20 Rule Changes That Sports Need Right Now

Mike ShannonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2011

20 Rule Changes That Sports Need Right Now

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    Sports are an evolving entity.  The NFL that you watch today is much different from the game that was played 50 years ago, just like the game in 2061 will be different than the one we watch today. 

    So what changes would you make if you were appointed Sports Czar for one day?  Would you change rules to make the game more old-school or would you look to the future and make sweeping changes? 

    I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I have created a great list to start us off.  Rest assured that, while some of you might not agree, all these rules are necessary to make the games more interesting, more fair and, sometimes, much more interesting.

Baseball: No Designated Hitter

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    All pitchers must bat, no exceptions.

     

    Sorry, Big Papi, looks like you're going to have to track down a couple grounders and line drives if you want to stay in my league.  The designated hitter was implemented to improve offense in the American League and boost attendance, as only three AL teams in 1972, the year before the DH, drew over one million fans. Sports officials always love falling back on the "Offense = Ratings" plan every time their sport dips in popularity.

    I don't know how this rule has gone on this long.  One league makes its pitchers hit but the other doesn't?  What sense does that make?

    Enough of this junk. Pitchers have to bat, plain and simple.  If you play the field, you gotta pick up a bat.  If you bat .094 on the season, well, maybe you should have spent more time in the batting cage.

    It also covers for a lack of defensive acumen from the DHs themselves.  Would you play David Ortiz in left field if you knew it was going to take him six days to run to the wall on a gap shot?  I don't think so.

    The DH is garbage and needs to go.

Baseball: Season Length

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    The baseball season shall be reduced to 140 games, effective immediately.

     

    Look, I love baseball, even though the Pittsburgh Pirates are the laughingstock of the professional sports world.

    The season is just too freaking long.

    162 games?  Is that really necessary?  If the MLB expands the playoffs any more, we're going to be nicknaming more people besides Derek Jeter "Mr. November" because that's when the World Series will be.

    Besides, what's the most exciting part of the baseball season?  The playoff race, of course.  If you knock off 22 games, suddenly each game becomes that much more important.

    Plus, any sports schedule that lasts almost eight months out of the year is ridiculous.

Baseball: Time Between Pitches

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    Once the ball is returned to the pitcher, he has 20 seconds to deliver the next pitch or it is automatically ruled a ball.  The batter is only allowed to voluntarily step out of the batter's box once per at-bat.

     

    The reason casual fans don't want to watch baseball is that it can be mind-numbingly boring at times. 

    Along with the season, games themselves are far too long.  Who wants to spend close to four hours of their day staring at the Royals and Orioles?  I certainly don't.

    Eliminate the in-between pitch stuff and you are cutting a great deal of downtime off games.

    You're also not allowing batters to pull their best Nomar Garciaparra impression:  "Oh, you're about to pitch?  Hold on a second.  I have to undo and redo my batting gloves six times.  Now, I have to tap my shoes on the heel four times each.  Wait, almost done, I need to blow three perfect bubble gum bubbles.  Alright, now I'm ready."

Baseball: Field Dimensons

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    All baseball fields will have the same dimensions from now on.

     

    What kind of sport plays its game in places that are different sizes?

    Can you imagine the Chicago Bulls going to play in Utah and the Jazz's court being 10 feet wider?  People would throw a fit and yet, we do it in baseball.

    Imagine if the Colts traveled to New England for a playoff game and the Patriots shrunk the field to only 75 yards.  It's stupid.

    This is another one of those "old-school" things that baseball nuts hang on to because apparently that's how they played in the early days.  Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Young...give me a break.

    If you have uniform field dimensions, then you can take out the whole "well, this is a hitter's park" argument, which bores me to death every time I hear it.

    How about this?  Everyone's left field, center field and right field are the exact same distance from home plate.  Sounds crazy, but it just might work.

Baseball: Instant Replay

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    Managers will be permitted to challenge one call per game.

     

    Since you've no doubt been bludgeoned by stories about the "no-hitter that wasn't" for the past year, let's just take the logical approach here:  If there was instant replay, it would have been a no-hitter.

    Every other professional sport has some form of instant replay, whether it be shots at the buzzer or if a puck crossed the goal line, so why not baseball?

    I'll tell you why:  More so-called baseball purists.  "Oh, human error is part of the game, we can't take that away, you'll ruin the sport!"  Junk.

    Let the managers challenge one call per game and then giant errors like the one umpire Jim Joyce made last season, preventing Armando Galarraga's perfect game, will be things of the past.

Baseball: Salary Cap

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    Baseball will adopt a salary cap immediately, which follows the NFL model of revenue sharing.

     

    This one is the most obvious out of any rule:  Major League Baseball needs a salary cap.

    I won't go into a long rant about the Yankees buying world championships, because it's really been done to death and everything has been said.

    The bottom line is this:  When less than one-quarter of MLB teams have a legitimate shot at winning a World Series, something is wrong.

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates trot out their $33 million payroll against the St. Louis Cardinals' $103 million, something is wrong.

    Fix it.

NFL: A Touchdown Is a Touchdown

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    As soon as the player goes to the ground in the end zone with control of the ball, the play is a touchdown.

     

    I could watch that video 5,947,832 times, and still wouldn't be able to tell you how that isn't a touchdown.

    Let me get this straight: Calvin Johnson did not score a touchdown there, but a running back who reaches the ball around the pylon and has it knocked out of his hands as soon as he crosses the goal line does score?  How does that work?

    The reason the play is called a "touchdown" is because you're supposed to down the ball in the end zone for it to count, not break the plane of the end zone while fumbling and having the ball roll out of bounds.

    I'm not saying you should have to dive to the ground when you cross the goal line, but some common sense would be nice.

    Players who stretch the ball across only to have to it knocked out should not score. It should be a fumble and, if it rolls out of the end zone, it's a touchback.  Protect the ball at all times, don't they teach you that in Pee Wee?

NFL: Icing the Kicker

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    If the defensive team calls a timeout with less than 10 seconds left on the play clock during a field goal attempt, that team will be assessed a five-yard penalty.

     

    You can fully blame Mike Shanahan for this one because he's the guy who popularized the "timeout right before the snap" crap.

    Is there anything more annoying?  You and your buddies are standing, waiting to see if the kicker can win the game and the kick soars through the uprights as the crowd goes wild...oh wait, they called a timeout.  Let's line up again.

    Some might call it "gamesmanship" but I call it stupid.  Statistics show that icing the kicker doesn't work, so really it only exists to annoy the viewer.

    The NFL's play clock is 40 seconds, which means the defense has a full 30 seconds to call a timeout.  If they call one after that, it's a penalty.

    People don't like that?  Tough, you should have lined up quicker.

NFL: Commercials

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    When a player is injured on the field, the network broadcasting the game is required to run as many commercials as possible until play resumes.

     

    Aside from icing the kicker, my biggest annoyance during NFL games are commercials.  It completely ruins the flow of games and makes watching them live almost a nightmare.

    Extra point-commercial-kickoff-commercial-two plays with a timeout-commercial.

    So, when a guy goes down with an injury, it should be a rule that the station instantly has to cut to commercial and bang out as many as possible while he's laying there.

    Do we really need to see 26 replays of the injury to go along with a steady camera shot of him laying there while the announcers pretend they had five years of medical school training?  Of course not.

    Run through as many of those stupid car commercials that you can and then you're almost guaranteed a commercial-free final two minutes.

NFL: Fantasy Changes

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    Instead of drafting one running back in fantasy leagues, you can now draft a team's running platoon.

     

    Hey, look, we can blame Mike Shanahan for this one too!  The pioneer of screwing up fantasy leagues, Shanahan popularized the idea of using "running back committees" to drive fantasy players insane.

    How many people started DeAngelo Williams in the past few years only to have Jonathan Stewart run for 135 yards?  What about the Patriots' mess at running back? 

    There are so few "feature backs" in the league any more that, unless you get one of the first picks in your draft, you're left with the Michael Bush's of the world.

    Forget that, treat running backs like defenses.  You pick a team, and you get their rushing yards.  It's simple and would solve tons of problems.

NCAA Football: Playoff

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    NCAA Division I-FBS football will immediately begin a playoff system with conference champions getting automatic qualifiers and a certain number of at-large bids.

     

    Is this a no-brainer or what?

    Quick: Who was the best team in college football this year?  Auburn, right?  Well, when did the Tigers play TCU?  Oh right, they didn't.  Well, then how do we know Auburn's better? 

    A computer told us.

    This is another dead horse that has been beaten, buried, then dug back up to be beaten again, so I'll keep this short and sweet.

    The NCAA makes millions off their awful bowl system, but could make billions with a playoff pitting the best teams in the country against one another. 

    Think of the NCAA basketball tournament last year. Would Butler ever have gotten a shot at the national title if the BCS was in place in basketball?  Absolutely not, but the Bulldogs earned their shot by being the better team on the court.

    I don't understand how anyone could argue against this.

NCAA Football: Players Taking Money

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    If a player is found to have taken money while in college, he will be fined 20 percent of his NFL salary.

     

    When the Reggie Bush scandal at USC broke, people went insane.  Bush was forced to give back his Heisman and USC was hit with big time sanctions that crippled the program for the foreseeable future.

    So who is hurt in all this?  Is it Reggie Bush?  The guy is a millionaire for being a glorified kick returner and regularly sleeps with supermodels. 

    The people hurt most by this are the freshmen of USC, who have no chance of playing for a national title and now are stuck in a program on double secret probation.

    My solution?  Dock his pay.  Fine him 20 percent of that $56 million deal he signed coming out of school and put it in a scholarship fund.  I bet losing over $11 million would get his attention.

    Once it comes out that Cam Newton took money, cars and clothes in a few years, the same thing should happen to him.

    You can't stop the coaches and boosters from offering cash, but you can stop the players from receiving it.

NHL: Head shots

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    There is no such thing as a "clean head shot."  All checks to the head will result in a five-minute penalty and an automatic suspension.

     

    Eric Lindros was one of the most promising players of his generation until concussions absolutely ruined his career.

    Marc Savard might never be the same again after a cheap shot from Matt Cooke and may need to retire.

    Sidney Crosby is the face of the new NHL, the world's best player, and he's been out for months (possibly the season) because of a head shot in the Winter Classic.

    With what we know about concussions now, the NHL has to act immediately to get the hits out of the game and keep the players on the ice.

    My rule isn't all that radical because it's the exact rule that international hockey (IIHF) follows during its games. 

    "Old-time hockey" is a joke, and concussions and their effects later in life are very real.  It's time to get this garbage out of the game and let the players score goals without having to worry about an elbow to the head.

NHL: No-Touch Icing

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    Once a puck shot from behind the center-ice line crosses the goal line, icing will be called immediately.

     

    No-touch icing has been in effect in international play for a long time, and yet the NHL refuses to change its stance on it.

    The races to the puck behind the net can be somewhat exciting, but the danger to players far outweighs the positives.

    Two players skating full-speed to a corner has many dangers, not the least of which crashing into the boards at high speeds and getting their legs tangled.

    Why have two guys almost kill themselves for something that results in simply a faceoff?  It's time for it to go.

NHL: Contraction and More Canadian Teams

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    The NHL will move teams in their least successful markets to Canada or eliminate them all together.

     

    The bottom line is that no one in the United States cares about the Columbus Blue Jackets...not even the Blue Jackets themselves.  Ditto for the Panthers, Coyotes and Predators.

    Do you know who would care about them?  Quebec, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Toronto.

    Hockey in Canada is like football in Green Bay or Pittsburgh or basketball in Indiana:  A way of life.

    The most recent Blue Jackets game drew about 10,000 homes watching on TV.  To put that in perspective, the most recent Penguins game had about 100,000 homes watching.

    Canada is the hotbed of hockey.  Could anything really be lost by putting more teams there? 

    Didn't think so.

NHL: Ice Size

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    The NHL will adopt international rink dimensions.

     

    Ever wonder why Olympic hockey seems so much more open and fast-paced?  The ice is bigger. 

    Bigger ice means more room for elite players like Crosby, Ovechkin, Datsyuk and Sedin to make things happen and score goals.

    Bigger ice also means less play along the boards, which equates to fewer injuries.  Can't argue with that, can you?

    Finally, bigger ice means players have to be faster and better skaters.  Lumbering goons like Chris Pronger would routinely get turned into a pylon by more skilled players, making them either adjust or hit the bricks.

    Essentially, you would open the game up in a way it's never been before.  Obviously, arena construction would limit this being adopted immediately but hey, I can dream.

Basketball: Timeouts

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    NBA teams will only be allowed three timeouts per game.

     

    The old saying goes, "If you watch the last five minutes of a basketball game, you've seen the entire thing." The only problem is those last five game minutes take 45 real-life minutes.

    Right now teams have six timeouts to work with, which means we are almost guaranteed 12 stoppages per game...far too many.

    Also, this would eliminate the whole flying-through-the-air-and-call-a-timeout play that I hate so very, very much. 

    Reduce the timeouts and you reduce stoppages, which of course makes the game more entertaining.

Basketball: 3-Point Line

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    The three-point line will be the same distance from the hoop in college, the NBA and WNBA.

     

    Right now, each level of basketball seems to have a different three-point line distance, not cool.  The three-point shot is a huuuuuuge part of basketball and yet guys who jump from college to the pros have to worry about changing their shot?  Doesn't make sense.

    The NBA line is three feet longer than the NCAA line, so why not just move the college line back?  This way, kids get used to shooting from that distance, and it's not like they don't have the strength to get the ball to the hoop.

Basketball: Fouls

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    Foul calls shall be universal across the NCAA and NBA.

     

    Ever watch an NCAA basketball game and then turn on the NBA?  It looks like the guys are playing two totally different games.

    The NBA game is physical and rough while the NCAA game is much smoother and play-oriented.  Which one would you rather watch?

    Skilled players in college can't make the transition to the NBA because they either aren't big enough or tough enough (see: Tyler Hansbrough), which I think hurts the product.

    NBA refereeing is always a source of controversy and no one wants to see games put in their hands (right Tim Donaghy?), but start enforcing the rules.

Basketball: Las Vegas

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    There has to be an NBA team in Las Vegas.

     

    OK, this one is for purely selfish reasons.  I want to see what happens when you put a bunch of NBA players in Sin City.

    Can you imagine the havoc that would follow?  Players would go missing for days on end, millions of dollars would be lost to the Flamingo and strip clubs would have to expand to double their size. It would be amazing.

    Think if Michael Jordan was allowed to travel to Las Vegas multiple times per year.  They would build him his own casino and call it Destiny 23 or something like that.

    There is no way that this is a bad idea.

Sports Gambling Is Legal

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    All sports gambling will be made legal.

     

    Come on now, everyone does it.  Why not just embrace the fact that billions are lost and won each year?

    Why do you think there's an injury report in the NFL?  Those point spreads seem to react awful quickly.

    You're telling me you wouldn't want to go down to the local convenience store, play the lottery and take Atlanta in a parlay with Los Angeles?  You're lying if you say no.  Isn't the lottery just state-sponsored gambling anyways?

    When I discovered sports gambling in high school, it was like my eyes were open to a new world.  Suddenly, games that meant absolutely nothing to me had me on the edge of my seat.  Plus, my hatred for Kordell Stewart grew to epic proportions.