King of Sports: Seven Things I Would Change Today, If I Could
Every sports fan in the world has thought about it.
You're watching a game and some sort of situation comes up that you feel is strange, quirky, confusing, or just plain wrong.
You would love to change that thing, just that one thing, if only you had the power to do so.
Well, here is a list of things that need to be changed, and soon, for the betterment of the game as a whole, because they do not make sense, or to enhance the fans' abilities to either watch or play the games themselves.
Football: Review of Plays
It has been talked about and talked about ad nauseum for years, ever since the NFL installed the system we have now with coaches challenges.
I'm sorry, but it should not be a coach's job to ensure the game is called correctly. That is what the officials are for. Do the coaches get a cut of the ref's salaries when the coach is proven correct on a challenge?
Not to mention that the road coach is at a disadvantage because he will not get a chance to watch a replay on the stadium's big screen.
One of two things needs to happen here.
My first suggestion, which is not my preference, would be to abolish this altogether. Let's let the referees officiate the game and make the calls in real time. What they saw is what they call and if they make a mistake, well, that's the nature of the game.
I do not favor this option simply because the game is so fast and there is so much going on. If you think about it, it's amazing the number of correct calls made is as high as it is. The refs really are doing a good job most of the time.
So let's borrow a page from rugby. When I lived in England, only a scant 15 years ago, they had a replay official in the booth whose job it was to review any scoring play automatically and post on the stadium scoreboard if the score counted.
With the time between plays, this would not be too difficult to do in football, especially on scoring plays. If a team runs a play in fewer than 10 seconds of the spot of the ball, the replay official can signal if a play is under review.
As a whimsical suggestion, can we get some officials that are not 80-years-old? I mean, there must be some young guys out there who don't have the skill to play the game, but want to be on the field. Where are they? Tell them to apply to be NFL referees.
Baseball: The Designated Hitter
With a game whose history is as long as baseball's, it can be hard to nail down one single thing to change. After all, I have issues with baseball's finances, the fact that the All Star Game determines home field in the World Series, or how balls and strikes are called.
But to me, the designated hitter is the most eggregious of these things.
The problem is that it creates two different games in a single league. Imagine if, in football, teams in the NFC had a rule that the kicker kicked field goals, but was required to do the punts and kickoffs as well. Meanwhile, in the AFC teams could have a different guy doing kicking and punting, as it is now. Teams in the NFC would be at a disadvantage because their one guy has to do all the team's kicking while the AFC teams can have a specialist for each position.
This is what you have with the designated hitter. You have over-speciaization. Instead of baseball players, you have guys whose sole job it is to either hit or pitch.
I believe this leads to stagnation of teams as players who may have retired or been released when their skills diminished in the field extended their careers as designated hitters. Those spots in the lineup may have been filled by worthy, younger players.
Plus, you get pitchers who haven't swung a bat since high school. They are no longer baseball players if they don't take a plate appearance.
The fact that the NL and AL have different rules makes it a different game from one league the other, which is unheard of in major sports. No sport on earth has different rules for two leagues that compete against each other, except Major League Baseball.
I have two suggestions for this situation.
The first, again not my preference, would be to institute the DH in the national league. I don't like the DH, but at least then both leagues would be playing the same game.
My preference would be to abolish the DH. Make pitchers be baseball players again. Make them bat, the way the game was created and intended.
Whimsical change I would like to see: Let's start calling it the fair pole, instead of the foul pole. If the ball hits it, it is a fair ball. It should be called the fair pole.
Basketball: Clock Stoppages
As an extremely casual fan of basketball (I watched a lot when Jordan was playing), I can tell you that the most irksome thing in a basketball game is trying to watch the last two minutes when everyone is fouling each other and calling timeouts.
It can be an exercise in patience to watch the last two minutes of a close basketball game when the clock is stopped every three or four seconds. There is no action, there is no flow to the game. It's just foul, free throws, timeout, foul, free throws, timeout.
It can take half an hour of real time to play five minutes of game time. It is completely ridiculous.
I have a solution: The clock does not stop for fouls and the player who was fouled automatically gets points.
Not only would that ensure that the last few minutes don't have all the drama of a game of horse, as well as reducing the number of times you would see players being fouled instead of the opposing team playing defense.
Whimsical change I would like to see: Any shot from beyond half court is worth five points. If you can consistently make shots from out there, you deserve to be called a long-range sniper. Plus, what a game changing play that might be.
I can think of a number of hockey lovers who are not going to like this, but I think fighting needs to be done away with in the NHL.
I understand the importance of enforcers in the past, but the game is different now. It is more of a finesse game and less of a bunch of goons in sweaters.
The days that the movie "Slap Shot" was based on are gone.
The NHL is the only major hockey league on earth that allows fighting and our game is not the better for it. How someone has not been seriously injured in a hockey fight is truly remarkable. Those guys are really hitting each other.
Isn't it bad enough that you could lose your teeth to a stick or a puck to the grill without having Tie Domi or Stu Grimson trying to push your face in?
There is plenty of hitting in hockey without the balled-up-fist variety. You can still have physical play without dropping the gloves.
We don't tolerate fighting in any other sport, why is it okay in hockey?
Whimsical change I would like to see: This is kind of the same as basketball. Any shot that goes in from outside the offensive zone is worth two goals. Suddenly you would see all kinds of shots from long range and probably fewer teams playing dump-and-chase.
Soccer: Throw Ins
There is one hard and fast rule in the sport of soccer and that is that players, with the exception of the goalie, may not use their hands.
So, why is it that when a ball goes out of bounds, the first thing they do is pick it up and throw it back in? It's completely opposed to the basic tenant the game is based on.
Make them kick the ball in by placing in on the ground on the boundary line and do not let them run up. One step, maybe two, then kick the ball.
While we're at it, get rid of goaltender kick-ins. The goalies are allowed to use their hands, they should be forced to use them whenever they can.
I don't watch a lot of soccer, but I have watched enough to see a goal kick which covers three-quarters of the field, a couple passes followed by an attempted shot on goal that sails wide, and then a goal kick by the other goalie.
Soccer needs all the help in can get in the USA, so a change is in order.
Whimsical change: Install a shot clock. It helped basketball a lot, didn't it?
Golf: Stroke and Distance
As an avid player of the game, I had a big decision on this one. I could have changed the fact that you are not allowed to repair spike marks on the green; or that the 20-handicap in front of me is required to hole out when his fifth putt is for an 11.
But what I chose was the stroke and distance penalty, and this change would really be more for the weekend warrior than the guys on Tour.
You see, certain breaches of the rules require what is called a stroke and distance penalty. The player who broke the rule is required to count the stroke they just made, add another stroke, and then replay the shot from the spot where they just played the errant shot. The player is penalized a stroke the distance they gained on the illegal shot. Stroke and distance, get it?
The problem on your local muni is that by the time you get to your ball and realize you have broken a rule, you have two groups on the tee waiting for you. Hiking back to the tee box to play another shot is really not an option unless you are traveling with an entourage of longshoremen ready to lay their lives down for you.
My proposal is to eliminate the "distance" part of the penalty and simply add another stroke. Make it a two stroke penalty, take a legal drop on the course within two club-lengths of where your offending shot came to rest, and let's move on.
It takes long enough to play a round on a Saturday without some rules-monkey trudging 200 yards back to the tee to play a new ball after he just sliced one into the Grand Canyon.
Whimsical change: Make it legal to take one shot per round over. We call it a Mulligan. We all do it. Let's make it legal.
They have been playing a form of tennis since the 12th century, but for the last couple of decades there has been this remarkably, incredibly annoying habit of players, especially female players, of explosively grunting during their stroke.
If I'm not mistaken, Monica Seles really got the ball rolling with her obnoxiously loud grunts and groans on every, single strike of the ball in the early 90s.
Nowadays, it is more unusual for a woman tennis player not to grunt than it is for her to do so.
Let's face it, folks, women's tennis needs all the help it can get and these women grunting as if they are being punched in the gut on every shot is not doing anything for them.
I can understand on a particularly strenuous play that they may make some sort of noise, but every shot? Do they grunt like that in practice, because if they do, it must be impossible to find people who will not simply shout at them to "Shut the hell up!"
It is well past time to abolish this incessant behavior. It is unwanted and unneeded.
Whimsical change: The only time they get new balls in a tournament is when the others explode. Make them play with those things until they cannot be played with any more.