By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
You might remember One Great Season's "The Best & Worst of ESPN" survey we published last month. It was such a hit that the OGS executive team asked me to crank out a new survey every month. So I asked some sportswriters and bloggers to answer this question: "If you could change one thing about sports, what would it be?" Of course, sportswriters being sportswriters, many gave me several things they'd change about sports. They've been appropriately disciplined.
Len Berman, Sports Broadcasting Legend — A pitch clock in baseball posted in the stadium. Throw home in 20 seconds or it's a ball. And don't let the batter out of the box unless he has an appendicitis attack.
Erica Boeke, Author, "GameFace: The Kick-Ass Guide For Women Who Love Pro Sports" — I would definitely shorten the MLB season. The NFL is the only league that gets it; its season is the perfect length. We ache for the NFL during the offseason. Every single game matters. My team won the World Series this year and I couldn't even muster up that much excitement. MLB has not kept up with the waning attention span of our fast-paced world. If pitchers and catchers report in February, and the season is not done until early November, that only gives us three months without baseball. Not nearly enough time to pine over America's pastime.
Jacqueline Conrad, St. Louis Cardinals Blogger — If I could change one thing in sports, it would be the classism that has become more prominent in all areas of sport. From outrageous salaries that lead to athletes being totally out of touch with reality and average fans, to ticket prices that enable mostly the wealthy or well connected to attend major sporting events such as the Super Bowl or World Series, to the actual structure and design of our stadiums and ball parks, our sports have evolved into something resembling the Roman Empire.
Paul Daugherty, Cincinnati Enquirer Columnist — Ban guaranteed, multi-year contracts. Eliminate instant replay, in all sports.
Mark Ennis, Louisville Cardinals Blogger — If I could change one thing about the sports world, I would get rid of the BCS and institute some kind of a playoff. I have grown completely weary of all of the biases and prejudices on display in BCS title-game debates and would like to see it simply get settled on the field. I think it would be fine to have no more than eight teams in a playoff and the interest would just be astronomical. Imagine a college football season where there's no more trying to pick a champion with debates and arguments that are more appropriate for a philosophy class than for sports. It's killing the college football season every year it drags on.
John Fay, Cincinnati Reds Beat Writer — I think there needs to be a college football playoff. The current system is so flawed and unfair to the non-BCS schools. I'd go with eight teams. That way, you salvage the big bowls -- rotate to the championship game among the bowls like they do now. Next on my list would be shortening the baseball season. It needs to end in October. Go back to 154 games.
Michael Felder, College Football Blogger — I'm petty but I'd change the one thing that has been bothering me in football since my playing days; the forward-progress rule. It only helps the offense, continually hurts the defense and there is no "real" way to enforce it. Either call it both ways or blow the ball dead quicker.
Alyson Footer, Houston Astros Beat Writer — I would shorten the regular season by one week and make the Division Series a best-of-seven instead of a best-of-five. It is, in my opinion, completely unfair that after playing for sixth months straight and totalling 162 games over 186 days, a playoff team can be bounced after only three games, at the minimum. Baseball is not made for short series and to play that long and that hard and be done so quickly is not right.
Jeff Garcia, San Antonio Spurs Blogger — Ending David Stern's trend of controlling player's emotions. We all heard about the "Respect for the Game" rules in this new NBA season. Basically any player who voices his displeasure or shows displeasure with a ref's call is subject to a quick technical call. This is sapping the total experience and is killing the NBA and the fan enjoyment.
Lee Gerowitz, Television Producer — I would abolish labeling any sport above the high school level as "amateur." Athletes all get paid in some way, shape or form, whether it's legally via scholarships or illegally. Even many Olympic athletes get paid by sponsors or their respective countries. Amateur sports above the high school level have been gone for a long time.
Jeff Gluck, Sports Blogger — Reformat soccer, so the World Cup would be the league. Everything else would feed from the World Cup league. Also, Song Girls at every sporting event. Lastly and most seriously, redesign the Cincinnati Bengals' uniforms and helmets.
Lisa Horne, FOXSports.com College Football Writer — Have major division 1A power schools jump ship from the NCAA and form their own league, since the NCAA won't even take ownership of determining its own national champion in football. It'll never happen, of course, but it would make a powerful statement.
Ben Jackey, Former Television Reporter — Require college basketball players to stay three years. I grew up loving a game where I got to see teens turn into men — not just physically, but mentally. They learned the meaning of team. And some, believe it or not, learned how valuable that degree could be in case they didn’t become NBA stars. Unfortunately, "one-and-dones" are ruining the sport. Most 5-star players are coming to campus with no intention of becoming a student-athlete. Some won't even attend class past the first month of the second semester. The most talented young players are leaving the college ranks to flounder in the NBA until they gain the experience they could have gotten in college. The Kevin Durants of the world are the exception. The NFL requires an athlete to wait three years to ensure they're ready physically. The NBA should do the same to ensure players are mentally ready. Somebody ask Sebastian Telfair how skipping college is working out for him?
Raphielle Johnson, College Basketball Writer — If there's one thing I'd want to change in sports it would be the "hands-off" role that the NCAA has played in conference realignment. They say their job is to "closely monitor the developments and potential impacts," but given the reason why these moves are taking place (football) and the arms race going on in terms of facilities, shouldn't they be more hands on? Schools are cutting non-revenue sports while at the same time funneling more money into football and basketball. If you're not going to play a role in the determination of a national champion, at the very least more should be done in regards to the impact that major college football has on athletics.
Troy Machir, College Basketball Blogger — I would want to allow controlled fighting in all major sports. Now just hear me out. Hockey does it and it works. Yes, I know the punches aren't as hard because they are on skates, but still, this would add a whole new level to every pro sporting event. You would have to limit it to just two men, no crazy full-team melees, because we don't want to give the fans the impression that anarchy rules. I know bench-clearing brawls in baseball look cool, but in all reality, after the first punch, which usually misses, it's just a pile-on for about 15 minutes. If a player charges the mound, let him finish his business. If the player charges due to a bean ball, the player forfeits his right to a free base. If the pitcher does it on more than one occasion, he is removed from the game. In football, you could let them brawl all they want because they are wearing helmets. In basketball you could allow punches until someone hits the floor. Now again, in hockey this works because of penalties, but you could adjust for other sports. In basketball, it could be an ejection for a full half or quarter. In football, it could be the same, or a 20- or 30-yard penalty.
Stewart Mandel, Sports Illustrated College Football Writer — If I could, I would institute a plus-one tomorrow. I’m not a playoff guy – the BCS honchos are in fact correct in that a full-blown playoff would ruin college football’s uniquely meaningful regular season – but they have no legitimate excuse against expanding to four teams when it would not affect the regular season or bowl schedule. All it would do is prevent situations like this year’s where two very deserving, undefeated teams will have no shot at a title, and make two of the BCS bowls (the semifinals) more meaningful in the process.
Ramzy Nasrallah, Ohio State Football Writer — When you're given just one thing you can change about all of sports, it puts a lot of pressure on you to make a grand intervention that dramatically shifts the complexion of the game. Since making just one change begs of vague, sweeping and void of vital details, I would do the following: Every time a wide receiver in any level of football makes the "throw-a-flag" motion after an incomplete pass, call a five-yard delay of game penalty with the corresponding referee signal being drama-queen jazz hands.
Chad Potier, LSU Sports Blogger — The one thing I would change would be big-money contracts to NFL rookies. I think it is wrong that owners give tens of millions of dollars to unproven players. Take Matt Stafford, for example: $47 million and he's hurt again this season. Prove yourself before you get paid, as simple as that.
Mike Royer, Newspaper Illustrator — I'd make it an automatic 15-yard penalty every time a football player motions with his hand like he's throwing a flag for pass interference.
Barrett Sallee, SEC Football Writer — As a college football writer, you'd expect me to say something like "the BCS" or "out-of-conference scheduling," or that ridiculous timeout before the field goal rule. But no, the thing that I would change in the sports world is the designated hitter in baseball. Like Kevin Costner said in "Bull Durham," there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing it. Pitchers are baseball players and baseball players should hit. The strategy involved in National League baseball games is far more intriguing to me than the American League style, where a roided-out monster stands at the plate and swings for the fences five times a day and then hits the showers instead of the pitcher hitting.
Bruce Sholl, OGS Contributor — One thing that really irks me is that in 2010 it is still almost impossible to watch the games you want to see on television with basic cable. You have to opt into some kind of "plan" which allows you to watch all of that particular sport. Give the people what they want. I want 70 channels of college football. I want to be able to watch any NFL or MLB or NHL game I want whenever I want, without some kind of lame online blocky-digital crap. Instead of having 600 channels of stuff nobody watches, just redistribute all these games and watch the ad revenue erupt!
Steve Susi, OGS Contributor — More than the possession arrow, MLB's preposterous ignorance of steroids (and subsequent play-acting that they didn't encourage it in the 1980s and 90s for financial gain), toothless rednecks from the SEC with no sense of history, and the press bestowing upon uneducated NCAA football players the benefit of the doubt over "shady" sports agents (who've been around for decades), I wish ESPN would stop pretending women's sports are as large a draw as men's. I'm not saying I don't love women's sports. I'm merely taking ESPN to task for insulting its audience's intelligence. They actually think so highly of themselves that they dictate to the market. Meanwhile, the WNBA has never made money in its 13-season history — and its losses are paid for by the NBA, a men's league. Sure, it's a future-play business, but c'mon. The sky isn't red, no matter how many times ESPN tells me it is. Stop it and find another way.
Jeff Wallner, Freelance Sportswriter — That's easy, a true playoff for college football. And when I say "true" I mean no band-aid approach incorporating the bowls etc. I'm talking about an NFL-esque true playoff with a neutral-site championship game at the end. Higher seeds get home field (yep, if Michigan is the higher seed, Florida's truckin' to Ann Arbor for a game in December). I can only dream.
Matt Zemek, College Football Writer — The NFL making a full-fledged and sincere no-bullshit commitment to player safety. Making football a sport that won't create 40-year-old vegetables with 90-year-old brains is the most urgent issue facing any American sport. Helmets need added hard-soft-hard layers that can withstand punishment yet cushion blows and reduce the impact of helmet-to-helmet contact, which will always happen in the sport, intentional or not.