This statistic, more than any other, is held over the heads of fans as proof positive that the sport of American (a synonym for quality in retail circles) football is one of boredom and inactivity. Even worse for those who might argue otherwise, that "fact" didn't come from some random anti-sports blog or whatever. No, it came from the Wall Street Journal, and since when do they deal in reporting faulty numbers?
The problem with their argument is that, for the "11 to 13 minutes" number to ring true, a person would have to completely and totally fail to understand not only how football works, but just how sports work in general. For starters, they're talking about the time between when the ball is snapped and when the play is whistled dead. In other words, only when the ball is in the air or moving can we consider that actual sports action is taking place. After all, the ball isn't whipping around in the air, so what could possibly be happening? Here's a good basketball example of why that's a stupid notion:
Larry Bird does a whole lot of things before that inbound pass is thrown that set him up to be in a position to steal it. That, in turn, wins the Celtics that game. By the "only when the ball is moving" standard, none of that counts as "game play." Not only is it absurd to suggest that the moments immediately prior to the ball being snapped are just meaningless stand-around time, you could argue that what happens before the ball is snapped is actually more important in football than the play itself. There has not been a play drawn up yet that cannot be successfully defended, provided you get everyone in the right position doing the right thing at the right time. If you're in the wrong position to defend the play called, though, you have problems. Speaking of defense, here's Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu enjoying some leisurely pre-snap stand-around time: