Minneapolis Just as the calendar year begins when the ball drops in Times Square, so the new sports year begins with the falling of confetti at the Super Bowl.
As we belly-crawl through the briny muck of the swampy segment of the sports calendar known as February, this is a good time to fix everything that is wrong with the world of perspiring arts (as legendary Dallas Morning News columnist Blackie Sherrod called them).
Here is one man’s Sports Reformation:
Pro hockey: There aren’t enough skilled players to make the average game interesting, the shootout is silly and teams are given a point even when they effectively have lost the contest, making the NHL the professional version of fifth grade in-house soccer (congratulations, Little Billy, you didn’t fall down! Here’s a medal!)
Every game should be worth a winner-takes-all two points.
Get rid of the shootout, and make teams play 4-on-4, then 3-on-3, then 2-on-2, then 1-on-1 until there is a winner.
Pro basketball: Install new contract and salary cap rules that make it easier to trade star players. I keep hearing complaints about the attention being paid to the potential Carmelo Anthony trade, but the speculation has been the most interesting aspect of the league for the past two months. You don’t expect the average sports fan to care about regular-season NBA games, do you?
It’s not that there needs to be less talk; it’s that there needs to be more action. The NBA should be like your buddies’ fantasy basketball league: Stars should be shuffled all season, until you have superpowers vying in the playoffs.
College basketball: The best college game of the season might have been played between UCLA and Cal. Why? Because both of the coaches burned their timeouts early, so Cal’s comeback and UCLA’s eventual game-winning rally occurred in real time, with frenetic end-to-end runs and the players making decisions on the fly.
What, you’d rather see windbag coaches stopping the action every 20 seconds to draw up inbounds plays that don’t work?
Pro baseball: If a pitcher steps off the rubber or a batter steps out of the box during an at-bat, he shall be tasered by that Philly security guard who nailed the fleeing loser fan in the back last season.
Pro football: Simplify the rules regarding violence: If you hit an opponent in the head, you are ejected, fined and suspended. We’re allowing people to be damaged for our entertainment. We need to become more humane.
College football: Duh. A playoff. Think about this: If the NFL had set up the same postseason structure as the NCAA, the Patriots and Falcons would have played in the Super Bowl on March 14, and we would have skipped the three weekends of playoffs that proved to be the highlight of the season.
Soccer: Install a shot clock. If a team doesn’t shoot within one minute, the other team gets the ball at midfield.