In the National Football League (NFL), games ending in a tie are determined by sudden death overtime where the first team to score wins. Sudden death is an efficient means to decide a game which is violent and exhausting.2 However, the sudden death nature confers a significant advantage on the team who has the first possession. While the outcome of a coin flip to determine first possession is ex ante fair, immediately after the toss it is no longer fair because the winning team has a significant chance of scoring on its first possession. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has said that “There has been a trend in the last seven or eight seasons that the team winning the toss in overtime wins the game. That advantage of receiving the ball first is becoming unbalanced.”
An interesting point. We aren't supposed to be resolving the outcome with a coin toss. We are deciding FIRST POSSESSION with a coin toss, and the teams are supposed to play out the result, sudden death.
But if winning the coin toss is (nearly) tantamout to winning the overtime, then what is the point?
I think hockey, soccer, and basketball have much fairer systems for resolving ties. And baseball can be excruciating, but there is no question you get your shot in "overtime."
Football is the outlier, all right.
(Nod to KL)