With the turning over of another year, it behooves us to take a closer look at how we spend our scant free time. Despite the blistering cold, for many of us January remains a hot month for sports viewing. With bowl games, NFl playoffs and college basketball heating up, this month doesn’t have to be all shivering in the dark, sharpening an axe, chin covered with three-days worth of stubble, half-filled bottle of bourbon overturned on a coffee table. Oh no, with plenty of sports viewing available, cabin fever can be replaced with fun and excitement. Yet, as with all things, there is going to be room for improvement. Without further ado, here are the ways we can improve the very entertaining world of sports in 2015.
College Football: Despite its seeming popularity, college football attendance has been steadily decreasing the past several years. It dropped 4% last year
alone to its lowest point this century. It’s not just the outrageous prices at the concession stands, the drunken and obnoxious spectators, and sub-par mascot boxing matches causing this downward trend. Mostly, it’s the lack of local connection to the players. Look at the roster of any elite conference team. Fewer than half of the University of Michigan’s player’s even come from Michigan. Only six of Notre Dame’s players hail from the Hoosier state. How can you claim
a home field advantage if a majority of the players aren’t even from there? This poaching of talent from neighboring states leads right into the seemingly routine announcement of coaches guilty of recruitment violations. It happens so often that it overshadows the true beauty of college athletics: namely, a young person performing at his/her very best for the simple love of the game and to proudly represent his/her school and the state in which it resides. Now, with so much money in TV broadcast rights on the line, coaches are under an incredible amount of pressure to recruit the best possible athletes from wherever they may be found. At times, this means even going outside our country’s borders to find players. The Denver Post reported that last year’s NCAA basketball champ, Connecticut, had four foreign-born players. I don’t mean to be xenophobic; but if my tax dollars are going to pay for a college stadium, shouldn’t the kids who whose parents help share that burden be given dibs on playing in it? Oftentimes, NCAA rules are broken in the wild hunt for talent, and high school senior athletes are faced with serious ethical and moral choices they simply may not be ready for.
Don’t worry, I have a solution.
Every college athletic program should be assigned a certain geographical area, just like ones used for electing congressmen, and then be forced to only recruit athletes from within those boundaries. Not only that; they must be limited to within the state the college is based. Support for the home team would sky-rocket because, for the first time, it would actually be the home team. Let Iowa State only have players from Iowa. Let’s see how Nebraska does with only true cornhuskers to choose from. Face it, the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. Now, let’s move on to pros.
Professional Football: Despite the recent spake of off-field antics, one must admit that on game day the NFL is a tremendously well-oiled machine. However, there does exist one glaring issue and that is the constant showboating and posturing taking place by the players. The average game has about 140 plays (including kick-offs). Not every one of them deserves to end with a celebration (with choreography) as if one just cured pancreatic cancer. You can actually see these “role models” frantically searching for a camera to glare into or assume a menacing stance in front of as they preen. To add insult, they will often break away from the grasp of their congratulatory teammates to do so. The worst of the worst are the idiots who prance, jog or pretend to high jump into the end zone when there’s no defender around them. I feel these prima donnas need to be reminded in the strongest way that the only reason they were able to saunter in for six is because the rest of the team sacrificed their bodies by blocking for them. This needs to change.
Currently, the penalty for showboating is tacked onto the ensuing kick-off, which no one cares about since it’s going to sail into the end zone for a touchback anyway. Let’s nip this one in the bud by doing what we do with every other penalty: make them go back and try again. Take those points off the board. Imagine this play-by-play, “And he’s going to go all the way. Touchdown, Steelers! And they take the… wait a second. Is he doing the funky chicken in the end zone? Not only do the Steelers lose the lead, now they have to start from ten yards further back.” That should put a kibosh on this nonsense pretty quick. Even better? Fine ESPN a gazillion dollars every time they replay these self-promoting celebrations on SportsCenter.
Professional Basketball: Just get rid of it. Seriously, would anyone really notice?
All Sports: Isn’t it about time that we the people rise up with one voice and demand the elimination of every type of instant replay? This time-wasting but network revenue-enhancing “improvement” has crept it’s way into pretty much every type of athletic contest. The pro side argument consists of ensuring fairness by making sure a bad call doesn’t affect the outcome of the game. What about the numerous and interminable delays caused by the officials going off to peer at screen while watching an endless supply of replays? Every athlete, current, pro, or former, knows that momentum is a delicate thing that can nonetheless hugely impact the game. Giving these elite athletes four or five minutes to catch their breath can really save a team that was just knocked back on their heels and suck the excitement out of a unexpected comeback. And that doesn’t even begin to broach the subject of how long these events have become due to the extended discussions among the referees. While I’m sure the networks love the added time to bombard us with another truck or beer commercial, I have things to do in my life. I distinctly remember going to a local high school basketball game recently and being struck by just how quickly one without replays can be. I was in-and-out in less than two hours. Nice!
Let’s be honest. Sometimes the bad calls are the most entertaining aspect of the game. They live on long afterwards bringing joy to both sides of the argument. I can think of several questionable calls from my youth that are still hotly debated among fans today, long after the original game would have been forgotten. A Google search for bad calls in the NFL returns over thirty million hits alone. Let’s leave some room for human error in our lives before technology overtakes everything.
Well, America, it may be a short list; but if everyone gets behind it, 2015 can mark the year that sports started to get better again for all of us.