Sports are physical competitions with an objective outcome. Their rules should therefore encourage active play (vis a vis strategic time-wasting, for example) or make outcomes more objective (vis a vis human error and judgment calls). Here are 13 such changes, all of which are practically feasible, gleaned from extensive perusal of available online suggestions (and common sense).
1. NBA: Declare That Any Defensive Contact Made Without An Effort To Contest A Shot Is A Foul
Unless the defender has established position before the offensive player has left the ground, and raises their arms to contest the shot, that’s a blocking foul. No more of this sliding under at the last second and huddling in a defensive crouch as you fall over bullshit. That’s not sports. If you want to play defense, play defense. Any sport whose rules encourage players to stand still with their hands between their legs needs to take a look in the mirror.
2. MLB: Universalize The Designated Hitter
The American League has a designated hitter, the National League does not. This makes no sense and is an increasingly annoying distraction given all the interleague play that now goes on, forcing teams to prepare for most games one way, only to do things totally differently a few times a year. It also makes us watch pitchers try to bat. DH everywhere.
3. NFL: Make Pass Interference A 15-Yard Penalty
In the NFL, the penalty for defensive pass interference is an automatic first down at the spot of the foul. This makes one particular kind of subjective and hard-to-review human judgment call far more important than any of the others in the sport. College’s 15-yards-and-a-first-down penalty is the way to go.
4. NHL: Implement “Hybrid Icing”
The purpose of the icing rule is to prevent teams from chucking the puck to other end of the ice to protect a lead, but it has turned into a high-speed race to the puck, sometimes causing violent collisions involving players who aren’t trying to make a play on the puck, but just to touch it.
The AHL tested a new concept called “hybrid icing” last June, basically stating that the play is whistled dead if the player on the opposing team reaches the faceoff dot first, cutting off most of the tedious scrambles to touch the puck.
5. NCAA Football: Create An Eight-Team Playoff Format
The new college football playoff system will begin in the 2014-15 season and feature the top four teams as chosen by a selection committee. While this is a huge step in the right direction, an eight-team playoff system would make college football even better. (But 16 would be too many. It’s just obvious. It’s just obvious to everyone.)
Bonus Suggestion: Use NFL rules for ruling a runner down — i.e. let them get back up and run if they fall without being touched. Where this particularly would help is in creating exciting, Ed Reed-style returns off diving interceptions.
6. NBA: No More Advancing The Ball To Half-Court After A Timeout
When teams calls a timeout in the last two minutes of an NBA game, they can receive the ball at half-court. And that makes sense because…it doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make any friggin’ sense and that rule is stupid. Make them advance the dang ball themselves. #noshortcuts #riseandgrind
Bonus Suggestion: Prevent teams from calling timeout before the ball has been inbounded after a previous timeout. Consecutive timeouts in the last minute of a close game are terrible momentum-killers. It’s also absurd and contrary to the essence of physical competition to spend five minutes gathered around an old guy with a whiteboard for every five seconds of action.
7. MLB: Allow Managers To Challenge Plays
The technology is out there to make sure games are no longer decided by one man’s bad judgment, but rather reviewed by high-def instant replay. Obviously this could get out-of-hand quickly with every manager wanting a ball or strike to go their way, but let’s give them one challenge flag so instances like the Jim Joyce blown call (a.k.a. “The Imperfect Game”) no longer happen.
Bonus Suggestion: Call a balk if a catcher has to stand up to catch a pitch. Eliminates pitchouts, but makes intentional walks a lot more challenging (and potentially hilarious) to execute.
8. NFL: Always Give The Home Team The Ball First In Overtime
What it loses in fairness — giving an edge to the home squad — it makes up for in giving away teams a strong incentive to take risks to try and win in regulation, rather the current system in which both teams play meekly not to lose.
9. NHL: Eliminate Delay Of Game On Pucks Sent Out Of The Defensive Zone
Currently, when any defensive player directs the puck out of bounds (e.g., over the glass into the stands or into the safety netting), a minor delay-of-game penalty is issued. But too many games have been decided by a player being penalized for unintentionally firing a puck over the glass in his defensive zone. This is the rare case in which letting a referee use their judgment (as to whether a player had intentionally sent the puck into the stands) would make the game better.
10. NBA: Eliminate Foul-Outs
You are allowed six fouls in the NBA, and then you’re out. As many people have pointed out, this makes basketball the only sport where you can get ejected for something besides fighting or calling the ref a f—-ing c—-faced d—-hat, and often leads to games that end with the best players sitting on the bench. One alternative: after a player has committed five fouls, any further fouls by that player mean the opposing team not only gets two foul shots but retains possession of the ball.
Bonus Suggestion: Any team that loses more than 60 games has to change their name to “The C—-faced D—-hats” for the entire following season.
11. NHL: Eliminate The Trapezoid Rule
This rule states that goaltenders are not allowed to play the puck outside the trapezoid-marked area behind the net, which really penalizes stick-minded goalies who can handle the puck and start an offensive surge. WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS SUPPOSED TO BE?
Let them play!
12. Soccer: Have A Penalty Box Instead Of Yellow and Red Cards
This is taken straight from hockey. Players who commit a foul would be removed from the game for a designated period of time depending on the severity of the penalty. Red and yellow cards are too much of a game-changer, especially when opposing players are flopping for calls.
Plus, there would probably be less arguing from the players, knowing that they will soon be back in the game.
13. Quidditch: Eliiminate The Golden Snitch
The Snitch element of Quidditch is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. It basically makes everything prior irrelevant because catching this little golden ball automatically ends the game and is worth 150 points, which translates into 15 goals scored by Chasers. Are you kidding me?! What’s the point of even playing if one move can have such a lopsided effect on the game? Remove The Golden Snitch and Quidditch is awesome.