If y’all could use something lighthearted like me, then hopefully this week’s column will provide just that as we further adjust to life with no sports, no school, no church, no concerts and no rush-hour traffic.
Not that I’m complaining about the last item on that list, mind you.
For those of you like me who aren’t as familiar with soccer, do yourself a favor and never, ever, ever complain about the game having an offside rule in the company of soccer enthusiasts. Whether you’re in their company in real life or on social media, asking this question will cause the soccer enthusiasts to descend on you with the fury of a scorned lover.
In between them calling you stupid, they will explain how the offside rule prevents a soccer match from favoring whichever team can boot the ball the farthest downfield to a player or group of players huddled around the goal. In the context of soccer, it’s a rule that makes sense.
Not all aspects of sports make sense, though. I’ve previously expressed my confusion about why the leaping penalty in football doesn’t apply to ball carriers trying to hurdle a defender. Here are a few other things surrounding sports that don’t make sense to me:
•Mike Trout isn’t a household name — I’m using the Angels centerfielder and future Hall of Famer as an example of a bigger problem with Major League Baseball, namely the fact that he should be just as popular in our culture as LeBron James, Tom Brady, Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe, for example. My Facebook memories function brought up something from a year ago in which Colin Cowherd pointed out how Trout would be unrecognized in a Los Angeles mall.
One of the responses to this Cowherd quote — the one I shared on Facebook — lamented how Trout could easily be more recognizable if he would just get “tatted up, bleach his hair, throw on a gold chain, pimp every home run and have an affair with an Instagram model.” The twitter user Eric O’Flaherty went on to say, paraphrasing, that maybe we as a society should reevaluate who deserves our attention.
It’s a fair point, but when I was a child, I didn’t follow the NBA or MLB closely, yet even I knew who Michael Jordan and Ken Griffey Jr. were. I’m not sure what the problem is, but MLB needs to figure out how to market its players better. Trout, Christian Yelich, Francisco Lindor and Max Scherzer should be household names. Freddie Freeman should be a big deal to all baseball fans, not just Braves fans.
•The NBA draft lottery — In the NFL and MLB, for example, your draft position is determined by your won-loss record. Teams with less wins get higher picks. The idea is that with higher picks a team will draft better players, which in the long run will make them better teams and give their respective leagues more parity.
We can debate whether or not this system leads to more parity, but the NBA has a different system. The top four picks are determined by a ping pong lottery, with the greatest odds going to the teams with the worst four records in the league. All 14 teams who miss the playoffs are eligible for this lottery, which means a team that barely misses the postseason technically has a chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick, even though the odds are lesser than that of a team in the bottom four.
Still, leaving this up to chance seems to serve little purpose aside from entertainment value. Just do what the other leagues do and give the team with the worst overall record the No. 1 pick, the team with the second-worst record the No. 2 pick, and so on.
•MLB All-Star voting — I know it’s supposed to be all about the fans, but I don’t agree that the fans should be determining who gets to start in this game. I’m not sure the perfect system for All-Star voting exists, but I do know that when fanbases have massive online rallies to prop up one of their players to start for either the AL or the NL, more deserving players inevitably get relegated to the bench or possibly don’t make the teams at all.
The system is better now, to be fair. Currently, there are two rounds of voting: a primary, in which the top three finishers move on to what’s called the Starters Election. In that second round, fans have 28 hours to pick a finalist from the three that advanced, and votes from the first round don’t carry over. (Nine finalists advance for the three outfield positions, and last year, three more finalists advanced for the AL’s designated hitter position.)
This is an improvement from before, as narrowing it down to three finalists lets fans get a closer look at the three to determine who’s best. Presumably, if a player from your favorite team didn’t make the top three, you would simply vote for the most deserving. Still, the possibility for bias still exists in this format, which is why I wish there were a system that replaced fan voting altogether.
•Pass interference in college football — If I were a defensive backs coach at the collegiate level, I would instruct my players to commit interference every time they got burned, if possible. Pass interference is a 15-yard penalty in college football instead of a spot foul like in the NFL. That means if a college receiver gets past a defensive back and the quarterback makes a good throw, the best thing that defensive back can do is interfere and take the 15-yard penalty instead of giving up 40-plus yards or a touchdown.
The NCAA needs to fix this and change the rule to mirror the NFL’s. The one hesitation I have is that what constitutes “pass interference” seems to vary from one officiating crew to the next. Still, I sometimes lament how rule changes in the last decade have favored offenses heavily, so it’s only fair I complain about a rule that’s a big help to defensive backs who allowed a receiver to get behind them.
Drew Kerekes is the sports editor at The Meridian Star. He can be reached at email@example.com.