A Fair Conversation About Sports

By Michael Hawkins

I want to consider five sports. One is loved around the world for some mysterious reason and the other four are the major ones in the U.S.: soccer, basketball, football, baseball, hockey.

Soccer – Does anyone understand this? It’s utterly perplexing, isn’t it? This is the most popular sport in the world yet it manages to be the most boring. Sure, I get the poorer people of the world playing it because it is so relatively cheap, but what is everyone else’s excuse? What about the organizations with all their money? Surely millions of dollars are not worth such immense boredom. And the players! They take dives more than Michael Phelps. “Ouchie, ouchie, my knee! This is the worst injury anyone has ever had! Ever! …oh, the ref has made his call and play is continuing? Well then, I guess I’m fine.” Sissies.

Basketball – Is there a sport where the final minutes are more boring than this (besides soccer)? Specifically, the NBA has royally screwed up the final two minutes of any close game. Here are the final plays from any given NBA game that is moderately close: foul, foul, time out, time out, foul, foul, TV time out, foul, TV time out, foul, foul, gun fight, foul, foul, time out, foul, game over.

Football – This is getting warmer, but still misses the mark a little, especially where the NFL is concerned. First of all, stop throwing so many flags. Some of the most exciting plays I’ve ever seen have been ruined because some jackass threw a flag. And roughing the passer? It’s football. Roger Goodell really messed this one up in recent years. But has there been a worse commissioner? For any sport? Ever? Maybe David Stern. Of course, to be fair, it should be noted that the way each guy has made his league into a matter of playing the clock – not anything remotely close to athletics – is equally terrible.

Baseball – Here we go. America’s pastime. Is it 0-0 in the ninth? Well, unlike soccer, this is an exciting score. It means there’s probably been a pitcher’s duel going on. Oh, is it 10-9 in the ninth? Who doesn’t love a slugfest? And how about the constant spectacular defense at the highest level? Now if only Bug Selig could get a real salary cap going.

Hockey – We have a winner. This is the most underrated sport around. Those sissy dives in soccer? Go to the box for two minutes. The constant time outs and clock management in the NBA? No problem. Teams only get one timeout per game. Hitting a guy too hard? There are protections so guys don’t get hurt, but they aren’t as silly as what Roger Goodell has done in the NFL. And do search for the YouTube video titled “Milan Lucic hits Mike Van Ryn through the Glass”.

And the final two minutes of a hockey game cannot be ignored. These are the most exciting minutes in sports. The flurry of shots, the fast pace, the pulled goalie. Nothing can beat the end of a close hockey game.

But of course, the biggest complaint people raise about the sport is fighting. First, no one seems to want to watch college hockey where fighting is non-existent, so one has to question the validity of this issue in terms of why people refuse to watch the NHL. Second, the fighting isn’t an arbitrary show of aggression. It’s a demonstration of passion – passion to fight for one’s team, passion to win the game. What’s more, it keeps things in check. Fighting is counter-intuitively what helps to keep the play clean.

There you have it. This assessment should be regarded as authoritative and objective. Any dissent is definitively wrong – especially if that dissent contends that any of this article is mere opinion about something relatively trivial.

Play a Fair Game, Goodell

This article had a few words cut off the end. It is unclear what those words should have been, so that final sentence has been cut from this version.

By Michael Hawkins

The No Fun League is a pretty terribly run organization. It’s certainly an excellent business, but it’s pretty crap as far as quality sporting goes. From the tinker bell Roughing the Passer rule to the 6 required flags per play, the games are sometimes difficult to watch. It’s still a great sport and I’m not about to abandon my patriots, but c’mon. The rules make it a little onerous to enjoy at times.

The worst rule, perhaps, is for overtime (OT). The team that wins the coin toss gets to win the game. Not literally, of course, but it may as well be that way. It’s sudden death, so it’s a matter of moving down the field within 45ish yards of a field goal and booting that through. If they make it, the game’s over. It’s inane. I mean, hell, a game of beer pong even allows for rebuttal (depending on house rules; check with your local party animal for details).

What the NFL needs to do is play a full 15 minutes in OT. Make it a real game; make it a fair game. They won’t be that sensible, but a new rule has been proposed.

The competition committee recommended…to the 32 owners that a team losing the coin toss and then surrendering a field goal on the first possession should have a series of its own in OT. Such a rules change would need 24 votes for ratification.

This is still fundamentally unfair since it only applies to field goals. The first team to get the ball still has a huge advantage because if it scores a touchdown, the other team has no offensive reply. This is effectively half a football game: one offense, one defense. Goodell et al are making progress, but they’re being jackasses about it. They aren’t managing the superior sport of hockey where the beginning to any period is fundamentally fair. They’re dealing with a different scenario, a different sport, and they need to realize that. If they play a full 15, the coin toss becomes less relevant; all sports should reject embracing the role of chance. Let it come on its own.

And hell, if they want to copy the NHL so much, take a man away for the OT quarter. That’s probably a terrible idea, but 1) it would be hilarious to see the league contend with such a radical change and 2) it would be better than giving the game away to the team that happens to win the coin toss.