Look, we all know the NFL screwed up royally. Colin Kaepernick initiated the anthem kneeling, things got divisive, and the fans began to flee the game. To say Roger Goodell and the League fumbled this issue is quite blatant, and the protests themselves have had little effect, given the only thing accomplished at all was Papa John losing his job.
So looking beyond that obviousness let’s look elsewhere for fixes in sports. Some are small, some major, but all are intended to improve the experience for the most important component to any athletic endeavor — us, the fans. So, here are some suggestions for the upcoming seasons.
No More Pink in October
Maybe an uncomfortable position, but the NFL spent many past Octobers highlighting breast cancer awareness. Chartreuse ruled the month as players wear pink cleats, gloves and towels. The ribbons are painted on the field, the goal posts are wrapped, and even referees sport pink wristbands. The league is notorious for fining players who deviate even slightly with uniform standards, but in October teams are homogenized visually as they allow stadiums to resemble Hello Kitty outlet stores. Thankfully, after the Komen Foundation became toxic, they have diversified slightly by giving teams the option to highlight other cancer causes. However in the end it is almost purely an “awareness” campaign; with all the hype in the past it was found only 8% of retail proceeds actually went to breast cancer research.
Ending Baseball Bench-clearing “Brawls”
Beyond the clear leader being hockey, surprisingly in the four major sports baseball provides the second-best fighting. (Football involves guys briefly punching helmets, and the NBA bouts are just plain embarrassing.) In MLB when a fight ensues the combatants usually make some good contact. But then the benches clear, and dozens of men pour onto the field in support by… glowering and shouting. Then, most pathetic of all, the bullpen occupants “join” in on the “melee”. Third-string catchers and middle relievers trot out 100 yards and by the time they reach the infield the fight is already over, and fans are heading for the beer stand. Just stay on the bench, you posturing spectators.
Banning The Use Of “Momentum”
Announcers use this nebulous term so often we as fans have come to accept it without much analysis. During the course of a game one team will seemingly be playing consistently well, and without another way to explain why, a commentator will declare “momentum is on their side”. While it sounds trenchant and on point, this explanation withers under direct questioning. How did a team acquire this beneficial trait? How exactly is it helping them? If it is so beneficial how come it swings to the other team so freely?
A prime example of this vacuous pronouncement was seen in the recent college football Championship. After halftime Alabama was playing strong, scoring a touchdown, and then pinning Georgia deep in their end of the field, with the defense playing well. Kirk Herbstreet declared “Alabama has all the momentum right now!” Then, within a handful of plays, Georgia struck for an 80 yard touchdown. So when Alabama was supposedly in possession of this truthfully useless factor it basically was of no help to them at all. Let’s just let this analytical be carried off by its own momentum.
Goalie Gear Shrinkage In The NHL
One of the constant headaches league officials contend with is how to generate more scoring on a per-game average. Goalie gear is a regular focus, as the leg pads, gloves, and under guards seemingly give little daylight to the netting behind them. One reason the gear should shrink is a frequently overlooked detail; goalies have become immense in size. In Dallas Ben Bishop is the biggest to ever crouch in the crease at 6’7”, and he is indicative of the trend. Roughly two decades ago the average goalie was 5’11”, and more than half were under six feet tall. These days the average goalie is over 6’2”, and less than half come in under that mark. Add weight routines and improved tactics and it becomes a small miracle that any pucks get past them.
Traveling In The NBA
Yes, I know – hardly original. This has been a winked at issue in both the pro and college game for generations. But then why not just change the rules to a 3-step allowance? The only time it is called is when a player blatantly walks and voluntarily stops play because even he knows it is to finally be whistled. What few will admit or acknowledge about this lack of enforcement is when the biggest plays and highlight reel dunks are replayed on SportsCenter they lose impact in slow motion once we see them taking 3 steps to execute.
Fan Ballots For All-Star Games
Look, I understand the concept; the All-Star Game is for fans mostly (something I declared as the thrust of this piece) and this generates interest. However the cachet attached to appearing in these games carries significant benefits for players in career enhancement whether it is impacting contracts, free agent value, and/or post-career consideration for inductions. These are measurements supposing All-Star appearances were a merit-based accolade, when in fact they are popularity contests. Teams lobbying on behalf of a particular player, and fans leveraging the internet and social media to boost election returns differ wildly from career-achievement earning the player a spot.
Players Announcing Their First-Down
A running back breaks through the line for a lengthy gain, or a receiver catches a long pass on a needed third down conversion. After these players are stopped they shoot up and jut an arm out towards the end zone to declare they have achieved the needed yardage. They do this despite that referees are already tasked with this job, and those watching at home are gifted with a computer-generated first-down line superimposed on the field. We already know of your accomplishment; your gesticulating only makes the achievement insufferable.
The Major League Soccer Schedule
The MLS schedule opens up on the first week of March. And it goes on seemingly forever. At best teams play only once a week in a 34 game schedule. Part of why this seems labored is that as the season begins the NHL and NBA are in swing; towards the end of the year those two sports will again be playing at the same time, but in completely different seasons! If a team does well and makes the playoffs they will still be playing in November. That means after 9 months of intermittent play, if the fans are still interested, the finals are up against most major sports at the same time. And this season it becomes even more prolonged. There will be a 9 day layoff as teams break for the World Cup this summer.
Football Announcers Trophies
Jon Gruden just signed to coach the Oakland Raiders. This means that we will be spared his over enthusiastic presentation of “Gruden’s Grinder” at the end of the Monday Night Football broadcast. It was his way of honoring a player who he felt delivered a noteworthy performance, and ultimately it means very little. John Madden may have kicked off this type of tradition, by handing out a turkey leg to the best player of the Thanksgiving game. Not to be left behind Phil Simms, during the other Thanksgiving broadcast, grants his “All Iron Award” ) which has some roots in his willingness to iron his own shirts while travelling???) These are wholly contrived and meant to only fill post-game airtime as players force excitement at being presented, shedding even less significance when multiple winners are frequently “honored”.
The NIT Basketball Tournament
This consolation competition is held for those schools that did not qualify for the March Madness Men’s Basketball Championship. The honor is rather muted, as this essentially consists of those teams hovering around the .500 winning percentage. Given that the Madness now encapsulates 68 teams, playing in the NIT Tournament is a notable relegation, and teams that have won this title basically lay claim to being the 69th Best Team in the country.