Friday, November 7, 2008

The Commissioner Of Sports Gets A Promotion

Earlier this week on Monday Night Football, Chris Berman asked both presidential candidates what they would do first in the sports world if they were elected president. Both predictably took pretty easy, populist choices. John McCain said he would get rid of performance enhancing drugs (a novel idea!) and Barack Obama said he would institute a playoff system in Division IA, thus eliminating the bowl championship system.

This got me thinking what I would do for sports if I was elected President. Earlier this year I wrote a column as the World's Commissioner of Sports and have re-posted that below. I still hold that these things would make sports better and in fact, at least one of them (instant replay in baseball) has been instituted in real-life. One thing I realize about that list, and about the new additions I will be adding to it now, is that I tend to be pretty anti-business. That is to say, many of the suggestions I make are to fight off the intrusion of money into the purity of the sports. So without further ado, as President of the United States of Sports, I hereby enact the following Constitution and Bill of Sports into law:

Article I: The NBA preseason will begin January 1. Teams may play as many preseason games as they wish. The regular season shall begin the day after the Super Bowl, and the opening game each year will be a rematch of the previous year's NBA finals. The regular season will consist of 30 games, and the playoff make-up will change slightly- the top eight teams from each conference, seeded by record, home court given to the team with the better record. There is no bonus invitation or home-court given to division winners.

The reasons for this change are many. For one, despite its current renaissance, the NBA still blows. The season is three to five games old and it is already clear which teams will make the playoffs. They will also tread water until February, when they will start jockeying for playoff position. To combat the utter boredom that is the first three months of the season, they will be eliminated. This will make the regular season games far more important and therefore they will be far more interesting. Currently only the fourth quarter seems to be relevant, but if they only have thirty games to get in and get home court, that intensity will be ramped up from the opening tip.

Article II: Any reporter or commentator who argues that Major League Baseball is out of touch and is a dieing sport shall be fined $500 for each incident, with the money going the the charity of his or her choice.

This past World Series was the lowest rated ever. This past NBA Finals was one of the highest rated ever. And only in that perfect storm of ratings did the NBA Finals out-rate the World Series. That had not happened previously since the ultra-popular Michael Jordan's Bulls were in the NBA Finals. The team with the lowest attendance in the Major League baseball in 2008 was the Florida Marlins, with 16,688 per game over 81 games. A full one-third of the NBA could not get that many people at only 41 games in 2007.

Article III: All divisions of college football shall have 16-team playoffs to determine their champion. In the case of Division IA, the first round will be played at the higher seeded team's home field. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game will be called "Bowls" and may keep their corporate sponsorships. The National Championship game and semifinals will rotate annually among the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. The names FCS and BCS will be eliminated and replaced once again with IAA and IA, respectively.

The major pro-BCS argument is that a playoff would generate less interest and less money than the Bowls do, and it would be bad for the student-athletes because they'd miss more class with a playoff system. Currently, there are five major divisions in college football (BCS, FCS, II III, NAIA), all but the BCS has a playoff with no negative consequences. Also, by allowing the playoff games to be called Bowls, the games keep their sponsorships and keep making money hand over fist. And if anyone really thinks that a college football playoff would not generate interest, they shall be deported. As for the argument that this only allows 16-teams to compete in postseason and eliminates many current sponsorship deals, any school not part of the tourney can play in any other postseason tournament (think NIT) or unaffiliated bowl of their choosing. This system allows for a far more fair way of choosing a champion and eliminates the problem of a team like USC this year losing once in September and being out of the running for a title despite clearly being among the top 5 (if not top 2) in the country. It also allows for smaller conferences to be represented in the field.

Article IV: The NFL and College Basketball can keep doing what they're doing.

Article V: Major League Baseball shall eliminate Interleague play and thus shorten the season by 15 games and approximately two-and-a-half weeks. The World Series shall continue to be played at the home stadiums of the two teams involved, but the All Star game shall not determine home field advantage, it will alternate every other year between Leagues. In addition to the replay rules listed below by the Commissioner of Sports, if both managers agree before the game, managers shall have one challenge per game on any play. They shall receive another after successful challenges. Post season games shall begin no later than 7 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Interleague play does provide a level of intrigue to the season, but it is inherently unfair. For instance, as part of the Interleague system, teams play local/natural rivals every season as well as one other full division. So if a team has a local/natural that is good every year, they will automatically play a harder schedule than teams in their own division that have weaker local/natural rivals. For instance, the N.L. East and A.L. east play one another next season. So the Mets play their rivals, the Yankees once and then they play the entire A.L. East as well. The Nationals play the entire A.L. East and then play the Orioles.

Additionally, eliminating Interleague fixes the problem of the season running too long. There has been debate about how the 2008 World Series was ruined by bad weather and the World Series should therefore be played at a more temperate, neutral venue. The fact that there was a rain-suspension for the first time in the 105-year history of the event does not mean the event is flawed; it means it rained this year. However, next season the World Series will potentially in the second week of November. This invites the weather to cause more problems (especially for fans) and also hurts the hallowed tradition of October being synonymous with the World Series.

A second baseman for a fourth place team having a bad inning in July should obviously not determine something as significant as the home field advantage for the World Series. Considering how advanced our television technology has gotten, it seems silly that it cannot be used to determine the correctness of calls on the field. When the managers exchange line-up cards before a game, they should also decide whether they will be allowed their challenge that day.

No doubt, there will be an Article VI and as both President and Commissioner of the United States of Sports, I hereby claim the to amend this Constitution at any time.

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