In my quieter moments, my mind often drifts off to an imaginary place where I’m a global sports czar. (This “Global Sports Czar Land” borders the other make-believe places in which I’m a best-selling author and an award-winning screenwriter.) In the unlikely event that these daydreams ever come true, here are the first three changes I’d make.
Each team guaranteed at least one possession in overtime of NFL games
Last season’s Super Bowl was one of the most disappointing, lopsided contests I’ve witnessed in my (not) so many moons as a sports fanatic. Most of us figured that Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and the rest of Seattle’s offense would have been able to find a fair bit of joy against a Denver defense that wasn’t exactly a clone of the “Steel Curtain”. However, many of us also imagined that Peyton Manning and his galaxy of star receivers would have been able to find creative ways to score points against Seattle’s vaunted D. Unfortunately, only one of these hoped-for scenarios materialized. The end result: a hideous 43-8 hiding for the two-time Super Bowl champs.
Fast forward a couple months to a couple weeks ago. Denver has another crack at Seattle. A win for the Broncos won’t earn them the Vince Lombardi Trophy. (That horse has already Bolt-ed.) However, it will allow them to reclaim a bit of the pride they’d lost while getting steamrolled in February. They fall far behind early. Neutrals like myself immediately start cringing in fear of another one-sided affair. But, thankfully, the (slightly) unexpected happens. Manning brings his team back into the contest with a series of future Hall of Famer-worthy drives. The last of these actually sees Denver knot things up at 20-all, forcing the hitherto pulsating contest into a potentially appetizing overtime. Alas, though, you kinda know that things are only likely to go downhill from there – and they do, due to the NFL’s existing overtime rule.
My proposed rule change would see a team in Denver’s position not dying a sudden death because the team in Seattle’s position wins the coin toss, takes the ball, and goes on to score a touchdown. Let’s play out the extra 15-minute period regardless of what happens on the first drive. (I could be off base here, but I can’t recall seeing any 14 minute-plus drives in my few years of watching football.) A rule of this nature would have, in all likelihood, given one of the NFL’s all-time great QBs a chance to further enrich one of the most engrossing games we’ve seen in a while.
Standard dimensions for cricket grounds
When is a century really not worth a century? When it’s scored on a ground where even Geoff Boycott’s famous grandmother could clear the fences with consummate ease. In an apparent attempt to satisfy the people who blindly bay for boundaries, cricket authorities the world over have let flourish an encroachment campaign that might soon see almost every top edge extracted by beleaguered bowlers comfortably sailing for six. The 50-odd metre boundaries that make it so easy for travesties like these to continue definitely need to go – even in the six-happy T20 format. They do nothing but further disrupt the delicate balance that should ideally exist between bat and ball.
A minimum boundary dimension standard of between 65 and 70 metres should be set. This will go some way towards reestablishing the equilibrium that needs to exist between bat and ball for bowlers to feel less like lambs to the slaughter every time they step onto an oval. (They already have it hard enough toiling on some of the “roads” that pass for pitches these days.) After all, contests between closely matched adversaries are what make sports truly thrilling (to me, at least) – not bowler-bashing run-fests.
Best-of-five set matches for women
In 2007, the powers that be at the venerable All England Club belatedly decided to break with the decades-old tradition of offering a less princely pile of pounds to female winners at its prestigious Wimbledon tennis grand slam. The momentous move finally saw it falling in step with the other three slams. It was a long overdue development which seemingly signaled tennis’ willingness to shift the historically out of whack pay paradigm in favour of women. Hooray! Equal pay for equal wor… Yeah, that’s right; members of the fairer sex still play best-of-three set matches at the slams while the men often have to slug it out for five. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly an untenable state of affairs. However, IMHO, it could definitely do with some equalizing.
Women would play best-of-five set matches at the slams under the new dispensation. Ideally, that would translate into more great tennis for us all to watch. That’s what everyone wants to see, right? Even the staunchest opponent of this proposed change would be forced to admit – if only grudgingly – that no three-setter is ever likely to generate the drama and reserve the revered place in memory and history that a five-set epic like Rafa versus Roger in the 2008 Wimbledon final can.
Equal pay. Equal play. Equal pride of place. In “Nicktopia”, these seemingly disparate ideals would all be pulled together and into the realm of reality with this one tweak.
What sporting regulation, rule, or tradition would you like to see changed?