, endurance and athleticism, while PKs are all about kicking the ball hard and lucky guesses.

I don’t disagree, although a PK shootout to decide a winner and loser can be extremely compelling. My daughter played in a game recently that ended up in a 1-1 deadlock. It went to PKs and her team fell behind 1-0 after one round when a teammate’s kick was tipped away by the keeper. But they made three in a row and got a little help from the post and a high kick to come away with the win.

It was exciting, tense and fun. And a clear winner was decided.

So yes, it is a huge deviation from the regular play of a soccer match, but it was also very compelling.

The same can be said for football’s tiebreaker, where each team gets one offensive possession from the 25-yard line and whichever team comes away with more points gets the win. It’s an exciting way to finish a football game even if it penalizes a defense that may have played well all game long.

As for baseball, a game full of tradition and history, well it still has its old faithful extra innings. That’s the way it should be. I’m all for tradition and history.

And there’s no tying in baseball.


Here’s this week’s Region 9 schedule:


Cedar at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Dixie at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.

Pine View at Cedar, 4 p.m.
Desert Hills at Hurricane, 7 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Dixie, 7 p.m.


Cedar at Pine View, 7 p.m.
Dixie at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Hurricane at Desert Hills, 7 p.m.

Desert Hills at Cedar, 4 p.m.
Canyon View at Snow Canyon, 7 p.m.
Pine View at Hurricane, 7 p.m.


Cedar at Canyon View, 4 p.m.
Hurricane at Pine View, 4 p.m.
Snow Canyon at Dixie, 4 p.m.

Canyon View at Desert Hills, 4 p.m.
Dixie at Pine View, 4 p.m.

Cedar at Hurricane, 4 p.m.

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Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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