[As Walt Whitman once wrote, “To indeed be a God.” None of us knows what we will do with any certainty in later life. Yet, I doubt there is a reader of this site that doesn’t love the thought of being a commissioner of the one of the four big sports leagues or the head of the NCAA. It is the single best opportunity to shape a league and, with that awesome power, perhaps even address a permutation or two.
Here is some of my rumination about what I would change if I had the keys and was sitting in the driver seat of one of the major professional leagues.]
Without evoking the ire of Sister Jean, let me play God for a moment. Every year, myriad suggestions are made from fans around the world pertaining to possible rule changes in sports. Some are absurd. Some make great sense. Some are unfortunate, but are necessary and ultimately beneficial (e.g., the NFL kickoff). So, in the doldrums of summer, I can’t help but ask the question: if I were some universal sports commissioner and could make three changes, what would they be?
- I would eliminate the tie (and the PK shootout) in all professional soccer and replace it with the Golden Goal.
The PK shootout is often treated with derisive scorn by the footballing establishment. Currently, the PK shootout is only used in elimination (knockout) games. PK’s are disliked due to their luck-based determination of many important matches. I would institute a Golden Goal rule across all professional and international competition. My version, however, would come with a twist. For every 5 minutes of overtime, 1 player from each would be subtracted until only the goalkeeper remained. Can you imagine the drama? Even better, this change would spare England fans (of which I count myself as one when the US isn’t playing) the agony of another lost PK shootout.
2. I would eliminate instant replay in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Pace of play is the single biggest issue in baseball. Fans have gotten tried of stolen bases leading to 10-minute reviews. More broadly, 3-hour games must be eliminated. The elimination of replay won’t totally solve the problem of total game length, but it will help. In addition, this change could have the second order impact of increasing relative fan interest. Let’s be honest. In the heart of hearts, fans want to be angry about poor calls. If we leave them uncorrected, it will stoke the flames of fanhood, and lead to increasing interest in the MLB. America’s pastime is fading. This change would go a small way toward bringing it back to life.
3. Finally, I think it is time to allow players to earn endorsement money in college.
The collegian ideal of amateurism can be saved. However, in order for us to save it, we need to dilute it. Players should be allowed to accept endorsement money and to market their brand. This modification to the current NCAA rules would resolve many of the amateurism disputes between the NCCA and parties such as Ed O’ Bannon and countless other teenagers navigating a path from high school to college to professional sports. It also would have an important impact in sports like basketball, incentivizing players to remain in school and improve their skills before jumping to the professional ranks.
Let us know in the comments below what sort of rule change you would like to see implemented. As I started the exercise of framing this list, there were a bunch of changes across the leagues that felt worthy of consideration. One of the things that I always loved about the late Lamar Hunt is that he was always advocating for fan-friendly changes to NFL. It is all about making the best leagues in the world even better.