How to Improve Each Sport with One Quality of Life Adjustment
If it ain’t broke, you’re not supposed to fix it, but there’s plenty in the sporting world that could use tweaking.
As a summer exercise, we went through the four majors, plus some other sports, to pick one rule change or adjustment that would make for an improvement.
extend the new overtime rules to the regular season
Nobody needs or wants to see a team win a coin flip, go down the field, score a touchdown, and end the game. Thankfully, the NFL ignored the “just get a stop” crowd and altered the OT rules to allow both teams to gain a possession in the extra period. Though none of the 2023 playoff games went to overtime, and we didn’t get to see the new setup in action, it will prevent us from having a repeat of prior situations where superstar quarterbacks sat on the bench and failed to even see the field in the biggest games of the year. See: Chiefs/Bills in the 2022 divisional round.
The next common sense thing to do is extend these rules to the regular season as well. If the updated framework is good enough for the playoffs, it should be good enough for games one through 17. Right now, we’re still operating with the old 10-minute period rule, where you can win the coin toss, score a TD, and end it. It doesn’t make any sense to have one set of overtime rules for the postseason and one for the regular season, so let’s match rule sets here and continue to make common sense progress.
— Overtime (@overtime) January 24, 2022
shorten the season and get rid of back-to-backs
Basketball’s biggest problem right now is that the regular season means absolutely nothing. You’ve got guys sitting out for load management, back-to-back games with the players flying into the next city at 2 a.m., and all sorts of various nonsense resulting from the fact that we’re stuffing too many games into a calendar that’s too short.
It works better in hockey because there are more players logging shorter ice times, but in no world should a guy like Joel Embiid have to be minute managed in a Tuesday night home game because he’s gotta fly to Atlanta immediately afterward and prep for Wednesday. Back-to-backs help the league and owners and TV partners make money, and that’s it. The players, coaches, and fans don’t benefit from the crunched schedule, so just cut the season from 82 games to 72 games, remove back-to-backs, and do something to help the athletes, since they’re the ones making all the money. They’re the product.
opening playoff rounds are 5 games, divisional series go 7
Postseason baseball is the best baseball, but we just don’t get enough of it. You don’t have to expand and water down the playoff field, but you can add to series length in the Wild Card and Divisional rounds.
Last year, the Phillies played 162 games and scraped into the playoffs, only to find themselves in a three-game series with the Cardinals. That was after winning 87 games, which should get you more than a brief trip to St. Louis to begin the postseason. Even if they extended the opening round to five games, and did a 2-2-1 home/away split, that would be an improvement. Ideally, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Wild Card round be five games, and the NLDS/ALDS be seven games, which doesn’t dumb down the product, but simply gives us more high-leverage and meaningful baseball when it really matters.
everyone plays on international ice dimensions
Most North American ice hockey rinks follow the NHL guidelines of 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. That’s not the case internationally, where rinks are typically wider by 10-15 feet on average.
That’s how it works at the Olympics, where the game looks and plays a lot more wide open because there’s simply more space to operate in the offensive and neutral zones. This means more speed, skill, and skating, and less bullshitting along the boards, fewer instances of mucking and grinding in the corners, and more meaningful net-front and blue line action.
You could go in a lot of directions with hockey, and presumably most people would adjust something with the OT or shootout rules, while another portion would want to see more physical plays without the whistle being blown.
please God, no more bullshit penalty kicks
Ask casuals who rarely watch the game and they’ll typically say something along the lines of “how are you going to decide the outcome based on penalty kicks?”
They’re right, because penalties probably don’t belong in the game at all, not for fouls in the box and not as tiebreakers, either. If you wanted to move the spot five yards back, it would give goalkeepers much more of a chance to stop PKs, but during non-shootout situations the problem is that the punishment often does not fit the crime, such as we saw in the 2023 FA Cup final between Manchester United and Manchester City:
Grealish handball penalty given for United, it's incredibly harsh I feel pic.twitter.com/jcOsI1LwFL
— EmanDaGoon™ (@EmanDaGoon) June 3, 2023
In that case, you’ve got a guy jumping for the ball, it goes over his head, the opponent heads it off his hand at point blank range, and the punishment is a penalty kick (that was scored in this game). That’s a bang-bang play with an honest effort by two guys to play the ball.
My solution is for in-box plays like this is to put the ball down at the spot of the infraction and give the other team an indirect free kick inside the box. If, however, the ball is batted down to prevent a goal, or swiped off the line, you can award a penalty and/or red card to punish obviously intentional behavior.
Mixed Martial Arts
better judging guidelines and/or open scoring
The biggest problem with MMA, specifically in the UFC and United States, is that the judges frequently turn in controversial scorecards. At least once per event you will stumble into a debatable split or majority decision or watch a fight where a wrestler or grappler controls the opponent but doesn’t do much damage.
One of the problems is that judges are working with round-by-round scoring, which means that in a five-round fight, for instance, if you win three rounds and your opponent wins two, you’ve got the victory. But it’s not always agreeable or obvious in close fights, where the momentum shifts from start to finish over the course of 25 minutes. Additionally, fighters aren’t told during the fight how each round was scored, so they and their corners are left guessing.
There’s an Asian promotion called ONE Championship that uses an alternative, single-fight method that judges the entirety of the bout from start to finish. No round-by-round usage over there. Additionally, there’s a methodology known as “open scoring,” where the results of each round are published during the fight. That information is shared with the fighters, their corners, and the broadcast team for dissemination to viewers.
shorten the games from 5 days to one day
I don’t even understand what I’m watching.