Not too long ago I came across a segment by HBO late-night host John Oliver titled “How Is This Still A Thing?” The subject was Daylight Saving Time, in which Oliver dispelled a common myth about the practice of springing our clocks forward in March and how it’s ridiculous we’re still doing it.
I began thinking of certain things in the world of sports that has me asking the same question from time to time, so here’s a list of things I would change if someone made me the Emperor of Athletics:
•Leaping penalty for ball carriers — in both college and the NFL, it is illegal for a defender to try and hurdle a lineman during a kicking attempt in order to block a kick. “No defensive player, in an attempt to gain an advantage, may step, jump or stand on an opponent,” says the first part. “It is a foul if a defensive player moves forward and tries to block a field goal or try by leaving his feet and leaping into the plane directly above the frame of the body of an opponent. It is not a foul if the player was aligned in a stationary position within one yard of the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped,” says the second part. It goes on to say you cannot attempt to block a punt by “leaping into the plane directly above the frame of the body of an opponent,” but that you can jump straight up without trying to jump over the player.
Confused? Take a gander at the entire Article 11 of the rulebook (tinyurl.com/vyaqw3f) if you have some free time. Boiled down, defenders cannot try to hurdle another player in an attempt to block a kick. This was likely done to prevent hypothetical injuries from such plays, which has been the trend with significant rule changes in football. In 2017, the rule was expanded to be called in all instances regardless of whether or not the play resulted in a defender landing on top of an opponent.
Leaping is rarely called — I can’t remember seeing it called this season in college football — but it’s one of those penalties that often invokes plenty of swearing if your team is the one penalized. Personally, I understand why it’s a penalty. What I don’t understand is why it hasn’t been expanded to include ball carriers attempting to leap a defender.
Look, I love it when running backs hurdle would-be tacklers in order to gain extra yards, but am I supposed to believe the risk of injury is significantly smaller if it’s an offensive player doing it? Either the practice is risky enough to warrant banning it across the board or it isn’t. Don’t tell certain players not to use their athletic abilities to their advantage while other players can still do so.
•Policing bat flips, fist pumps, etc. in baseball — One of the things I like about America’s pastime is how the game tends to police itself. Are you going to pitch inside, or attempt to brush a hitter back off the plate? OK, but you control and command better be pinpoint, because if you hit one of my players, I’m throwing a fastball in between the numbers of one of your players. It’s understood as a part of baseball, and it works. Mostly.
But if a batter does a bat flip, pumps his fist or maybe stands in the box a little too long after a home run swing, some pitchers feel the need to invoke some unwritten rule that says you can’t do those things because baseball is a gentleman’s game, or something. This is where “enforcement” goes a bit too far. Let’s say a pitcher intentionally walks a batter because he believes the next batter is an easier out. Said batter then hits a grand slam. Are you telling me that hitter isn’t entitled to a little bit of celebration given that the pitcher slighted him by walking the guy in front of him. I know it’s not meant as a slight, but humans are still playing the game, even if it is just strategy.
If players want to celebrate a big hit, let them. If pitchers want to pump their fist after a big strikeout to end the inning, let them. We’re not ruining future generations of kids by letting baseball players show some emotion. Stop plunking them for doing so.
•Calling a basketball game one way and then another — Here is a plea to basketball officials at any level: I’m all for “letting them play,” if you will. I get that you’re not going to make fans happy no matter what you do. The main reason basketball is my favorite sport to cover is because of its pace, and no one wants to sit there and listen to a bunch of whistles for three-plus hours.
But I am begging y’all to please stop doing this thing where you “let them play” — I.E. are selective with foul calls — until the waning minutes of each half before you start calling everything under the sun. I don’t mean to tell officials how to do their job, which is thankless enough as it is. All I’m asking is that the final minutes of the second and fourth periods, or first and second halves in NCAA men’s basketball, are treated the same as all of the other minutes.
•Not-so-instant replay — The use of modern-day technology to reverse mistakes on the field or court is a good thing that sports were correct to embrace, some more quickly than others. We should still put in a 90-second time limit on these things, though. If something isn’t “clear video evidence” after reviewing footage for a minute and a half, then just say the call or play stands. That’s plenty of time to determine whether the receiver was in bounds or off whom the ball bounced before it rolled out. Get on with the game already.
•The wave — This is more of a personal annoyance than anything, but I’m going to go from asking people to let baseball players have fun to asking fans to stop doing this. It’s distracting, and it’s really bad when you’re doing it while being down several touchdowns or 10 runs in the fifth, etc. I want to watch the game, not look around and wonder whether or not it’s time for me to jump out of my seat for a second.
Also, get off my lawn.
Drew Kerekes is the sports editor at The Meridian Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.