If this time of the year has a theme associated with it, “out with the old and in with the new” would have to be it. People resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, be better parents and reconnect with old friends. We all know that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions and that many of those resolutions will form the paving stones for that road. Nevertheless, I want to suggest to folks in the sporting world that they take a few suggested resolutions for change a bit more seriously than they might take a resolution to reconnect with old friends in the new year. These changes would probably make the sporting cosmos a better place…
The movers and shakers in the sports media world can do all of us a favor with any or all of these changes:
1. Any and all sports radio programs/segments devoted only to fantasy leagues and what trades one should or should not make need to be canceled – - preferably yesterday.
2. Pre-game/pre-event programming needs to be curtailed. The world does not need a six-hour pre-game extravaganza for the Super Bowl. Even less, the world does not need a two-hour pre-race gab-fest for the Kentucky Derby. Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Brevity can also be the soul of pre-game programming.
3. Please limit the cross-promotional nonsense during the telecasting of games. If you have to have someone “drop in spontaneously” to the announcing booth during a game, make it an annual event not a weekly event.
4. For the folks at FOX Sports, please dismantle the “Fox Robot” at the bottom of the screen during NFL telecasts.
5. Cease and desist any and all coverage of high school kids in the process of signing letters of intent regarding where they will go to college to play whatever sport they have excelled in at the high school level.
6. For the directors of sports telecasts, please find other things to show besides stupid crowd shots and intense close-ups of players/coaches/managers during games. When I watch an “old game” on ESPN Classic, there are only a few crowd shots and they do not intend to glorify some idiot in the stands who has painted himself, cross-dressed and put on a hog snout, or adopted a persona. The vast majority of the viewing audience does not care about those fools. Nor does the vast majority of the viewing audience care to stare up the nostrils of a pitcher who is contemplating what to do next with the batter at the plate.
7. For the folks at ESPN, please help Jon Gruden find work as a head coach in the NFL.
8. When starting lineups get to introduce themselves, insist that they state the college they are from and not some unintelligible shout out to some high school. If they won’t put that audio on tape for you, show a stock photo of them with a written graphic under it.
Basketball can improve itself with a few changes:
1. Limit the number of time-outs that teams have in the final four minutes of a game to two per team. It does not matter how many a team has “saved” until then; once the clock says four minutes to go, each team has 2 left.
2. Have the officials move the game along quickly during dead balls in the final four minutes too. Every time there is a dead ball, there is no need for a 30-second break in the game while coaches talk to players or players huddle in the lane. The resumption of the game is at the discretion of the official; when he declares the ball in play, things start to happen and rules about who has to be where apply. Referees can do a lot to reduce the “dead time” at the end of basketball games.
3. Disallow consecutive time-outs. When teams return to the court after a time-out, the ball must be put in play on the court before another time-out can be called by either team.
4. For college basketball folks, please get rid of the possession arrow.
Baseball can improve itself with these three changes:
1. No more artificial turf fields.
2. No more “chats” with the managers during game telecasts.
3. A mandatory minimum of one day baseball game during each World Series.
The NHL would be better off with a simple and hugely obvious change:
1. Remove teams from Phoenix, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta and Nashville. Relocate 3 teams to Winnipeg, Southern Ontario/Toronto and Quebec City. Disband the other two teams.
College football can contribute to deficit reduction in various States of the Union with one simple change:
1. Stop having football coaches escorted by their State Police officers when they go to a bowl game or to a visiting state for a game. If the coaches really need police protection – - really? – -, why can’t the host state provide it? Saves cost of travel for State Police officers and puts more officers at work in the business of crime solving and crime prevention for those days when they are otherwise occupied protecting a college football coach in the middle of a game.
The NFL can always improve itself. Consider these changes:
1. No more timeouts in the final seconds to ice the kicker. Either call the timeout with 15 seconds left on the play clock or the kick goes as it will.
2. Each and every time any player or coach on offense or defense or on the sidelines does the “toss the flag pantomime”, a 15-yard penalty will be assessed with a loss of down on offense or an automatic first down if on defense. If more than one player/coach does it, make it a 30-yard penalty. That nonsense has to stop somewhere.
3. The distinction between “running into the kicker” and “roughing the kicker” requires some judgment by the officials, but it seems to have worked relatively well for several decades now. Why not apply the lessons learned there to “roughing the QB”?
Golf also needs two simple changes:
1. Players in tournaments need time limits. From the moment a player tees off on the first hole, a clock runs. If a player is still on the course after 4 hours, he gets a 4 stroke penalty; after 4 hours and 5 minutes he is disqualified. There is no need to make “reading every putt” into a committee event that takes longer than Middle East Peace negotiation sessions.
2. Since golf carts are anathema to the PGA – - except for when the Supreme Court says they may be used of course – - why not make “walking” really and truly part of the sport by eliminating caddies in PGA Tour events and making the golfers drag their own carts? When a baseball player slides into second base, he does not have a valet rush to his assistance to get the dirt off his uniform.
Of course, in any compilation such as this, there are things that are worthy of inclusion but which just do not fit comfortably anywhere. In this years “Miscellaneous Changes” category, consider:
1. Call an immediate end to all championship teams visiting the White House. Talk about something that has outlived its usefulness…
2. When a coach signs a contract somewhere and then works through a smarmy agent to get a new and bigger contract after a few winning seasons or one hugely successful season, that coach should be made to honor the original contract. He gets a new contract because he won? What did he sign on to do in the first place, lose?
3. When stadiums/arenas are built or renovated with taxpayer funds – - via municipal bonds or any other funding mechanism – - the residents of that area who are paying for the stadiums should be given preferential ticket prices with a hard ceiling on what they can become each year for the lifetime of the stadium/arena. If those folks are paying to build the place, they ought to get some relief if they choose to attend a game in the place they helped to build.
4. World Cup soccer games should never be decided by penalty kicks. After the standard 30-minute overtime if the score is still tied, allow each team to substitute 2 more players AND make each team play with only 8 players in front of the goaltender. That will open the field for more scoring chances. Make that into sudden-death play – - or a “golden goal” as FIFA refers to it.
Finally, here is a change that I would love to see but it would probably require legislation in all the stadium jurisdictions to make it happen. Nonetheless, let me put it out there for folks to think about:
1. Any idiot/attention-whore who thinks it is a good idea to run out onto a field of play or a court during a game has given the local police and/or the security contingent at the game a full license to TASER him up to a maximum of 5 times while on the field. It will eventually reduce the number of such incidents; in the meantime, we can enjoy watching the attention-whore get all of the attention he/she desires while twitching uncontrollably on the ground.
Happy Hew Year everyone.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………