Measuring the Minutes Stolen by the Time-Sucking Vampire that is the NFL

Photo by Robert Hernandez Villalta from Pexels:

This year I’ve been trying to make better and more efficient use of my time.

It might be due to the fact that I turned 40 this year, which statistically-speaking, is half-way to dead for most men. It might be due to a reprioritization of career choices that will allow for more family and free time, including focusing on my writing. It might be due to hitting some financial milestones in recent years that will finally allow me to ease off the gas, and maybe even start living life again.

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to more closely scrutinize how I spend my time.

And that means likely having to drive a stake through the heart of the time-sucking vampire that is the NFL.

But how to do that? It’s easy to just say you’re going to try to make every second matter. It’s harder in practice without a concrete plan.

Sometimes the best way to effect change is to concretely measure what’s wrong, and then fix it with specific, actionable steps. Key word there is specific. It’s not enough just to realize how much time you’re wasting. But when you stop to measure out the minutes you’re pouring down the drain, it creates a much stronger picture. And that clearer, high-def picture has a much better chance of prompting a pivot toward a better direction than a blurry one.

The solution came to me earlier this year during a discussion at work. For my job, we drive company trucks. And one of the safety precedures we have to perform before we get in our trucks is performing a “360.” Meaning to walk around the truck to make sure there are no obstructions, and you’re clear to drive off. It’s meant to reduce accidents and damage to company vehicles. In theory, it’s a good procedure. If done properly, 360s can effectively eliminate unnecessary accidents. But a problem: No one likes to do them, and some think they’re a waste of time.

My solution to this was to point out how a typical 360 only takes about thirty seconds at most to complete. In a typical day we have up to about 20 stops to make. That means at the most, you’re looking at a grand total of only ten minutes to perform the 360s. That’s ten minutes out of a ten-hour day (600 minutes). So just about 1.6% of the total time spent working in the field. That’s a pretty low percentage for something that could achieve a very important goal: Eliminating accidents and damages to company vehicles.

Pointing out that mathematical reality helped shift the narrative because it destroyed the main argument against doing 360s: That they’re a “waste of time.” But that’s an impossibility when they don’t even take 2% of your whole working day. I guarantee you people check their phones WAY more than 2%, and nobody complains about that.

So what does any of that have to do with the National Football League?

A lot, actually. According to Mirror, the average NFL game lasts about three hours and twelve minutes, though that can vary depending on how the clock is managed. During an NFL season, games are scheduled three days a week, with some days seeing multiple games played. On Sundays, the NFL’s biggest day, games are scheduled for 1:00 PM, around 4:00 PM, and then a prime time game usually set for around 8:25 PM. All times Eastern Standard. So if you were to watch a game from each time slot, you’d be spending nearly 10 hours observing grown men chasing a ball around a field.

But you’ve also got Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football. Sometimes you even have games scheduled on Saturday, such as during holidays or the playoffs.

So, for the loyal NFL diehard who also watches Monday and Thursday, that’s at least five games a week, for a total of 16 hours of football. Sixteen hours. Nearly two-thirds of a full day. Almost ten percent of a full week.

Mind you, that’s just the total time spent watching the games. That doesn’t include all the time that might be involved in setting up watch parties, buying drinks, pre-gaming, or physically actually going out to a stadium to catch a game.

A few years ago I took my youngest half-brother to a Texans-Patriots game in Houston to celebrate his graduation from college. Due to traffic and time constraints, we decided it was best to rent a motel near the stadium to avoid the mess driving home. Between dinner, the game, and then returning to the motel, I estimate it was at least six hours, from about 6:00 PM to midnight. All centered around a game in which Tom Brady basically blew out the Texans defense by half-time. So thanks, Tom.

I’ve been a fan of the NFL for over twenty years. I’ve watched games pretty regularly, even ones with teams I didn’t care much for. And while the NFL has brought a great deal of enjoyment for me, looking at the numbers like that is rather sobering. I don’t like the idea of throwing away 10% of my time during NFL season. So, I’ve decided to pull it back this season.

Besides, there’s very little actual football played during a game of football, as strange as that sounds. According to FiveThirtyEight, which analyzed the NFC Championship Game between the 49ers and Packers in 2020, “107 total plays gave us 14 total minutes (and 16 seconds) of football action.”

You’re not watching football. You’re watching commercials. Which is a terrible waste of time by any measure.

Imagine how much you could accomplish with even some of the time that’s thrown away on football games every week. You could start a new hobby, read books, travel, start a side hustle, or write articles on Medium.

You can apply this Time Wasting Percentage Measurement Formula to other stuff. According to The Next Web, we spend almost seven hours a day surfing the web. That comes out to 27% of the entire year. Tech Crunch reports, “By the end of 2021, kids and teens were watching an average of 91 minutes of TikTok per day.” That’s 6.3% of the day spent on a single app.

The NFL isn’t the only thing I could cut out of my life to streamline my precious time-usage. Computer/smartphone screentime is another big clock-suck. But one thing at a time here (literally). Besides, I need all that screentime because I’m always only doing research and writing. So it’s always 100% justified. Yeah, right. Any writer knows the siren call of endless web browsing, and how it seduces over doing actual work. It’s a battle everyday to stay focused. But that fight is for another day.

This year I’ve decided to stuff the NFL’s vampire-fanged mouth with some garlic, and get my precious time back. It doesn’t mean I won’t watch any games. I love my team, the Philadelphia Eagles. And if they get into the post-season, you can bet I’ll be watching every playoff game. But it does mean I’m going to be more prudent with how I allocate my time. Using highlight reels on YouTube, for instance, instead of tuning in for a whole broadcast.

Of course, any time spent watching a game with loved ones or friends is not wasted. I realize that for many, the NFL is an important past time that brings people together. One of my favorite memories was being with my family while watching Nick Foles and my Eagles take down Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl 52. I’ll cherish that night forever.

And sometimes watching football is just a great way to relax. We’ve all got to do that from time to time.

I’m by no means ending my NFL fanship, no matter how many B.S. penalty flags are thrown on my team. But like any good QB, I’ll be more mindful of the clock. You only get so many minutes in the only game that matters — the game of life — afterall.

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