Wednesday, November 12, 2008

First Two Amendments To The Sports Constitution Ratified

Last week, I wrote the Bill of Sports as the new (self-appointed) president-elect of Sports and made a few major changes to some of the big leagues. My chief of staff/brother suggested one change and while at the Kings-Stars game last night, I realized one other key error that I made.

Amendment I: If the NBA did not begin until after the Super Bowl, as I previously mandated by Article I of the Bill of Sports, once baseball ends there would be nothing to watch during the week from early October to Mid November when college basketball begins. In order to fill this gap, college basketball will be moved forward and will begin in the first week of October, the baseball awards will be announced during the first two weeks of October, and the NHL will now be televised on ESPN every night. The NBA is still banned until the day after the Super Bowl.

Amendment II: As noted in Article IV of the Bill of Sports, the NFL is fine and does not need to make any changes. However, two new rules shall hereby go into effect: A. Touchdowns are worth seven points. If a team chooses to go for eight, the current rules for a "two-point conversion" apply. No more extra points. Extra points will be required in the playoffs and overtime. B. The overtime rules shall hereby be amended to follow the college rules more closely: At the end of regulation, there will be a coin toss called by the home team. The winner of the coin toss chooses whether they want the ball or not, the loser chooses which side of the field they want. The first team starts 1st and 10 on the 25. Whatever their result is, the other team starts with the same scenario. Extra points must be attempted in overtime. If still tied after the first overtime round, teams must attempt a two-point conversion if they score touchdowns.

The Kings-Stars game last night was a perfect example of how exciting new rules changes can be when the league acts responsibly to make changes that are both fan-friendly, as well as fair to the teams. With one minute remaining in regulation and the score tied 2-2, there was a brawl. Two players were ejected and after all of the penalty minutes were handed out, the Kings had to play 4-on-3 for the final minute of regulation and the first two minutes of sudden overtime, before play returned to 4-on-4, with both teams still down a man due to the fighting penalties.

The Kings desperately held on to the tie during a frantic overtime and the teams then lined up their three best penalty-shot takers for the shootout. Of course, they were still tied after these first three rounds, so it went to a sudden-death shootout and the Kings won in the fifth round. What does this have to do with the Second Amendment, you ask...

The NHL changed the rules a few years ago to reward teams for losing in overtime to eliminate what had a a terrible tradition: in overtime, both teams used to play defensively and basically just made sure they didn't lose and go the point for a tie. Boring! So the league made it so that an OT loss counts in a different column as a regular loss. It encouraged teams to go for those two-points for a tie. unfortunately this made the records unwieldy: Detroit had the league's best record at 48-21-11-2 with 101 points in 2004. No wonder they lost fans.

So the league made more changes that eventually included the brilliant shootout. There is no such thing as a tie: just wins, losses and overtime losses. And the overtime was shortened from a full extra period (20 minutes), to just five minutes...then it is off to the shootout. This does not work in soccer because the goals are too easy to score in the shootout. But in hockey it is perfect. So again, what does this have to do with the Second Amendment?

It points out to key flaws in the NFL that were overlooked when Article IV was written: the games are too long (thanks TV) and the overtime blows.

By eliminating extra points, you save as much as five minutes per touchdown (lining up, "icing" timeouts, the play itself, potential penalties, etc.). Plus, kickers are converting extra points at a rate of 99.5% (660 out of 663) this season.

By changing the overtime rules, you address that fact that currently the overtime is a fan-unfriendly field position battle where one time just tries to go to the 30, then runs the ball into the middle and sits on it till third down, at which time they invariably win with a field goal. Boring. Perhaps the statistics do not show that the team that wins the OT coin toss has an unfair advantage, but that it not the inspiration behind this rule change.

That hockey game last night was between the two worst teams in the Pacific Division, indeed two of the worst in the League right now. But for the entire overtime and shootout the entire crowd was on its feet and from what it appeared, very few people had already gone home (even on a week-night). That kind of excitement rarely happens in an NFL overtime because it seems more like a procedure, a technicality, than a competition. When was the last time a college football overtime didn't make the crown go nuts? After all, under current NFL rules, an overtime can still end in a tie (as it almost did between the Jets and Raiders earlier this season).

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