Wednesday, January 6, 2010
On The Rules
I bring this up because ESPN the Magazine ran a clever package this week, in which they suggested 31 minor rule changes that could actually improve sports. I agree with some, and I vehmently disagree with others, but it always fascinating to see something like this and realize how much of sport is derived from a tradition that may or may not be based in any sort of rational thought. We simply assume things are the way they are because that's the way they should be, even when we know they shouldn't.
So here are three suggestions I would add, specifically targeted to college football:
1. Disregard 87 percent of Peter Keating's ideas about fixing overtime; first of all, he calls baseball's overtime rules "great," and we all know that nothing has been great about baseball since 1994**. About the absurdity of college football overtime's statistics and yardage counting in the record books, he is utterly correct; all overtime numbers, with the exception of the score, should be disregarded. About college football's overtime process somehow being disconnected from the spirit of the enterprise, he is horribly misguided. College football's overtime is a strategic nirvana. College football's overtime is essentially a compressed version of the game itself, which is exactly what it should be, with one exception: Teams should take over at the 35, rather than the 25. This way, they would actually be forced (in most situations) to advance forward in order to gain three points. This way, overtime periods would sometimes end with neither team scoring at all, which would remedy Keating's concern over 61-58 final scores and inject another level of strategery into a system that is infinitely more perfect than the NFL's coin-toss solution.
2. Graduation rates should somehow be tied into the BCS formula. That is, if the NCAA is actually serious about maintaining the ruse that amateurism still exists, and that a playoff does not exist because it will somehow cause several Texas linemen to miss their Candlepin Bowling final, then they should actually put some stock in these numbers. Either that, or they should just give up and embrace corruption and pay off everyone involved in the sport. Starting with the writers.
3. Bring back the five-yard facemask penalty. Apparently, it was abolished because it involved "interpretation" by an official, and interpretation is apparently too much for an official to handle when he is trying to avoid being mauled by several men the size of wheat threshers. This seems dubious, since the difference between a five-yard facemask and a 15-yard facemask can generally be interpreted in a matter of seconds by my girlfriend, who watches approximately three football games every year. I also understand that there is a safety issue here, but I presume that most football players don't set out to rip off helmets; it just happens. In fact, shouldn't this be the very reason to distinguish between an inadvertent facemask and a blatant (and sometimes intentional) facemask? Isn't this like the difference between grazing an old lady on a crowded subway, and punching an old lady in the face?
*Yeah, that's him. Welcome, Chuckolytes.
**Though I applaud Terry Pendleton on his election to the Hall of Fame.