If you are a devoted reader, you may have read some of this site’s three previous sports posts: my life as a college football player, the top sports moments of 2018, and the Louisville Basketball All-Decade team. (P.S., I mentioned in the sports moments of 2018 that Tiger was due for a major, and Tiger won the Masters yesterday! For a brief moment, the world was a beautiful place.)
Alas, it is time to look forward rather than backwards, as I discuss how to fix the broken aspects of the sports landscape. I love sports, but some of them need fixing.
The four-point shot – I am stealing this idea from Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball. This idea has stuck with me for eight years because it’s a common-sense rule change. Very little in basketball is as exciting as a 60-foot buzzer beater (I spent half of my adolescence perfecting full-court shots. Time well spent.), yet NBA players are loath to attempting these shots since they rarely go in and they negatively affect a player’s three-point percentage. If a player takes enough of these, that can equate to less $$$.
The easy solution: do not count these shots as field goal attempts unless they go in (just like a shot attempt while being fouled is not an official shot attempt unless it goes in). Also, for the first three quarters, make it worth four points, because that would make an already exciting play even more exciting. They’re too difficult for teams to ever find the four-point shot advantageous. To prevent teams from trying to shoot them to catch up at the end of games, simply make all long shots worth three points in the fourth quarter. This would also make me a more valuable player. Do it for me, NBA.
mprove the G League – The G league, the NBA’s developmental league, has improved exponentially in the past decade and has seen a full rebrand. We will soon reach a point where the G League is the NBA equivalent of MLB’s AAA system, in which each NBA team will have exclusive rights to its “minor league affiliate” (e.g. the Cincinnati Reds – Louisville Bats affiliation). When this happens, NBA teams should raise the salaries of their G league players significantly to keep top talent (like Kyle Kuric!) from incentives to play in Europe. In a world where NBA players average $6 million per season and European leagues routinely pay six figures, NBA owners can afford to raise their minor league salaries—there are barely a dozen players to pay compared to the hundreds of minor-league baseball players that each team controls.
There will be more radical, unforeseen changes that impact the G League. When the NCAA is outed as a cartel and the NBA’s age restriction is lifted to appease LeBron and let him play with his son, the G League will suddenly become a viable option for elite high school players who would rather not take classes that infringe upon practice time. The complaint in the early 2000s was that high-school kids were unprepared for the professional game and lifestyle. A minor league circuit can address this issue. Even before the NBA lifts its age restriction, superstars like Zion Williamson could consider taking a pay cut and spending a season in the G League rather than making six figures at Duke—proving the G League’s immediate relevance.
Shorten Season and Playoff Series – In defense of Major League Baseball, adding baseball games has a small negative effect the on-field product compared to a sport like football. The same can not be said for the NBA. While long seasons are always cash grabs, adding basketball games, especially in the regular season, does nothing but incentivize players to coast through the needlessly-long 82 games so they can be rested for the needlessly-long playoffs. Smart coaches like Gregg Popovich realized many moons ago that resting his veterans during the season paid dividends in the playoffs, ratings be damned. He took flak for it, but has five championships and the universal respect of his peers in exchange. The NBA needs no more than 65 games and no back-to-back games in the regular season.
There is equally little need to play best-of-seven series for the whole playoffs. If the NBA wants seven games in the finals and semis, fine. But a best-of-five series in the first round is already overkill. Baseball plays 162 games and still has a best-of-five series in the quarterfinals. Sixteen out of thirty NBA teams make the playoffs, and at least five of the other fourteen teams have GMs that are actively trying to lose, so we need to make the playoffs less predictable. Let’s make the (likely) future top sport in America more watchable and have more than five single-elimination games per season. NCAA basketball provides us with a product that is borderline unwatchable, yet the tournament model is so great that it’s still the best postseason in America. Ignore history and embrace what works!
Major League Baseball
Shorten the season – The MLB has fallen out of vogue as America’s pastime just like working 12-hour factory shifts has been mostly killed by automation. The baseball season is a relic of this age of industry; the monotony and relative unimportance of each game in a season that has 162 games reflects the monotony one feels after doing the same repetitive motion hour after hour and day after day.
I spent my childhood obsessed with baseball—spending at least 5,000 hours throwing a tennis ball off our kitchen window—so this isn’t a dig on the monotony of the sport itself compared to basketball and football and golf.
I still enjoy baseball as a sport. For people who like organization and math, it is supremely organized and is able to be captured by statistics like no other major sport. Unlike football and basketball (but not unlike competitive eating), the best player in baseball is always the guy who has the best statistics. Sorry Kobe.
Shortening the baseball season does not require eliminating baseball. 162 games are not necessary even if teams enrich themselves through the lengthy cable contracts. It’s 2019. We have robots building things for us now and it’s time that regular-season baseball has fewer games.
Shorten the games with the DH – For those of you not in the know, baseball is split into two fifteen-team leagues called the American and National League. The American League (AL) has had a DH, or designated hitter, since 1973. You might be asking, who does this hitter designated hit for? Why, only the one guy who never practices hitting, the pitcher. If you watch a Cincinnati Reds or Chicago Cubs (both NL teams) game you will have the privilege of watching a man face a 95 mph fastball and succeed between 3-15% of the time. This is a reminder that just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s good. This goes for presidents and baseball rules.
Aside: this 10-minute video is one of the greatest and most bizarre sports moments ever. The exception to the rule of awfulness when pitchers hit.
The real reason to add a DH to the national league is not to spare our eyes, but instead to spare our time. If baseball adds a DH to the National League, baseball’s highest level would have unified rules (like every other sport that matters) and, most importantly, a pitcher could warm up while his teammates are batting—which gives him 3 to 5 minutes if he’s on the Reds. Players would not have to practice fielding ground balls like they’re children while their pitchers warm-up. As I recently heard somewhere, this inter-inning practice is like stopping an NBA game every five minutes to practice layups. Eradicating unnecessary warm-ups means we can shorten the game from three hours to under two—aka a normal amount of time to invest in a game, especially when there are 162. While we’re at it, can we also agree that a pitcher that just warmed-up in the bullpen doesn’t need to stop the game to warm-up again when he enters? Ok, great.
Major League Soccer
Relegation – In European soccer leagues—such as the English Premier League—a system of promotion and relegation exists. What does this mean? There are 20 teams in the EPL, England’s top football (soccer) league. At the end of each season, the bottom three teams are relegated to the EFL, which is the second highest division in England and the supplier of three new teams to the Premier League every year. A similar system exists in the EFL, where the bottom teams drop down into League One (the third division of England). The 2016 EPL champion, Leicester City F.C., is famous for rising from League One to champions of the Premier League in only seven years. Here is a graphic of the ladder.
In the USA, a country that is known for its free market, ironically has a pro sports system that leans heavily towards an “equality of outcome” system. In other words, we have no relegation in any sports league and protects owners from losing money and their own incompetency in a Cleveland Browns situation. There are perverse, “un-American” incentives like the top draft picks being rewarded to the teams with the worst records. Even if players never try to lose, teams like the 2019 Knicks “tanked” their way into a guaranteed top 5 pick by fielding a lineup that had no real chance of success. This happens every year. Even if we don’t want the Louisville Bats playing the Chicago Cubs in 2021, it makes no sense that the MLS (Soccer) has no relegation, especially now that there are several tiers in the US soccer system. Be better, America.
Guest poster, Jackson Rice: I would fix soccer by allowing the players to use their hands and make better rules about flopping like a fish out of water.
National Football League
Make pass interference reviewable – Wait, this is happening. All it took was a blown call that allowed Tom Brady (instead of Drew Brees) to win another ring. Quite the wakeup call.
Onside kicks – The NFL changed the rules of onside kicks more than a year ago to prevent concussions. Since teams can no longer “overload” one side of the field, onside kicks dropped to less than a 10% success rate for the 2018 season. That is boring. Also, the play itself is boring. There is an easy solution: if the team that scores wants to attempt to keep the ball, let them run a play from their own 35, the same spot as a kickoff. If they make it to the 50 (or 45, 48, etc.—I don’t care about the exact spot) then they keep it and must take it back to midfield for the ensuing first down. It’s like an extra point in that way. How is this worse than an onside kick?
Athletes should be allowed to profit off of their likeness
First, I believe that top NCAA athletes should be paid for their labor. If you have a pure soul and like to think that elite (student) athletes are the zenith of “amateurism,” I would like to hear your beliefs as to how the $1B-plus revenue generated by the athletes should be distributed. Coaches like John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski make a combined $16 million+ per season, yet I’m not convinced they could win 20 games with anything less than top-10 talent. Even if you think they call decent plays or earn that money through recruiting, are you paying money to watch them draw plays, or are you paying to watch Anthony Davis and Zion Williamson dunk the ball for free? Regardless of just how valuable a full scholarship seems to you, these guys don’t have the freedom to study what they want (or, in UNC’s case, actually attend class) and have their lives controlled by programs that seeks to exploit their free labor for money—money people gladly pay for peak athletic entertainment. This goes for all major-conference programs.
Yet, this lack of payment is not the worst part of the NCAA. Indeed, the NCAA’s antiquated and bizarre rules to ‘protect amateurism’ are much, much worse. Even if these rules weren’t rooted in a bygone era where the term ‘student-athlete’ actually made sense, they still make no sense. As of 2019, a college athlete cannot earn any money as a result of his/her athletic reputation—this includes selling an autograph for $2, getting a free haircut, or even working at McDonalds in the offseason without getting permission from multiple offices.
That is absolutely insane. If I’m a computer programmer, I am allowed to make $50k from Google while studying physics, yet a college baller can neither study physics nor work at McDonalds. Why are we restricting access to the free market for only this single group of students? Why do we pretend to police the breaking of rules when we could just change rules to fit a reality that is not 1923. I’m barely covering 3% of why the NCAA is a cartel, but this is the only section of this post that has real-world repercussions.
Do I irrationally hate the NCAA as a Louisville fan? No. I rationally hate the NCAA and everything it stands for, and that was before Louisville was punished for being dumb enough to offer the NCAA evidence of guilt. A great lesson for today’s kids: if you’re guilty, don’t cooperate with authority and everything will work out fine. Again, if you are blind to reality and want athletes to keep earning money for their rich coaches and ADs, that is your right as an American. But please tell me how letting a student make $50 by selling autographs at the mall in order to have some spending money will ruin amateur athletics.
Ok, time for a breathing exercise.
[Jackson ‘Moose’ Rice and Paxton, members of the Bull-Moose club, established this safe space for Moose’s thoughts.]
Good evening/morning/ whenever you’re reading this. Welcome to all degenerates and FDRs alike, this is the column I am most excited to write. I am currently in the midst of writing a paper worth 40% of my final grade the day before it is due. Thus, I am leaving my creative side to binge here while my factual and rational side will play on my other open documents. Welcome to the game of games, the puzzle of puzzles, the maze of mazes, welcome to my mind. As I have oft mentioned, I find incompetence to be one of the most paralyzing assets a person can have. If they are incompetent, they will be presented with a much more challenging world than those more learned. For those that just refuse to adhere to common sense and just go about their day in an ignorant bliss, I am happy. I find they live a life unencumbered by responsibility and rather feel free to strut about their lives causing constant peril for those of us left to fend for ourselves in their wake. Most germane to my hatred of incompetence is incompetence in the workplace. Here is why this upsets me so, if someone is incompetent in their position of chosen employment, that means that someone else is incompetent at hiring competent workers. As you can see this oft isn’t something that can be traced to one wrongdoer but rather something that is a slippery slope to downright inefficiency.
When Bull presented me with the topic idea of how to fix sports I was colored purple with exuberance. Bull had gifted upon my lap the riches of competence. He offered me an eraser and said, “fix the problems you see with what you love.” From that moment onward I have been postulating. I am sure some of the topics I will cover have been covered already. I shall detail first how I would fix the incompetent NFL and it begins with a simple solution that many call for, but also few would expect from me. Second, I will detail how I would fix the NCAA as an institution but most specifically college basketball. Finally, I will detail how I would fix the sport of soccer. I hope you enjoy, and as always, if you have comments or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to engage in thoughtful discourse.
First and foremost the NFL. As I alluded to last week I think it is best to discuss the past before we discuss the future. Paul Tagliabue was the NFL commissioner before Goodell and he is the man who can be charged with making the NFL America’s game. He took the NFL from abysmal viewership to being the most viewed sport in America. In doing so he allowed the league to run rampant. You had guys like Joe Namath showing up to games in giant fur coats, and Michael Irvin getting repeatedly pulled over for a little blow baby. It’s all good in the neighborhood.
Then comes Roger Goodell. Goodell then brought in the reins by outlawing everything and controlling the rampant issues within the league. In the process, he has banned elite talent Josh Gordon and my fantasy roster has never recovered. Roger was a necessary foothold in the steps along the way but I believe it is time to hand the reins over to me.
Phase three baby. I want to be handed the reins as commissioner and I will take a vice president who will be the head of the NFLPA. With a continued focus medical research we will look for the best technology, rehab, and medical attention that will benefit the player. Now that the NFL is almost an automatic money maker, we can move to the focus of longevity of the game.
Second, the NCAA is nothing but a sham. Through a multitude of controversy, the NCAA has abled themselves to do what no man should ever do again. Indentured servitude is defined as THIS. That’s what the NCAA makes these players. The schools and NCAA make millions annually off of the likenesses of players like Zion Williamson, Johnny Manziel, Reggie Bush, the list could literally go one for hours, and there are thousands of these guys. My solution instead is a tri-pronged approach. By that I mean there are three main revenue holders: the NCAA, the schools, and the player themselves. By opening the doors and allowing players to contact with a school sanctioned agent things like contract deals with sponsors, autograph sessions, NCAA jersey sales, would all become a revenue stream for all parties. All too often people at Louisville Cardinal games will be seen wearing a nameless number 8 jersey. Everyone there knows you’re wearing your Lamar Jackson jersey but he didn’t make a dime and because they didn’t write his name on the top they didn’t have to. If we can make these agents virtually intermediaries to teach these players about fund management, asset allocation, and negotiations we would not only amplify the possible revenues but improve the life of the student athlete as well. Without some form of pay-to-play compensation, college basketball could wither away in its entirety.
Third, I wanted to cover a topic I usually don’t instead of the usual football/basketball realm. I would fix soccer by allowing the players to use their hands and make better rules about flopping like a fish out of water. That is all I care to write about this insane sport and I wish all FDRs amusement in my writings and hope to hear back from you regarding. Be well, and I hope I have left you a’Moose’d.