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10 Ways Television Has Changed Sports

Rule Changes

Not only do sports look different due to big TV contracts and the all-powerful influence of the close-up, but TV has rent asunder the very fabric of the universe on which sports sit. TV has changed the rules.

For example, golf went from match play to stroke play to help ensure that the big name golfers were in the final stages, when most people watch TV. And in the 1970s, tennis introduced the tiebreak to replace long, boring deuce games. The NFL first cut down halftime to help games squeeze into a 2.5-hour time slot. Then they went the opposite way -- TV timeouts pushed the average length of an NFL game from 2 hours and 57 minutes in 1978 to 3 hours and 11 minutes in 1990 [sources: Harris and Zoglin et al].

In his game-changing book, "Sport in Society," Jay Coakley points out five objectives of rule changes in commercialized sports:

  1. Speeding up the action
  2. Increasing scoring
  3. Ensuring competitive balance to keep outcomes uncertain
  4. Maximizing dramatic moments
  5. Providing commercial breaks

It's easy to see television's impact on this list!

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