A couple weeks ago, I took a look at the biggest travesty in sports – the current college football bowl system and the completely inane way they determine a national champion. Well, that got me to thinking. If I could change anything about sports today, beyond the obvious revenue disparities that are killing baseball, what would I do? I’m not talking about the massive restructuring needed in the NBA or anything like that. Mostly, I’m just speaking of the things that bug me that I don’t want around anymore. Feel free to add your own!
1. Tennis Scoring – Tennis is a fairly simple game. Win six games to win a set, but you have to win by two or the fifteenth game goes to a tie-breaker. Best of three or five sets wins. That makes perfect sense. It’s an enjoyable game to watch and long rallies in big matches can generate the requisite amount of tension to qualify as big sports moments. Tennis has had great characters over the years – from the stoic Ivan Lendl to the manic John McEnroe to the over-the-top Richard Williams. It has a terrific history. It’s an enjoyable game. So, why, in all of that, do we perpetuate the game scoring system? Love-15-30-40-Game? Advantage this or that? How about first to four, gotta win by two? Wouldn’t that be a lot easier?
2. No More Cupcakes – No, this is not about my in-game snacks - this one goes to college football and basketball. Enough with the Division IIs to warm up for the big games. I’ll accept some exhibition games to give the local small schools some revenue. But those should be at a discounted price for the fans and should not count on your season record. Two things bother me about these games – besides the fact that I’m charged full price for a ticket. First, they are almost always blowouts. I know Colorado lost to Montana State this year, but 99% of the time, the bigger school wins. It’s not that enjoyable. I love my Jayhawks, but I really don’t get excited to see them blow out Washburn in early November at Allen Field House. Second, these games can do more harm than good. There’s nothing in it for the bigger school but a W. Do they prepare as well? Do they look ahead? Isn’t this a recipe for disaster on the injury front when a small school player is just trying to get noticed? In the grander scheme of things, I just don’t like the idea of “pad” games to boost your win total. This is one area where the professional leagues have it right. When the season starts, all games should carry equal value. It’s one thing to play a bad team in your league. It’s another altogether to play an inferior team in a different league and have it count on your win total. I want to see more match-ups like last week’s Ohio St.-Texas game or the upcoming USC-Nebraska. That’s what I like in sports.
3. Mandatory Double-headers. Baseball is getting a bit soft. Double-headers are a treat for the fans and should be a part of every team’s schedule. All scheduled double-headers should be played on Saturdays. Come on, is it really going to hurt to play two games in one day? It’s not like you have to have the same pitcher out there for 18 straight innings. I know it would mean six less days to sell tickets, but how about if each team schedules three home and three road double-headers. One ticket gets the fans into both games. Go out to the park around 3:00 pm, and stay through the end of game two between 10 and 11. That is a great way to spend the day. Plus, if you don’t change the length of the season, that gives the team six extra off days. At what point did baseball become so fragile that teams now claim this would be too hard on the players? They’re not china dolls! They can play a game for a couple of hours – especially if the dates are scheduled in the fall – after the rosters expand. It’s a money issue for the owners. So you get 59 home dates instead of 62. Get over it, you babies!
4. No Televised Poker – Poker must be stopped. It’s getting out of control. I don’t care if you’re in the “poker takes skill” camp or the “poker is all luck” camp. Regardless, I am tired of seeing it on television. I have two reasons for this. The first is a moral reason. Poker is gambling and gambling can ruin lives. It is addictive. People seek the rush and for every college-Joe who’s won the World Series of Poker, there are 1,000 schmoes who’ve spent the family savings on the game. Let’s not pretend it’s anything different. Second, it’s stupid. Obviously, this is a subjective opinion, so I really don’t need facts to back it up. But, it’s a silly game of chance and you can puff it up with all the ridiculous terminology you want, at its heart, that’s really all it is. Whether it’s a poker pro from Atlantic City or Ben Affleck playing with his buddies, I’m sick of the latest rage.
5. The NBA Playoffs – This one is easy. They’re too long. It’s as simple as that. It takes much too long to get from Game 82 of the regular season to Game one of the NBA finals. The current playoff structure rewards mediocrity and in turn hurts excellence by making them risk it all in a seven game series against a team that barely won half their games, but got a big star back right before the post-season. I don’t like it. I say cut it in half. Four teams advance from each conference – the three division winners and one wildcard. That’s plenty and it means there’s actually a reward for winning. Next, the first round is a best of five. Conference finals are best of seven and the NBA title should be best of seven. It doesn’t minimize the champion and it makes the playoffs mean a lot more. 16 teams in the playoffs is really just a first round money-grab for ticket sales.
6. Standardize Golf Equipment – I am certain this will never happen, but I am equally certain that it would be good for golf. The PGA can handle this in one of two ways. First, use the NASCAR model – different manufacturers, but specific standards on the equipment. The other option is for the PGA to sell the rights by club – drivers, irons, wedges, putters – and by ball. That’s five different contracts, but all players use the same set of equipment. Let the players use their clothing to advertise for other manufacturers. The result will be a level playing field. How much better is Tiger than the rest of the field? Let’s find out with everyone using the same shaft, the same club head, the same ball.
7. Pass Interference – Nothing is more absurd than the pass interference call at the pro level. By placing the ball at the spot of the foul, you are simply assuming that every ball would have been caught. College football has the penalty right – 15 yards and an automatic first down. That’s plenty. Even better, though more subjective, would be to make pass interference similar to the face mask penalty. Have an incidental version and an intentional version and make defenses pay for pass interference with the intent to interfere. If my corner back is running stride for stride, looking back at the ball and the wide receiver stops, causing my DB to crash into him, that’s incidental. My guy was looking for the ball. However, if my DB tackles your WR before the ball gets there, that is true pass interference.
8. Intentional Fouls – The concept of intentional versus incidental is never more muddled than in the world of basketball. I’m tired of the foul shots at the end of the game. When did this become an accepted part of the strategy? If you’re not good enough to win in the flow of the game, you’re not good enough. This idea of “going for the ball” being the line in the sand between a regular foul and an intentional foul is ridiculous. Intentional means you did it on purpose. The penalty for any such foul should be two shots AND the ball. If you know you won’t get the ball back, the incentive to commit the intentional foul goes away. I agree that defenses may need to be more aggressive at the end of games, but there are consequences for that. You shouldn’t get the reward of getting the ball back.
9. Eye in the Sky/Get the Call Right – I’m tired of professional sports trying to fight against technology – specifically when it comes to replay. If video review can get a call right, let’s use it! I’d much rather know that the play was called correctly than to be worried that a review slowed the pace of the game. I think review can be used to improve the quality of the officiating. How many of a crew’s calls had to be overturned? The onus of this shouldn’t be on the coaches to throw a flag. The leagues should want to get the calls right, no matter what. So let’s use the technology we have to make that happen. Personally, I say take it even farther. Can we use the system that tennis has to determine where a ball hit to determine if the football crosses the plane of the goal line? Can we standardize the strike zone? Are there other tools that we can use so that the play on the field determines the winner – not the calls made during the game? That’s what I would prefer.
10. No More Intentional Walks – Lots of people don’t like the DH. That one doesn’t bother me. I like offense and the DH promotes offense. If I could change one rule in baseball, it would be the intentional walk. I hate that thing. Certainly it has made a star of Barry Bonds in recent years. But, it just rubs me the wrong way. You should have to try and get each batter out. If you can’t do it, there are consequences. However, the percentages already favor the pitcher. The best hitters still fail more than 60% of the time. So, it’s not as much strategic as it is cowardly. Now, if a team is really committed to NOT pitch to someone, the consequences should be more severe. I think, if a walk is deemed intentional, the batter should get two bases or let all runners move up 90 feet with the walk. So, if you have a man on second and want to walk someone, that’s fine, but the man on second will be moving to third, as well. Or have all intentional walks be worth two bases. Then, if a man is on second and you don’t want to pitch to the batter, the runner goes to third and the batter goes to second. The next intentional walk would score the runner on third, even with first base open.
So there you have it. Those are the top ten changes I would make. I’m sure there are more. Let’s hear what you’ve got.
The Race for 63! The Royals continue to inch closer to the 63 win mark and are playing .500 baseball. This week they went 1-2 against the Payroll, and 2-1 against Payroll, Jr. in Boston. With two out-of-contention teams this week in Cleveland and Seattle, they can make up some ground. Current record: 54-90. Projected record: 61-101.
A Hatch Christmas Concert
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