I Didn’t Make Sports, But I’m Going to Make Sports BetterPosted on by wade evanson (wadevanson)
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Creationism or Evolution? Depending on who you talk to there's ample evidence to support either, but what's inarguable is that both apply to the world of sports: we created them and they continue to evolve. After all, you may or may not believe in Adam and Eve, poisonous fruit, and/or a talking snake, but nowhere in the Bible was there mention of a touchdown, walk-off homer, or slam dunk. They're our games, and it's up to us to rid them of their imperfections.
From football to golf, baseball to tennis, and various other sports, I thought I'd adjust, tinker with, and in some cases completely overhaul the sports world in which we live. So buckle up, grab an adult beverage (or legal alternative if you're underage) of your choice, and open your mind to a few suggestions from a man with absolutely no power to change anything.
I'm not going to bore you with semantics because we all know that the National Football League is damn near flawless, but there is one thing aside from greed (in spite of what the great Gordon Gekko would tell you) which just doesn't work and chides my hide about the professional football game: pass interference. We've all heard countless times that "referees should never decide a game," but due to the current pass interference rule in the NFL they too frequently do.
The "spot of foul" penalty for pass interference in the NFL versus the more appropriate 15-yarder used in the collegiate game asks players to tempt the fate of a recklessly thrown ball, and quite often they receive the coinciding reward from referees obligated to enforce the rules. There's a reason that 50-yard penalties cease to exist, and "inequity" is that reason. There's a 5-yard penalty for off sides, a 10-yarder for holding, and an infinite amount for PI? The punishment fails to fit the crime, people, and I'm strongly suggesting that Commissioner Goodell take a long look at righting such an obvious wrong...that is, after he reunites the players and owners following their current immature pissing contest.
Speed up! In the ADD world which we all now live, the game of baseball is finding itself without a chair when the music stops. No one - including myself - wants to sit in the outfield bleachers, a box seat, or even their La-Z-Boy at home for 4+ hours of 1 of 162 regular season games. The problem is, aside from cutting innings - which in no way, shape, or form will or should happen - I can think of very few ways to do this. But what I would do is eliminate the fluff. We don't need to sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning-stretch. This once again became popular following the 9/11 attacks, and did so under obvious circumstance, but it's time to turn the page. Play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during warm ups and keep her movin'. The aforementioned "God Bless America" is often sung by a celebrity of some sort and, like most things accompanying celebrity icons, kills time.
Secondly, require a batter who steps into the batter's box to stay in the batter's box until after the pitch. I'm so tired of watching these hitters repeatedly step from the box as part of the process of fastening and refastening their gloves, spanking their cleats, or acknowledging the "Almighty" through some sort of individually rehearsed routine. You're up there to hit, so check your superstitions at the door.
If Jack Nicklaus says the ball is the rue of golf's current existence, then who am I to disagree? The game of golf has become a big-hitters game and in the process eliminated the art. The mark of a truly great golfer is not how far he or she can hit it, but in his or her ability to shape the ball on command. Today's golf ball allows players to swing for the fences with little or no deterrent. Why? Because the ball doesn't curve.
I know what you're thinking: "I certainly don't have any problem hooking or slicing it 75 yards offline." I'm sure you don't and I'm sure most "weekend warriors" would concur, but tour-caliber players are slightly more talented than the average bear, and today's ball provides long, crooked players the ability to compete while eliminating the advantage of a shorter, straighter hitter. I like to watch guys work the ball, navigate the course by way of premiere shot-making, and control their spin. That's skill, and that's something which has become obsolete in today's game.
Bring back the Balata golf ball, get back on courses hovering around 7000 yards (as opposed to most which near 7500), and return the shot-making to a game which once defined greatness by such.
"Gentlemen, start your engines!" And when you do, get them going at ridiculous speeds and keep them there as long as possible. A number of years back, NASCAR decided that their cars were exceeding a "safe" rate of speed and that by doing so were compromising the safety of their drivers. Duh! This just in: racing cars at or exceeding 200 MPH is in fact not an entirely safe activity. I'm fairly certain participants of such are aware of said truth, and entirely certain that said truth is 99.9% of the reason that fans of such are watching.
If we're going to turn a blind-eye to steroid use and concussions in sports the likes of football, hockey, and professional combat entertainment like boxing, MMA, and WWE, then why are the "suits" at NASCAR steering their "cars of tomorrow" down a high-road their fans have no interest in navigating? Lose the restrictor plates and let those babies go. Let's move away from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and more towards Speed Racer.
Go away. This should not be a circuit, but merely a race. The Indianapolis 500 is a Memorial Day Weekend tradition and should remain as such, but wrapping an entire season around it has become "Euro." Open wheel racing has essentially no following in this country, and if not for one mediocre female racer, Go Daddy commercials, and Ashley Judd's husband, you, I, and...well...everyone else would likely question its existence. NASCAR and Formula-1 is more than enough auto racing to go around. Let's put that dog down for its own good.
Two words; wood racquets. Much like golf, tennis has become a power game to the detriment of every other aspect. It's one thing if a guy or two can smash a serve 120 mph, but when the majority of players are serving in excess of such, the game suffers. Have you watched a men's tennis match not titled Wimbledon or Australian, French, or U.S. Open lately? If you have, you're the only one. No one within the confines of this great country is watching anymore, and I argue that the simplification of the game is primarily to blame. Others will argue it's a lack of American talent coupled with boorish personalities, and I'd agree to an extent, but the latter could be a direct byproduct of the former.
Give me court tirades, head bands, and bad hairdos. Yes, that will likely give you John McEnroe, but it will also be the result of wood racquets.
This is a 2-part complaint/suggestion and revolves primarily around the MLS with a hint of Europe mixed in. First, to UEFA: let the MLS champion into the Champions League (the annual cup competition for Europe's top soccer clubs). I've argued this with some of my "Soccer Nazi" buddies and they scoff at the thought, but the one country in the world that the sport of soccer doesn't own is the one country in the world that soccer needs to own...the United States. There would be no better way to sell your sport to the Americans than to show them your A-1 product, and the Champions League is it. Sure, the MLS representative would get worked amongst Europe's best, but it would draw interest from people in the States much like the World Cup, and it would provide the MLS the opportunity to see where they stand in the hierarchy of the soccer world.
Second, the MLS needs to either get their franchises out of the major cities or make those major cities build small, more intimate stadiums in an effort to create atmosphere. Frequently, I've laid eyes on MLS games in major markets like Boston and New York and have been appalled by the lack of attendance. Yes, if you want to sell a television package to the networks, you'd prefer to have major markets to drive up the price, but experiencing games in disinterested cities with seemingly meager attendance can and often does kill a viable product. Let's face it, soccer's a hard sell in this country to begin with, so why not sell it in cities with little alternative? Small-time locales love an opportunity to feel big-time, and what better way to do that then through a "major sports" franchise? If you build it, they will come.
Lastly, market your game, people! I should be seeing MLS stars "conveniently" shown on my TV screen during the World Series, Super Bowl, and Final Four. Landon Donovan should be on Dancing With The Stars, and there should be some "Superstarsesque" show in which major league soccer's best athletes are going head-to-head with NBAers, NFLers, and any other of the world's elite athletes in an effort to prove their worth. To many soccer is a joke, so it's up to the executives at the MLS to prove that it's worthy of our respect.
Whittle down your seemingly thousands of ruling bodies to a single all-encompassing entity and provide it with the power to rule with an iron fist. I'm not a huge boxing fan, but I do and probably still would love a couple "big" fights per year. The problem is they never happen. Between the fighters and their promoters, few in any world can rival their innate ability to deny the obvious. Boxing has made Enron executives look good over the last decade when it comes to running their business.
Lose 20% of the league's franchises. That's right, cut 6 of the 30 teams; primarily those that have been in existence for less than 20 years. We don't need hockey in places like Phoenix, Florida, and Carolina, where they've got little to no franchise history and even less hockey history. Warm weather places like the Southeast, California, and possibly even Texas have far too much going on to worry about hockey, and the NHL has far too much history to worry about franchises in those areas. Keep the Kings and possibly San Jose, but the Coyotes, Ducks and Panthers...gone. Lightning, Hurricanes, and Predators: adios, and if you're really aggressive, bon voyage Stars (Minnesota has their team back) and Thrashers. Hockey was best when the Canadian teams and the bulk of the Northeast United States were relevant. As it stands now, you've got one Canadian team in line to make the playoffs and that's unacceptable. After all, they're the ones that care the most.
Much like the NHL, I'd shut down a handful of franchises and possibly replace them with teams overseas, with the bulk of the overseas talent being from Europe. I'd also create a minor-league system similar to that of the NBDL, but with individual franchises owning minor-league teams as farm clubs similar to that of major league baseball.
If you want to allow kids to enter the league straight out of high school, enact a similar rule to that of baseball which says that kids drafted out of high school have the option of entering at that point, but if they refuse and go to college, they aren't eligible for the draft again for another 3 years. This is a win/win for the NBA and NCAA hoops, for the college game would benefit from having players for a minimum of 3 years and the NBA would be getting far more skilled players in return. Sure, you're going to get a fair number of players at the age of 18, but many would be deterred by the possibility of being in the "minors" for a year or two (making minor league money) prior to getting in the league, and they would also have to consider the possibility of not making it there at all.
In addition, contracts would be guaranteed for a maximum of 3 years with a team option after that, which would be negotiated at the onset of said contract. There's nothing worse than watching borderline players half-ass it on the back end of a contract due to guaranteed status. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement has done a phenomenal job of turning a league full of outstanding athletes into spoiled, lazy, and entitled "adults" (I use that term lightly).
Lastly, enough with the timeouts already! Whatever they get, cut them in half. Nothing says "change the channel" like an NBA game in the last 2 minutes. Sequence...timeout, sequence...timeout, sequence...timeout, etc. These guys have been playing basketball for nearly 100 games a year for the better part of their adult lives; I think they have a pretty good idea of how to do it during the last 2 minutes of a game.
For better or worse, I've suggested a few alternatives as to how some of our favorite sports are being managed and played. You may agree with some, none, or all of my suggestions, but I hope to have at least made you think, scoff, or laugh at a few. Sure, the majority of our life's games are doing well enough to succeed on some level, but it doesn't mean they can't be better. As fans it's our pleasure to watch, but it's our obligation to check and balance before, during and, yes, after individual contests. Our games depend on it.