Commentary

New year, new rules: Rule No. 31

It's time to overhaul the notion of overtime

Updated: December 30, 2009, 11:44 AM ET
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the Jan. 11 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

It ain't over 'til it's over ... So then what?

In any given sport, athletes can use every last drop of their strength and speed and smarts, but if the rules of a game don't lead to a decisive result in regulation play, what happens? Overtime, of course, with all the extra effort and drama of beyond-the-last-second contests.

Sergey Ponomarev/AP ImagesChelsea lost the 2008 Champions League title on a penalty kick slip.

Why, then, with so much at stake, are the overtime rules in so many sports so terrible?

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.