10 Things That Amazingly Still Exist in Sports
Has something caught your attention recently and you said to yourself: "They're still doing that?" or "That still exists?" If you're a major sports fan, you probably ask those questions once or twice a week.
Tradition is a gift and a curse to most sports. Old records, unwritten rules and processes are often clung to like advice from a parent or a reckless habit that's hard to break.
Sometimes you learn that thing Dad always said just isn't correct. And it really is better to turn off your engine while you refill your car's gas tank.
Not every perplexing sports guideline and tradition is an egregious violation of the common-sense rule. Some are harmless but still pointless in the grand scheme of things.
While there's probably more, this is a collection of 10 things that should be a part of sports history, not present.
Football is awesome, but it's also a dangerous game. Everyone knows that.
Because most can agree on those two things, doesn't it make more sense to limit the amount of full-contact action the players see when the games don't count? The Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson, pictured above, was one of several players to go down with a season-ending injury during the preseason.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin suffered the same injury before the exhibition season began. In the history of the game, there have been even more serious injuries that have occurred during the preseason.
In 1963, the Kansas City Chiefs' Stone Johnson died after suffering a neck injury in a preseason game against the Houston Oilers. In a 1978 exhibition game, the New England Patriots' Darryl Stingley was paralyzed after a hit against the Oakland Raiders.
Obviously, both of those injuries could've happened during the regular season, and they would have been equally as tragic. However, one always has to wonder: What if those meaningless games weren't played?
The NFL should be more concerned with preserving the careers and bodies of its players. Unfortunately, fans are more attached to the teams, logos and traditions than the players who score touchdowns and make tackles.
Thus, the guys in the pads—even the biggest and well-paid stars—are expendable. Shortening or eliminating the NFL preseason, as other writers have suggested in the past, isn't the key to making football safer, but it's a start.
Racially Stereotypical Gimmicks in the WWE
Gone are the days of politically incorrect WWE Superstar gimmicks like Cryme Tyme and Nikolai Volkov, but in 2016, there are still personas in the organization who leave you shaking your head.
Los Matadores, pictured above, are high-flying luchadores being presented as Mexican wrestlers, when they are in fact Puerto Rican. Their moves are punctuated with chants of "Ole!" For a time, they had a little person dressed as a bull named El Torito. Yes, this really exists.
R-Truth, aka Ron Killings, is a 42-year-old, freakish athlete who has displayed the ability to play various roles during his professional wrestling career.
Instead of getting an opportunity to branch out to a different role, Killings—who is African-American—seems stuck in his gimmick as a Mystikal look-a-like who raps, gyrates and comes off as dimwitted.
Many of us have loved wrestling and the WWE ever since we were kids, but at some point, we have to look at the screen and ask: "Are we seriously still creating and maintaining characters like this?"
Wrestling is not to be taken too seriously; it ruins all the fun. However, it doesn't have to keep age-old stereotypes alive for the sake of tradition or to generate a laugh.
NHL Overtime Losses
Why on Earth are teams still being rewarded for losing in overtime of an NHL game? For those who are unaware, NHL teams who win in regulation or overtime receive two points in the standings.
If a game goes to overtime, the losing team gets one point. Why is losing rewarded in any way?
There's no other major sport where going into extra time generates a bump in the standings. Teams don't get a half-win in baseball if a game goes into extra innings. NFL teams don't get anything special for reaching overtime, and it's the same case in the NBA.
Originally, the NHL's OT points system was created to account for ties. However, with the implementation of the shootout that follows the new and awesome three-on-three OT period, ties have been eliminated.
At this point, there's no need to award a point to an overtime loser. If fans and decision-makers still want to differentiate their sport's OT period by awarding a team something for reaching the extra session, then the amount of points awarded to the winning team should increase.
The following points system would be much better:
Three points to a team that wins in regulation, two points for an OT/shootout win and one point for an OT/shootout loss. That would create more of a reward for a team that takes care of business in regulation.
Violent Championship Celebrations
"My team just won the championship; let's go flip my neighbor's Chevy Malibu." Why?
When the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in February, police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd and arrested 12 people for "criminal mischief, starting fires and throwing things at officers," per John Ingold, Katy Canada and Natalie Munio of the Denver Post.
What ever happened to driving around the city honking your horns and screaming out the window: "Yay! We did it. We're No. 1" and other stuff normal fans say?
It's crazy to think fans are still using sports as a trigger for violent and outlandish behavior. Didn't your team win? What are you so angry about?
Umpires Calling Balls and Strikes
Replay systems have been installed in every major sport to ensure as much accuracy as possible in games.
So why is baseball still allowing human beings to call balls and strikes when we see standardized digital strike zones on every Major League Baseball broadcast?
Because people are still calling balls and strikes, the strike zone varies from game to game depending on who's behind the plate. Let's subtract the history and tradition from this concept for a second.
We all know umpires are as much a part of the game as bats and gloves, but if we we not so used to umps behind the plate ruling after every pitch, could we really say their presence represents the most efficient and accurate way to determine balls and strikes?
This is a change that baseball could make in the future, and it would be better for the game. If a human presence is desired behind the plate, players should be able to challenge the umpire's ruling the same way they can with a line judge in tennis.
The electronic line judge ultimately decides if a ball is in or out, and the K-Zone—or something similar—should determine balls and strikes in baseball.
NBA Age Minimum
Should Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and Tracy McGrady have been made to attend college for a year or at least been forced to go overseas to play professionally before joining the NBA?
The answer to that question is "no."
Had the NBA's age limit rule been in effect when those guys came out of high school, that would've been the reality. The rule mandates that any prospect entering the NBA draft must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year and one year removed from high school.
There is an exception.
International players who have permanently lived outside of the U.S. for at least three years before the draft while playing professionally outside of the U.S and who haven't enrolled at an American college or university or completed high school in the States are automatically eligible.
The 19-year minimum doesn't exist in any other major sport with the exception of professional football. It's understandable in the NFL because of the physical nature of the sport. Prospects need to have their bodies physically matured to a level that allows them to compete with adults.
However, in baseball, tennis and even boxing, the minimum age isn't as high. Why is it in the NBA? Some say it's to help preserve the college game. The influx of prep-to-pro players essentially takes most of the more talented prospects away from college basketball.
Others, such as retired 18-year-veteran and former prep-to-pros star Jermaine O'Neal, says the motives are more dastardly. Per an ESPN.com article from 2005, O'Neal gave a strong take on the impending NBA rule:
In the last two or three years, the rookie of the year has been a high school player. There were seven high school players in the All-Star Game, so why we even talking an age limit? As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up. You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. Army and fight the war at 18 why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?
It's hard to believe that then-commissioner David Stern was motivated by racism when the rule was conceptualized and implemented, but that doesn't mean that the fallout hasn't been more negatively impacting to minority high school stars.
Of all the prep players to make the jump to the NBA in history (49 in total): 46 are African-American or of direct African descent, two are Hispanic (Charlie Villanueva and Ricky Sanchez) and just one was Caucasian (Robert Swift).
While the intentions behind the rule might not have been racially motivated, there's no disputing which demographic it has impacted.
It's crazy to think that athletes like Byron Buxton, Boris Becker, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Ken Griffey Jr. were allowed to pursue their professions at younger ages, but LSU Tigers star Ben Simmons and others are forced to wait.
Fake Brawls at Combat Sports Press Conferences
Fighters have to hype their upcoming bouts in MMA and boxing, but the fake brawls at press conferences have got to stop.
Most recently, Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz nearly came to blows (not really) during their faceoff on Thursday before their clash in the main event of UFC 196 on Saturday.
Who in the world still believes these skirmishes are real? Think about it, if guys like Jon Jones, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos wanted to get at each other, do you really think UFC President Dana White would be able to stop them?
White is tough as presidents of major organizations go, but Rumble and Co. would move him aside if they were riled up enough to fight. At this point, this part of the show is a bore and not a boost to the appeal of the real fight.
Fighting in Hockey
We're conditioned to look at fighting in hockey as part of the game, but why? In what other sport—aside from boxing and MMA ,of course—is fighting not strongly discouraged.
Consider this: The semi-regular fisticuffs that occurred during the 1990s in the NBA ultimately led to major suspensions and referees calling games tighter to keep things from getting out of hand.
Has that ever been a serious initiative in the NHL? The keyword there was "serious."
Why is fighting in the NHL viewed as an element of the game that is on par with a flagrant-1 foul in the NBA? According to NHLOfficials.com, "fisticuffs" can only generate a suspension if a player has built a track record as an "instigator."
It takes several infractions before that happens. Most times, the reprimand is a five-minute major penalty. If you're a hardcore hockey fan, you probably don't want fisticuffs outlawed.
However, in this day and age where there are so many rules in place to protect athletes from head injuries, it's amazing there aren't stiffer penalties for scrapping in the NHL.
Baseball games are long enough; we don't still need the extended break between the top and bottom halves of the seventh inning.
No one actually stretches, do they? As a Chicago Cubs fan, the singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is something that was always enjoyable, but perhaps it should be a North Siders' tradition and not something that happens in every major league ballpark.
There's so much talk about speeding up the game with pitch clocks and such; how about doing away with this archaic tradition?
Doing so would probably shave 10-15 minutes off every game in the majors.
Washington's Team Name
(Warning: Links contain offensive language.)
It is inexplicable that the Washington football team is still allowed to use its current name. It's also sad to see that owner Dan Snyder cares more about football tradition than he does about the feelings of human beings who justifiably take umbrage with the offensive term.
In 2013, Snyder brushed off lawsuits from Native Americans and defiantly told USA Today he will never change the team's offensive name.
What further proof is needed to conclude that this is a word that should not only be outlawed by the NFL as a name, but banned from use in society?
Geoffrey Nunberg of the Atlantic supports this concept. He wrote:
The historical overtones of "r-----n" may be faint to most Americans, but they're still audible whenever it's said. Indians themselves sometimes use the word in team names as a reclaimed epithet, but that dispensation doesn't extend to whites, no more than the appearance of the N-word in hip hop lyrics gives whites permission to use it it. If it's a slur when you say it to an American Indian's face, it's a slur when you sing it with 80 thousand other fans.
Of all the things on this list, this is perhaps the most perplexing. We've seen players hold out for more money and attempt to block a team from drafting them for football reasons. It would be great to see a player refuse to play for Washington because of its name.