“Don’t Stop the Game for Fights” and Four Other Ways to Improve Professional Sports

What’s more thrilling than sports?  If you’re a fan, you’ve felt your blood pressure skyrocket in the last seconds of a close game.  You know the heart palpitations, the crushing stress, and the helpless, hopeful misery of double overtime in the last game of a best-of-seven series.  Can sports be any more exciting?sports fans

Of course they can.  Baseball games sometimes last 13 innings and end with a score of 1-0.  Soccer can be scoreless for an eternity.  Don’t even get me started on golf.

After 40+ years of watching sports (not playing them – this writer freely admits to hand-eye coordination that barely allows me to tie my own shoes), I’ve developed a few suggestions for the powers that be. Please hold your applause until the end.

Don’t stop the game for fights.

hockey players fighting

Hockey is one of the most thrilling sports around – the puck flies so fast you can barely see it, rarely goes out-of-bounds, and occasionally performs involuntary dental work on the players. One of the most exciting elements of hockey (second only to an actual goal and occurring more frequently) is the spontaneous brawl.  Ultimate fighting at a hockey game!  I like adolescent violence as much as the next girl, but I don’t appreciate any diversions that waste time – hence this suggestion.  Don’t stop the clock when a fight breaks out.  The puck should remain in play.  Players must make a split-second decision: do I join the fight, or do I make a quick breakaway with the puck and try to score while my opponents’ eyes are filling with blood?

Put a play clock on the pitcher.

Baseball is dull, dull, dull – this is an undisputed fact.  Look it up.  More than any other fan experience, watching baseball is most often associated with popcorn, hot dogs, and beer – because you can miss several meals trying to sit through an afternoon game.

baseball

You could write the Great American Novel while the pitcher and the batter perform their long distance ballet (step into the batter box, step out of the batter box, spit, scratch, adjust self, swing arms, step off the mound, step onto the mound, spit, shake head, nod at catcher, swing arms again).

JUST THROW THE DAMN BALL ALREADY!  The umpire should blow a whistle to signal the beginning of a play, like in football.  The pitcher has 5 seconds to throw it.  Everyone’s home for dinner.  You’re welcome.

 

Let’s bet on football.

When has gambling not enhanced the fan experience?  Vegas bookies are missing a huge opportunity in football.  The “official review” is one of the few innovations that improved upon the game despite making it last longer.  What to do during this extra time?  Why not let fans bet on the outcome, perhaps against a fan of the opposing team? Surely there’s an app for that.  Speed and accuracy will be rewarded. This could be the only legitimate reason to look  at your iPhone during a football game.

Put the kibosh on all those fouls at the end of basketball games.

201001020_Jason_Bohannon_shoots_a_free_throw_against_Michigan

How is it possible for 2 minutes of play to take 15 minutes?  If you’re describing the last minutes of a close basketball game, it’s all but guaranteed.  But if I want to watch someone stand unmolested behind a line and shoot baskets, I’ll stare out the kitchen window at my kid in the driveway.

Besides, if a team can’t build a decent lead in a 38 or 46 minutes of play (college and pro, respectively), I don’t want to see them weasel into a victory by strategically elbowing someone in the ribs a few times.  If you commit a foul in the last 2 minutes of a game, you’re benched.  Out for the rest of the game.  That will keep things moving right along.  

Let’s Get Ready to RUMBLE!!!  (at golf and tennis).

No serious discussion of how to make sports more thrilling can neglect the rampant boredom epidemic among fans of the more, ahem, genteel sports.  What is wrong with those people?  Sitting quietly and respectfully is for poetry readings and Sarah McLachlan concerts.

fans

I say you’re not an athlete if you need perfect silence to whack a ball around.  Let’s inject the alcohol-fueled team spirit of your average European soccer fan or American college student into golf and tennis.  Painted naked torsos, inappropriate raunchy cheers, foam fingers, and other home-made distractions will separate the truly gifted ball whackers from those who “really need to focus here!” kind of like when I’m figuring out how to use my universal remote.

I hope someone will take my suggestions to heart.  I don’t even want compensation.  Just more exciting games to watch.

And applause.

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