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?

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NFL Network to offer its own RedZone channel

DirecTV subscribers may be wondering if the NFL Network’s new channel, “NFL RedZone” is the same as the RedZone Channel that is available as part of the Sunday Ticket package. The answer is yes…and no. It’s not the exact same channel. It has a different host and a different studio, but the concept is the same.

The channel will bounce around from game to game to show live action or instant highlights from a multitude of games. I’ve watched the DirecTV version for six hours straight, and it’s a great way for fantasy football enthusiasts to spend a Sunday. I assume that the NFL Network’s version will be just as good.

I have long been critical of the NFL’s decision to make the Sunday TIcket exclusive to DirecTV, largely because I’m a diehard Packer fan living in a California condo with no view of the southern horizon (making me one of the millions of football fans that simply can’t get DirecTV without moving). The DirecTV monopoly exclusive rights extend through 2014, though the package may be available to non-DirecTV subscribers in 2012. I mention the Sunday Ticket debacle because this NFL Network Red Zone channel is a step in the right direction.

Of course, the NFL Network is still at odds with several cable companies — including my carrier, Time Warner — as they haggle over carriage fees for the channel. Actually, “haggle” would imply that the two sides are negotiating. As far as I know, they’ve both walked away from the table.

The cable giant wants to offer NFL Network on a sports tier, while the NFL Network wants the channel to be on the basic tier, which due to its high carriage cost, would have a significant impact on the bottom line and increase cable rates for all subscribers. Essentially, the Network wants every subscriber to pay for the channel even if they don’t want it in their lineup.

It was one thing for Time Warner to walk away from negotiations when the NFL Network only carried eight games in a season, but now that TWC’s subscribers will be missing out on this new Red Zone channel, I’d expect the pressure to strike a deal will be amped up. I, for one, am not pleased that this product is readily available and the 2nd-largest cable company in the country does not offer it. What’s the point of having a monopoly if you aren’t going to use your negotiating power to get what you want?

Between the offering of exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket and the high carriage fees of the NFL Network (and presumably, the new RedZone channel), the NFL is not treating a subsection of its fan base very well.

We just want to watch the games — all of them. Why is the league making it so difficult for fans to consume its product?

NFL Sunday Ticket to be available to non-satellite customers

This is something that will make my TSR cohort John Paulsen happy…

Greg JenningsThe National Football League announced Monday an agreement to extend DirecTV’s rights to carry the NFL Sunday Ticket through the 2014 NFL season.

As part of the agreement, NFL fans who are not subscribers of DirectTV will be able to purchase the Sunday afternoon game package.

This service will be offered no later than 2012.

The NFL also announced it will offer fans (also no later than 2012) a new “Red Zone Channel” that shows live cut-ins of all Sunday afternoon games starting at 1 p.m. and continuing through the conclusion of the 4 p.m. games. The “Red Zone Channel,” which has been part of the service on DirecTV for the last four years, will be available to cable, telco and satellite systems, wireless devices, and the Internet.

…but he’ll apparently have to wait until 2012 to get it.

All I want for Christmas…

The world is a mess. Osama Bin Laden is still at large, the U.S. economy is in a recession and our country is still fighting two different wars on two different fronts.

But I can’t control any of that. On the whole, 2008 has been a pretty good year for Team Paulsen. My wife and I had our first child, a happy and healthy son (97th percentile in height = future 6’10” power forward), and I still have a job and a roof over my head.

I write about sports, so in the spirit of Christmas, which – let’s be honest – is really about getting, not giving, I scribbled down a few things that I’d like to see gift-wrapped underneath the tree.

So, without further ado, all I want for Christmas…

…is a college football playoff.
This drives me nuts and I know I’m not alone. I’m a casual fan of college football and I only watch maybe 10-15 games the entire year, including one bowl game – the BCS title game. If there were an eight-team playoff, I would make a point to watch every single one of those seven games. Not only that, but I’d start watching more of those late-season games that feature teams that are fighting for a playoff berth. I know money is a big issue with the BCS, but if casual fans are going to increase the number of games they watch by 50-70%, how can this not bring higher ratings and more ad revenue? This whole situation is mind-boggling.

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How I would fix NFL Sunday Ticket

Regular readers know that I hold a special grudge towards the NFL for selling exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket to DirecTV. Since I don’t have DirecTV (as I am without access to a southern horizon), every Sunday I have to pack up my laptop and head over to my buddy Dan’s house to watch my beloved Packers play. While it’s nice to see Dan every Sunday, I would sure like to watch the games at home on my 96″ front projection system. (Yeah, I’m bragging a little. Sue me.)

This season, Dan bought the SuperFan package, which gives him all the games in HD. It also gives him the Red Zone Channel (that bounces around from game to game in an attempt to show viewers as many scores/big plays as possible) and the Game Mix Channel (which shows eight games at once).

The Red Zone Channel is pretty good as is. It’s especially fun when the Packers don’t play in the early game, because I don’t have to keep checking in on that game and we can let the channel take us to all the exciting moments around the league. However, I would make two changes: 1) when the channel goes to split screen mode, they waste valuable space with a wide red border around both games, and 2) during the late games, too often the channel is showing highlights when there is live action going on.

Then there’s the Game Mix Channel. This is a great idea that is poorly executed. Just take a look at a screenshot.

Looks like a football fan’s dream, right?

Well…sort of.

Even on a 50” screen, which I’d say is the standard for higher-end TVs these days, each of those games are only 12.5” diagonal, which makes them pretty tough to watch. Instead of the current 4 x 2 grid (four games wide by two games tall), why doesn’t the channel go with a 3 x 3 matrix? Not only would it allow for eight 16.5” screens (which would be 32% bigger than the current setup), it would generate a 9th rectangle, where the channel could show the Red Zone Channel, display advertisements, list stats and/or injuries, show times of upcoming games, etc.

What would they have to sacrifice? Well, just the blue border and channel banner, which currently take up a third of the screen.

That seems like a small price to pay for a 32% increase in viewing space for each game.

So, are you listening, DirecTV?

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