Top 10 Rule Changes That Helped Shape Modern Sports
With the recent change of the NCAA basketball tournament format from 64 to 68 teams, fans have shown their distaste for change. Sure, there were a significant amount of people that were in favor of this move. However, it isn't the first time people have been upset about change. The number one fear in America according to numerous statistics is not death, but change.
Not only do people get upset about change in sports, they get upset about change in everyday life. Nobody likes to move from one school to another. Nobody likes to move from one job to another. Nobody likes when Facebook randomly changes their layout without fair warning.
The funny thing about change is that everybody eventually gets used to it and it becomes the norm. When you move to a new school and are forced to make friends, you do. When you get a new job, you make adjustments. Plus, you're being paid either way. When Facebook changes their layout, you get used to it. When rule changes happen in sports, people may get angry initially, but in most cases they make the sport better. You're still rooting for your favorite team and it's more of a burden on the players to adjust anyways.
Sports as we know it today were far from perfect when they were first invented. They're far from perfect today. That's why every year there are adjustments to the rules. They actually pay people to identify these issues, as sad as that is.
There have been hundreds of rule changes that have shaped sports as we know them today. Interestingly enough, some of the greatest changes in sports have happened within the last 10-20 years. Others happened over a century ago. There are actually some head scratchers that make you say "That was seriously at one point a rule/not a rule?" Some of those changes stand out over the others though. Here are the top ten rule changes that helped to shape modern sports.
#10 NBA Adjusts Defensive Rules
In the 1990's, the NBA made a series of adjustments to the defensive game that would forever change the game. They wanted the game to become "more open" and it actually did. However, it took a various amount of rule changes to actually get there. It didn't just become "more open" though. It became a league that favored offensive guards. One could argue that it has enabled a player like LeBron James to be as dominant as he has been.
In 1994, the NBA banned hand checking, which is basically when a player uses his hands on their opponent to slow their progress.
In 1997, the NBA banned using forearms to defend players facing the basket.
In 1999, the NBA eliminated contact by a defender with his hands and forearms on any part of the court, except for players who caught the ball below the free throw line.
In 2001, the NBA implemented the three second rule. Players could no longer camp out in the paint to be "help defenders". They can stay in the paint for three seconds only if they are legitimately defending a player. It's pretty much impossible to be a rover and stay in the paint for more than two seconds.
These rules made it tough to play defense, but obviously teams have made the proper adjustments. Some of the best defensive teams in NBA history such as the Spurs, Pistons and Celtics have come out of this era.
Before these rules were put in place, the scoring average was between 90 and 95 points per game. Now, every year it is over 100 a game. Field goal percentage has gone up slightly, 3-point percentage has gone up slightly and the game's pace has increased big time. It's not necessarily near the pace of the early days of the NBA where there weren't many rules at all. Yet compared to the late 80's and early 90's, it's changed a lot.
#9 American League (MLB) Adds the Designated Hitter
Major League Baseball has made quite a few changes to make baseball a better sport over the years. Power hitting has become a more lovable part of the game year after year. In order to take pitchers out of the lineup and add another potential power hitter, the American League instituted the designated hitter position.
The intent of the DH position is basically to give players who don't have skills other than slugging the ball a spot on the team. If somebody can knock the cover off the ball, but can't field a ground ball, why not let them play? It will bring fans to the ballpark and make your team's lineup better.
There are people who want the National League to adopt the DH. At the same time, there is definitely something interesting about the leagues being different. It makes inter-league play much more interesting because teams have to adjust when they're in different ballparks. While the AL has the full-time advantage, they are at a disadvantage when they play in a national league ballpark.
It could also be argued that the NL has an advantage as far as pitchers are concerned because when they need a "big out" at the bottom of the order and the pitcher is up, it's an easy out in most cases.
The designated hitter has brought a lot of controversy but it has also brought a lot of players that wouldn't have otherwise been there into the game. You think a player like David Ortiz would make it if he had to play in the field every day? Players like Adam Dunn and Manny Ramirez are hazards in the field in the NL, but their bats are so good that NL teams need them. If they had the DH, though, couldn't they be even better?
Ron Blomberg was the first designated hitter in MLB history. He was essentially out of place in New York because of a logjam at first base and in the outfield. When the DH position came along, he had a chance to actually play. That is basically the story of every DH that has come along. Most players don't usually start there, but when a team's hand is forced, they can use the DH as a tool to hold onto players as they age and can no longer respectably play in the field.
#8 NFL Takes a Look at Instant Replay
For a long time, bad calls were a part of the game. Officials are human: they make mistakes. Give them a break. They can't see what we see on TV; therefore it's okay. That changed once technology became such a big part of society and instant replay was easily accessible.
The NFL is one of the most popular leagues in the world because it has adapted to the times and the changing technology. In 1985, the NFL adopted instant replay. However, it wasn't until 1999 that the system we know today was put into use.
The way the current system works, coaches can challenge reviewable plays twice and only if they still have one timeout available. If their challenge is correct, it's pretty simple. They were correct and don't lose a timeout. If their challenge is wrong, they lose one timeout. Although, if they get two challenges correct, they receive a third. That started in the 2004 season and has been policy since. The referee has 60 seconds to watch the replay and there must be irrefutable evidence if the play is to be overturned.
It's a touchy subject because if a referee's ego is big enough and he was the one who made the call, he can just rule in favor of himself. That usually doesn't happen though. The NFL has some of the best officials in sports.
One catch is that coaches can't challenge plays after the two minute warning in each half. A replay assistant in the booth must determine that the play is reviewable and then send in an electric vibration to the referee. It honestly is pointless.
The replay system at the moment covers:
* Scoring plays
* Pass complete/incomplete/intercepted
* Runner/receiver out of bounds
* Recovery of a loose ball in or out of bounds
* Touching of a forward pass, either by an ineligible receiver or a defensive player
* Quarterback pass or fumble
* Illegal forward pass
* Forward or backward pass
* Runner ruled not down by contact
* Forward progress in regard to a first down
* Touching of a kick
* Other plays involving placement of the football
* Whether a legal number of players is on the field at the time of the snap
#7 NHL Introduces the Shootout
The implementation of the shootout is one of the more controversial rule changes in sports. It has been at both ends of a pretty heated debate. Should there be a shootout? Should teams play until there is a legitimate winner? Should there be ties?
In the old system, the standings consisted of three columns. Wins, losses and draws. 2 points for a win, 0 points for a loss and 1 point for a draw. Nowadays, they still consist of three columns. Wins, losses and overtime losses. 2 points for a win, 0 points for a loss and 1 point for an overtime loss. Let me guess, you're wondering how this ties into shootouts? It does without a question.
The way the NHL currently works, teams play sixty minutes of regulation hockey. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, they play five minutes of 4-on-4. If there is still no score after five minutes, the game then goes to a shootout. Why is this such a big deal? Teams who didn't necessarily win the game fair and square receive the same amount of points (2) as another team who won in regulation or in overtime.
The shootout is a skills competition and not every team is full of players that belong in skills competitions. Players like Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby are almost guaranteed a goal in a shootout. Not every team has the good fortune of drafting (or can afford) those types of players.
The NHL introduced the shootout along with many other rule changes to increase "excitement" and scoring after the lockout in 2005. The shootout certainly does bring excitement and fortunately they do continue to honor the integrity of the game by keeping it out of the playoffs. However, it has still become the center of controversy. In fact, as recently as 2010, it pretty much determined whether or not a team was in the playoffs or out of the playoffs.
Philadelphia and New York played on the last day of the regular season. The winner of the game made the playoffs. The game was tied going into overtime and stayed tied. Therefore, it went to a shootout. Philadelphia ended up winning and went into the playoffs as the 7th seed. They would go on to make the Eastern Conference Finals. All that happened because they won a skills competition. Is that fair?
Whether or not you agree with the shootout's existence, it has changed the way the game is played forever. The shootout, along with the way it affects the standings, has changed the game. Now, teams don't play their heart out at the end of the game to score because they know they don't have to. All they have to do is send the game to overtime and they automatically get a point. Maybe they'll get lucky if they can hold out to the shootout—a 50/50 chance of winning.
#6 The Inception of the 3-Point Field Goal in Basketball
For years, basketball was a game that was made for big men. There was no such thing as "3 point specialists" or outside shooters. Most players either played inside or around the free throw line. It enabled players like George Mikan to dominate. For years, the only "three point field goal" was when you made a basket while getting fouled and hitting the free throw that followed. That play still exists today, but there's an easier way to score three points now.
The idea of the 3-point shot had been around for decades before it's inception, but it was never actually implemented permanently until the American Basketball Association introduced it in 1968. Along with the slam dunk, the 3-point shot made the ABA an extremely popular and successful league. The NBA didn't have the 3-point shot and for this reason, the ABA stole some of the NBA market.
The NBA finally added a 3-point line (23 feet, 9 inches) in the 1979-1980 season and many other leagues followed them shortly thereafter. The NCAA's Southeastern Conference became the first college conference to use a 3-point line (22 feet) in 1980. It became a national staple in 1986, but was shortened to 19 feet, 9 inches as opposed to 22. FIBA, an international basketball league, also implemented the 3-point line in 1984 at 6.25 meters.
Since the creation of the 3-point line, basketball has become a much more enjoyable sport to watch. Many teams actually add players to their roster for the specific purpose of being a 3-point specialist. Players such as Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Peja Stojaković and Dale Ellis have even made careers off of being all-time great three-point shooters.
There have been many adjustments to the 3-point line to make the game better over the years. In 1994, the NBA shortened the 3-point line to 22 feet to decrease scoring. But this failed, so they reverted back to 23 feet, 9 inches in 1997. In 2007, the NCAA moved the 3-point line to 20 feet, 9 inches. FIBA moved it out to 6.75 meters in 2008.
#5 Major League Baseball's Wildcard Playoff Format
When Major League Baseball expanded to 28 teams, they could no longer continue with their old format of two rounds. It was even worse when they just had one team from each league make the playoffs and compete for the World Series. Who's to say what way is better though? The creation of the current playoff system has been a big change for the game and has shaped the way the game is played and followed.
In 1994, MLB introduced a new playoff system where each league would have three divisions (East, Central, West) and four playoff spots. Each division winner would secure a playoff spot and the team with the next best record who did not win a division would get the 4th spot. That spot would be forever known as the "Wild Card". It made it so that teams wouldn't give up just because one or two teams dominated the regular season. It also enabled teams who were in tough divisions with big market teams (such as anybody in the Yankees' division) to make the playoffs even if they didn't win the division.
Since the creation of the eight playoff team system with the "Wild Card", the "Wild Card" team has won the World Series four times. Those teams are the 1997 Florida Marlins, 2002 Anaheim Angels, 2003 Florida Marlins and 2004 Boston Red Sox. In fact, in 2002, the Anaheim Angels and San Francisco Giants were both wild card teams.
As a minor catch, the league also prohibits two teams from the same division playing in the first round. That hasn't stopped the numerous Red Sox-Yankees league championship series that have occurred in the last decade though.
Despite all the positives, there are many critics of the wild card. Many people believe that because of the wild card, teams play for just the wild card and give up on the division. The argument is that they're playing for second play and it diminishes the meaning of winning the division and "the pennant". That's an argument for another day, though.
#4 The NCAA's Expansion of Basketball Tournament From 32 to 64
The NCAA basketball tournament in March, also known as "March Madness", is regarded as one of the most exciting parts of the sporting year. Fans across the nation, whether you watched in the winter or not, print their brackets and get involved at pools at school, work and online. It isn't even about money, it's about the excitement of the games.
If the NCAA never expanded the tournament from 32 teams to 64 teams in 1985, none of this would have ever been possible. It was a big moneymaker for collegiate athletics and opened the door for new TV deals. CBS covers every game of the tournament every day and everything else basically shuts down for the month of the tournament. Sure, other things still go on, but everybody's paying attention to the tournament.
The expansion from 32 to 64 didn't just open up doors financially, it opened up the doors for fan interest. Now, there was a chance the "little team that could" makes the tournament and maybe makes a Cinderella run. In fact, the most recent tournament in 2010 had the most lower level seeds and mid major teams advance. Butler, a mid major team, played in the National Championship and took national power Duke to the final seconds. George Mason in 2006 making the Final Four is just another example of the positive impacts of the expansion.
The tournament has recently expanded to 68 teams, but the jump from 32 to 64 is so much more significant when it came to shaping the way America views the sport. Millions tune in to watch every year, even if their team isn't involved. It also brings a more competitive nature and a better chance for upsets. It became a necessity in the 1980s when the talent pool just skyrocketed.
#3 Formation of the BCS in College Football
College football has become one of the most popular sports in the United States. One could argue that it only trails the National Football League in popularity. Players become household names before they ever sign a professional contract and teams have followers from all across the nation. The biggest reason for this boost in popularity has without question been the inception of the Bowl Championship Series.
Most people are aware of the BCS, but aren't exactly educated on the history of it.
For a long time, the national championship was decided on paper as opposed to on the field. It wasn't until the early 1990's when The Bowl Coalition was created in an attempt to put together a national championship.The Bowl Coalition became the Bowl Alliance (Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl which featured the Big East, Southwest, ACC, SEC, Big 8). The championship rotated between these games each year. It was a good start, but it wasn't until 1998 that things really changed.
In 1998, the Big Ten, Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl joined the Bowl Alliance to create the BCS. Now there was four bowls that rotated the national championship and every major conference was included. A formula was devised using human polls and computer polls to determine which teams played in these games. However, there was still a problem because there were still years such as 2003 where two teams (LSU and USC) held a stake in the national championship.
In 2006, another change was made. The BCS Championship became a separate event that just featured the #1 and #2 teams regardless of conference. In fact, mid-major teams have also become eligible for BCS games. They basically just fill in as "At Large" teams where the national championship competitors leave voids. Just the #1 and #2 teams play in the national championship, plain and simple.
The system is not perfect and probably never will be, but it's been improving year after year. Many fans have been hoping for the formation of a player but there is too much money at stake.
#2 The Forward Pass Becomes Legal in American Football
American football was invented in the 19th century, yet it wasn't until 1906 when the forward pass was finally legalized. Imagine where quarterbacks like John Elway, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning etc. would be without the forward pass!
The forward pass has become a staple of the game of football and has been the cause of many of the game's greatest moments. Doug Flutie's Miracle in Miami, Montana's late game heroics at Notre Dame, "The Catch" in the 1982 NFC championship game and "The Immaculate Reception" are just a few examples.
The year before the forward pass was legalized, there were numerous deaths and injuries in the game. Football was on the brink of abolition until Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and helped to create what would be known as the NCAA.
It was on April 6, 1906 that the rules committee would rule that the forward pass was now it a legal play. The goal was to make the game not only safer but more enjoyable to watch. It used to be a game of strength and brute force. Now, there was more skill and speed involved.
Interestingly enough, there were many who believed the forward pass was too dangerous to ever be implemented into the game. They would be proven wrong though, and St. Louis University's Bradbury Robinson would be the first player to throw a forward pass. Since then, football has moved from not just the NCAA but to the professional ranks of the NFL (the whole in between would be too much to cover) and become a multi-billion dollar empire.
#1 Major League Baseball Bans Steroids and Amphetimines
For years, baseball has been America's pastime. It was a game of integrity, heart and passion. Kids grew up wanting to be like Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron. If you were one of the baseball greats, you weren't just a hero, you were a legend. Up until the 1990s, the game was full of excitement and superstar players. There was a solid balance of star pitchers and star sluggers. Then, when the calender hit 1990, the game slowly lost some of its excitement. Nobody really knows why, but the 1994 strike likely had a lot to do with it. Then it happened.
Unknowingly (or unwilling to acknowledge), steroids seeped into the game and become a staple of baseball's black market. There is no set time table on when they started to spread throughout the game, but it's estimated to be right around when the strike happened. The game was getting boring and needed an injection (pun intended) of excitement.
In 1998, fans got just that. Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs would embark on the home run chase of the century. They set home run marks that at the time were unprecedented. Roger Maris' record of 61 home runs in a single season would forever become a distant memory. McGwire and Sosa both shattered the record with 70 home runs and 66 home runs respectively.
Since 1998, it has been revealed that McGwire and Sosa were both steroid users. Sosa never admitted it but in 2010 McGwire publicly admitted that he used performance enhancing drugs during that home run chase. Sosa was named in reports and it's fair to assume he was also on some sort of performance enhancing drug.
It wasn't just McGwire and Sosa though. Barry Bonds, who hit 73 (73!) home runs in 2001 and holds the all-time home run record with 762, was also linked to steroids. As was Roger Clemens, who had 354 wins and 4,672 strikeouts. Sadly, the list doesn't end there. There have been at least 128 players linked to steroids and other performance enhancing drugs and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
It wasn't until 2004 that players were even tested for performance enhancing drugs. Who knows how many players used and got away with it because of retirement or because they stopped using?
Baseball has done a lot in the past six years or so to clean up the game, but one can't help but wonder if they were a facilitator of the problem because they just let it happen. There was never really any pressure from fans or the media because baseball was exciting again and they were making money. Once the pressure to make changes came, Bud Selig and Major League Baseball caved in.
Recently, prior to the 2010 season, amphetamines were also banned. It has resulted in pitchers gaining an edge and statistically having a very out of the ordinary season. There have been an absurd amount of perfect games and no hitters, along with pitchers with sub 3.00 ERAs. A lot of experts have drawn it up to the ban of amphetamines, which help players "stay fresh" all season. It gives position players, who play 162 games a year, a jolt of energy. Pitchers only go every fifth day, so it isn't as much of an issue for them.