O K, I’ll admit it: I like football. Call me a Neanderthal, but there is nothing quite like an afternoon with friends watching a tightly contested game of titans battling it out on the gridiron. Back in January, I enjoyed that glorious weekend in which the NFC and AFC crown their respective champions, each sending a team of combatants to the Super Bowl.
Fully enjoying the Sunday afternoon of ambrosia requires tons of preparation. Practically speaking, this means clearing my schedule of such clutter as child-rearing and housekeeping, along with dispatching my wife to the store minutes before my friends arrive to procure a second-chin’s worth of kettle chips and a potomaniac’s quantity of cheap beer. Then I settle into the butt-dented comfort of my overworked couch, where I’m surrounded by a rowdy pack of friends.
During hour three of the pre-game analysis, I can’t help but notice that my lovely wife, neither a fan of football or my friends spilling beer on her couch, has contracted a nasty case of the angry stink-eye, which she wields like a laser beam through my skull. I ponder the cost that all of this revelry, last-minute dispatching, and spilled beer will have on my marriage. Concluding that I indeed have at least three paws in the doghouse, I reflect on the facts that a) my wife is a saint; b) she reads this column—honey, read point “a” again; and c) Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.
Oh, well. The game must go on, and right now, it’s all about the NFL—hard-hitting, back-and-forth, in-your-face, smash-mouth action. Unbeatable. Unbeatable, that is, until you realize that a typical football game contains a lot of things, except for much actual football.
The Facts on Football
A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of NFL playoff games reported that the typical football game consists of many things, but not much real action. In fact, the average three-plus-hour telecast consists of just 10 minutes and 43 seconds of play. After subtracting about an hour of commercials, the rest of an average telecast consists of such things as players standing around (67 minutes), replays (17 minutes), and, of course, the all-important shots of cheerleaders—which is allotted, remarkably, only three seconds per game. Seems like more.
In percentage terms, the pie is doled out this way: standing around (58.5%), replays (14.5%), playing time (9.4%), coach shots (4.9%), sideline player shots (3.4%), referee shots (2.4%), crowd shots (0.9%), and other miscellany, such as footage of owners in their high-priced luxury suites (0.3%), the kicker warming up (0.2%), and, of course, cheerleaders (0.1%).
While this level of inaction has an enabling effect on convivial taunting, bet-brokering, and beer runs, it is, to be frank, a laughably low amount of action. How can an entire industry be built on such a level of inactivity? It’s a great question—one that induces a momentary chuckle until I consider how I spend much of my clinical days.
Inactivity in the Workplace
A 2006 paper in the Journal of Hospital Medicine tackled the issue of hospitalist workflow.1 Researchers followed 10 academic hospitalists through various parts of a routine day, all the while measuring to the minute how they spent their time. What they found would be as astounding to hospital outsiders as the NFL data, should anyone ever find themselves so deep in the boredom pit to be watching a hospitalist make rounds.