The 10 Dumbest Things in Sports

I love sports, but that doesn’t mean they’re perfect. Here are ten things that drive me crazy on a regular basis, in order of increasing stupidity:

10. The scoring system in tennis
Love? 15? 30? 40? Deuce? Actually, I kind of like “deuce.” But why not just go to four, win by two. It’s the exact same thing and a lot easier to follow when you’ve already thrown back a couple of Bloody Marys.

9. The overkill of NASCAR
Does it really take 500 laps to figure out which car and driver are the fastest? Here’s an idea: Make every race 50 to 100 laps and limit the number of pit stops. Every decision will be magnified and second-guessed and strategy will become an even bigger part of the sport.

8. Offsides (in soccer and hockey)
Anytime that you have defenders trying to encourage offsides calls by pulling up as they run/skate back to protect their goal, it’s not a good thing. There’s no offsides in basketball and it works just fine. When Randy Moss outruns a cornerback, play doesn’t stop because he has a clear path to the endzone. Why not reward anticipation and speed, and make soccer and hockey that much more exciting by creating a flurry of one-on-one situations between the striker/forward and the goalie?

7. The Pro Bowl
Why? What’s the point? For years, the Pro Bowl was played in Hawaii after the Super Bowl, which is like going to a concert where the headliner plays before the supporting act. To its credit, the NFL finally realized it had a wet turd on its hands and moved the game to Miami to take place before the Super Bowl. This should help, but football is a violent sport, so why play the game at all? Guys don’t want to get hurt, so they’re only going to go half speed. Plus, with all the guys scratching due to injury and the players that won’t play because their team made the big game, the rosters aren’t nearly as good as they could be. Just forget it — hand out All-NFL awards and be done with it.

6. The NBA age limit
I was once a proponent of an age limit, but not anymore. It’s not that the NBA doesn’t have every right to restrict who can and cannot join the league — they do — but the age limit (19) is wreaking havoc on college basketball. Many of the top freshmen that would have otherwise gone straight to the NBA are making a mockery of the term “student athlete.” They know they only have to stay eligible for one season, so they only really have to attend class for the fall semester. Coaches are burning hundreds of man hours trying to recruit players that they know are only going to play for one season before bolting for the NBA. Players that went straight from high school to the NBA have a higher success rate than any other sub-group, so why not let them in? The NBA wants to improve the quality of its product, and that’s commendable, but this is not the way to do it. Maybe they should expand roster sizes to 18 or 20 to allow rookies to develop in practice. I think that if a player is draft-worthy when he graduates high school, then he should be able to enter the NBA. If a player isn’t draft-worthy and goes to college, he should be required to stay for a minimum of two years. This format would allow surefire stars to enter the NBA immediately, and would increase the continuity of the college game while at the same time giving borderline NBA prospects an opportunity to develop in the collegiate ranks.

5. The seven-game series
I get it. Professional sports is a business and leagues like the NBA and NHL need to squeeze as much money out of their playoff systems as possible. (The seven-game series makes sense in baseball; teams need to be able to take advantage of a strong pitching rotation.) But playoff series in the NBA and NHL don’t truly get exciting until a team is facing elimination, which is why the single-elimination format is by far the most exciting. (March Madness and the NFL playoffs are two great examples.) While single-elimination is too much to ask for, how about a three- or five-game series? The fewer the games, the more that each game will mean. This creates drama and interest (and, ahem, ratings). There is still the opportunity for the much-ballyhooed “chess match,” but there will be a better chance that an underdog could pull the upset. I know this isn’t going to happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

4. Exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket
I live in a condo with no view of the southern horizon, so every Sunday, I have to pack up my laptop and head over to my buddy LaRusso’s house to watch Sunday Ticket on his DirecTV. Don’t get me wrong — I like hanging out with my friends, but this Sunday ritual is a pain in my ass. And it’s not a technology problem — it’s all about money for the NFL. They realize that Sunday Ticket is a valuable product, and they know that the package is the lifeblood of DirecTV. But enough is enough. DirecTV now has 18 million subscribers, so it’s time to offer Sunday Ticket to cable subscribers as well. I have no problem with the NFL’s desire to make a profit, but it’s not wise (or fair) to leave a good portion of your fan base out in the cold. Most of what the league garners in exclusive rights fees would be covered by a huge increase in its subscriber base. Enough.

3. Seasons that are just too long (MLB, NBA, NHL)
People say the NBA regular season doesn’t matter, and for the most part, they’re right. The NBA’s postseason is so inclusive that sub-.500 teams regularly make the playoffs, so the regular season becomes a grind because the good teams know that they’re going to make the postseason come hell or high water. Baseball has a less inclusive postseason, but a 162-game season makes each individual game fairly meaningless. Who wants to go to a game when it doesn’t really matter who wins? Of all the leagues, the NHL has the least to lose. They should toss out their current format, cut the regular season in half and drop the number of teams that make the postseason from 16 to eight or 12. Suddenly, every regular season game would be crucial to a team’s playoff hopes.

2. No salary cap in baseball
The top four payrolls in MLB — Yankees, Mets, Cubs and Red Sox — combine to spend more than the bottom ten. The Yankees alone outspend the Marlins, Padres, Pirates and Nationals combined. The Yankees’ payroll is 5.5 times the lowest payroll in the league (the Marlins). How can there be a level playing field when certain teams can afford to spend three or four or even five times as much as the competition? Sure, a small market team with savvy management can make a run every so often, but they can’t afford to keep their stars because the big market teams can simply outspend them. Forget ridiculous — this is ridonkulous. Yeah, I said it.

1. The BCS
The BCS is like a bad marriage. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but somewhere along the line, you realize that it’s an awful mess. You don’t know when it’s going to end, or how, but you know that one day it will be over. And that will be a fine, fine day. We ran a poll a while back and 90% of fans want to see some sort of playoff system in college football. The current system is so asinine and flawed that there’s no point in rehashing all that is wrong with it. I’m a proponent of an eight-team playoff where the six BCS conference champs get an automatic bid (unless they are ranked outside of the top 15). The first round of the playoffs would be held at the home stadiums of the higher seeds and the two semifinal games and title game can be rotated amongst the four BCS cities — Pasadena, Miami, New Orleans and Phoenix — so that they don’t lose any revenue under a new system. Television ratings for the non-title games would go through the roof. That would be like true love — everybody wins.

Those are my top 10…what is it about sports that drives you crazy?

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