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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Sports: Changing the Rules 

USA Today writers offer ten changes they'd like to see made in sports. While I agree with some of their ideas, I have a few issues with others.

No. 10: Drop the possession arrow in college basketball
No complaint here. Make every tie-up a jump ball.

No. 9: Change the NFL overtime rule to give each side at least one possession
A happy median has to exist between the flawed OT rules in both college and pro football. The NFL's system isn't the sideshow that you see in the NCAA, but it's inherently unfair for the team that faces the unlucky prospect of losing a coin toss. I never understood why sudden death couldn't include the provision that if a team surrenders a TD on the initial OT possession, they still get the opportunity to score themselves.

No. 8: Lower ticket prices
Right. Let's force owners to drop ticket prices, because that really fits into our capitalist economic system. Hey, I'd love to spend less money each Fall on Longhorn games, but are high ticket prices really that big of a problem?

No. 7: Pay college athletes in revenue-generating sports
Once we start paying college athletes, I'm sure that ADs will make lowering ticket prices a priority. I do think that athletes deserve a little something more than what they get. After all, a promising engineering or business student can hold lucrative interships, while athletes can't even work part-time jobs. But paying athletes opens a Pandora's Box, and limiting payments to just those in revenue sports sounds even more problematic. Some sort of sensible stipend seems like the best course of action.

No. 6: Cut player salaries/institute hard cap
Now we delve into typical sportswriter garbage. Players make to much money! For shame! I think sportswriters make too much money. If any of those hacks could run a 4.4 forty, then I guarantee you they'd tout the capitalistic merit of free enterprise. I'll agree that salaries are somewhat ridiculous, but look what the hard cap has done to the NFL. Parity has become so prevalent that it's almost impossible to sustain a lengthy run of success. Good teams see their rosters dwindle, not because of age or injury, but mostly because of financial reasons. The hard cap is a detriment. If a salary cap is necessary, then I'd prefer to see teams adopt the NBA's soft cap. At least teams that make investments in developing players can keep those players if and when they ultimately reach their potential.

No. 5: Enforce penalties to stop fighting in the NHL
The NHL faces bigger problems than this these days, like, for instance, staying in existence. I'm not convinced that eliminating fighting is a good thing anyway. I've read the argument that without fighting -- hockey's self-policing system -- cheap shots are more likely to go unpunished, thus raising the level of dirty play.

No. 4: Drop the DH in baseball
No problem here. The DH eliminates strategy, and turns baseball into home run derbey.

No. 3: Shorten all seasons except for the NFL's
Wow, yet another incentive for owners to slash ticket prices. Honestly, I wouldn't mind seeing baseball revert to 154 games, if only to more accurately compare stats (in relation to records) between eras. But shortening seasons simply for the sake of making them shorter holds little merit. If someone doesn't have the attention span to maintain interest, then buy a PS2 and any of a number of sports titles. You can simulate full seasons in minutes.

No. 2: Test for performance-enhancing drugs across sports
It's a noble gesture, but beyond that, how does drug testing ultimately benefit sports? Someone can always find a way to beat the system.

No. 1: Devise a Division I-A college football playoff system
It sounds great on paper. Then you look at making it happen and it's a lot more complicated than it sounds. Of course you can't convince the hardcore playoff afficianados of that. Personally I think that the most realistic option involving college football would be to extend the bowls by an additional game and match up the two highest-ranked teams following the BCS in a championship game.

Later today I'll post my own list of changes I'd like to see made in sports.


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