October 15, 2009

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LONGSHOTS: Changes I’d like to see happen
by Dave Long

There has been a lot of whining in the early going of the NFL season over new rules to protect the quarterbacks. The Ravens did a lot of it after two penalties went against them in a 27-21 loss to the Patriots. One was questionable, even for the new rules, when Terrell Suggs was knocked down near the knees of Tom Brady. I don’t blame them on that one as he was knocked down in that direction.

Losing a big game on a bad call is always tough to take. But, sorry, Phil Simms has it right. The rule is the rule and they need to learn it so they stop hurting their team. And complaining about the officials is blaming the wrong people. The NFL Competition Committee made that rule and the refs are enforcing it. It’s like the Tuck rule, which many in Oakland believe cost them a trip to the Super Bowl. But, while it’s a bad rule, it’s still a rule and thus it was the correct call. And while we’re at it, I didn’t see anyone in Oakland throwing back their Super Bowl title after getting to the big game thanks to an awful roughing-the-passer call on Sugar Bear Hamilton and the Patriots that gave Kenny Stabler and the Raaaaayders a fresh set of downs in a critical moment in 1976. So I guess things even out. Which has already happened to the Pats, as the rules gave Buffalo first downs on drives that were dead, but kept alive after similar calls in the opening week that led to two TDs. 

All this has gotten me to thinking about other bad rules and decisions in sports that I hope will be changed in the future, including the following:

Sudden-Death Overtime in the NFL: After Sunday you knew this was coming. Not that the Patriots didn’t deserve to lose, but it just doesn’t make sense for a coin flip to give such a big edge. Especially when the reason is that’s the way we’ve always done it. The Change: Nothing radical like college football. Either play an entire quarter and if it’s still a tie, so be it. Or give each team the ball once and sudden death after that.

Suspensions After a Beanball Fight: While the fine money balances off, there’s no way a five-game suspension is the same for an everyday player and a starting pitcher. That’s an extra day’s rest for the pitcher while it’s five missed games for the hitter, which is much more damaging to his team. The Change: The hitter gets five games and the pitcher can’t pitch for 15 games — which is two starts. 

Penalties for Goalie Fights: This would be the stupidest of all if it weren’t for the MLB All-Star game. If a goalie gets into it with a guy who keeps standing in the crease, I get it. But like Patrick Roy’s son (who just pleaded guilty to assault for doing it), to race to the other end during a brawl to take on the other goalie who has done absolutely NOTHING to him is absurd. It’s an overt action that deserves more than a five-minute major. The Change: A five-game suspension for a premeditated act. And five more for general stupidity.

Pass Interference: There’s interference and there’s INTERFERENCE if you know what I mean. The lack of distinction cost the Patriots a touchdown in the Ben Watson chase down playoff game in the Denver house of horrors a few years back. And it’s used as a strategy where teams throw a jump ball way down field to create contact to get them a huge gain. Sometimes it’s inadvertent and it should be a lesser penalty than a blatant one to prevent a TD, like Ellis Hobbs should have done to Plaxico (Big House) Burress in the Super Bowl, but I digress. The Change: It should be like the face mask penalty once was. A 10-yarder for a clear but inadvertent bump and at the spot of foul or the one-yard line when it’s done to prevent a TD.

The Tuck Rule: It helped start a glorious run for your New England Patriots, but it’s a fumble anywhere else but in the NFL. The Change: Unless it’s a clear passing motion it’s a FUMBLE!

The DH: There shouldn’t be two different sets of rules for the AL and NL. That’s like having the East use the three-point shot and the West not. What do you do in the NBA Finals after those teams have played one way all year?  The Change: Either both leagues have it or both don’t. You decide.

The All-Star Game Determines Home Field in the World Series: This is the stupidest one of all and not just because it’s so obviously stupid. It’s because it has NOTHING to do with anything even remotely relating to the World Series. Through Bud Selig’s convoluted logic it’s done to make the All-Star game more relevant as it was back in the day by giving the players something to make them want to win more badly. Bud just doesn’t get that Elvis has left the building on this and, to quote Rick Pitino, he ain’t walking back through that door. So it will NEVER be anything but an exhibition game again, unless a radical change is made (see below). The Change: In every other sport known to man, the team that gets home court/field advantage in the playoffs gets it because they EARN it by having the best record. Why should it be any different in baseball? The answer is it shouldn’t.   

The All-Star Rosters: Here’s the problem with the game, Bud: it’s how the teams are picked, how many are picked and because it’s managed not to hurt anyone’s feelings. So it’s now an everybody-gets-in-the-game game, like Little League, with a 35-man roster so they don’t run out of players. If that’s OK for you, fine. But I’m not interested in that kind of game. I want it to mean something as it did when Pete Rose barreled over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 game. The game’s original competitiveness came from players wanting to prove the NL or AL was better. And then when the NL embraced African-American and Hispanic players more quickly during a time of great racial injustice, their feelings helped fuel  passions from the early ’50s into the mid-’80’s. That was real-life passion that can’t be returned through an artificial remedy. The Change: Scrap the current format for one that pits American players against the world in a best-of-three format that shuts the season down for a week. That would bring pride or fear of embarrassment back into the equation and attract nationalistic attention in the way the Ryder Cup does and the WBC can’t because of its timing.

If you’ve got some send them to me. 

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


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