The other day I was running on the treadmill and thought to myself, "These are all over the world and have made things much more convenient to athletes; I wonder when this was created and who made it? What other inventions have made sports so much easier, less harmful, convenient, and exciting?"
So, without further ado, I give you the 10 greatest inventions in sports.
1. Instant Replay
I know I am going to be criticized for this one, but honestly it has made football so much easier for officials to get the ruling right. Sure, they still make some mistakes, but humans are flawed and it's going to happen. Anyone who will deny that officiating has become more efficient obviously needs a little help.
2. Football Helmets
This was a huge advance in sports. I remember reading a book about early football and it listing how many deaths happened in each year. Nowadays if somebody died because of a football play it would be big news, but back then it was a risk everyone knew the players were taking. Not all of those deaths can be attributed to bad protective helmets, but I bet the majority can.
3. Baseball Helmets
In the same way these helped football players they helped baseball players, too. Imagine facing Billy Wagner without a helmet; anybody would be scared just to step into the batter's box.
4. The Protective Cup
I'm not sure I need to elaborate on this one, but being a catcher this piece of equipment is probably the one I'm most thankful for other than my catcher's mask. Sure, these cause for some embarrassing moments on TV, but for all of us who have taken one right there we know they are there for good reason.
5. Baseball Caps
I plead guilty as one of the millions who has turned wearing a hat during a game to a daily routine, but remember these used to play a huge part in baseball. Before flip-down shades your hat and your glove were the only two things used to block the sun.
6. The Curved Hockey Stick
Made popular by Bobby Hull in the early 1960s, this became a widely used product in 1967. Hull figured out that a curved blade allowed him to shoot in one motion. Though a limit was eventually imposed on the curve of the stick, they still made a change in the way the game was played as goalies subsequently found it more important to wear helmets.
7. The Three-Point Shot
Contrary to popular belief the three-point line has not been around for long. It will just now be reaching its 30th birthday next year. The three-point shot was not introduced until the 1979-1980 season in the NBA and not until the 1986 season in college.
This is probably one of the rules I am most thankful for because it has made for some of the most exciting comebacks and finishes in all of sports.
8. Field Turf
Some may argue that there is nothing like playing on a well groomed natural field, but the only problem is that the only time you get to play on one that is well kept is if you make it to the big leagues.
I spent my youth playing on natural baseball fields and eventually played on turf in high school. I can tell you from first-hand experience, there is no comparison. Although some may complain turf causes more injuries I can tell you this: Turf is here and it's here to stay.
9. The Closer
Believe it or not the thought of using your best relief pitcher only when you had a lead didn't arise until 1979.
Bruce Sutter was one of the most dominating relief pitchers of his time but the Cubs manager noticed that he seemed to slow down in the second half of the season. So in '79 he decided that he would only use Sutter when the Cubs had a lead. Tony La Russa was the first to use a reliever exclusively when they had a lead in the ninth in '88.
10. Going "Hardship"
The thought of this didn't come around until 1969 when Spencer Haywood became the first collegiate athlete to leave school early. Of course this was around the turning point where professional sports were becoming more respected than collegiate.
There you have it, the 10 greatest sports inventions. How about the 10 worst? Well, I will be coming out with that later.