Author Archive

The Sports Revolution: The Division Tournament

Pierre as a young boy was a contrarian. He was the kind who favored The Plague over The Stranger, Beauvoir over Sartre, Henry over Zidane, the left rook’s pawn over the right rook’s pawn.

Pierre as a man retains so much of that contrarianism, but there is within him, he can now say, some sentiment for the Man, the Authority, the Establishment—in short, the common nouns that require proper capitalization.

It is with this perspective of the potentate in mind that I have reached a conclusion I once thought not possible. The NFL, that American Establishment of Establishments, must begin playing an 18-game season.

We can swim against the tide of history or we can ride it. The latter is not, however, a pure acquiescence, as our very presence causes change and rupture and redefinition—perhaps to meet our own needs.

And so we approach tremulously the Mordor of the 18-game concept. Continue reading

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The Sports Revolution: And-One Penalties

PI's just like a bench press for Ed.Let me set the scene for you: A quarterback launches a long pass down the sideline toward an emergingly open receiver. The defensive back, sensing what is about to occur, prevents a completion through less than legal means. And yet, even while a flag is being thrown, the receiver makes a tremendous catch anyway. The penalty is declined.

Let me reset the scene for you: After the flag is thrown and the catch is made, our referee announces the penalty while his assistants march off additional yardage. How much exactly? Why, the amount gained on the play, to be precise.

That’s right: Football needs its and-one. A catch made in spite of pass interference shouldn’t render the interference irrelevant. The same penalty should be meted out regardless of the completion of the pass, and thus a 20-yard pass despite PI should become a 40-yard gain.

Pierre has argued this point before, in regards to that officiating shambles of an indoor winter sport. While watching my beloved Ligue canadienne de football this autumn, it has struck me that North American football does an even more piteous job acknowledging degree of difficulty than its indoor companion. Penalties that do not alter the final result of a play are simply declined—overlooked, ignored, erased from the annals of the postgame almanacs.

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The Sports Revolution: Fixing the Pro Bowl

Don’t play it.

The Sports Revolution: Speeding Up Baseball

Let me set the scene for you: The Tigers and Rangers play a tight afternoon Game 2 that many do not see the end of, because they have turned instead to a mundane Monday Night Football contest between the Lions and the Bears. Oh my.

Let me reset the scene for you: The Tigers and Rangers play a tight afternoon Game 2 that stays in the afternoon, with nobody turning the channel. They achieve this with one simple alteration of baseball rules: A batter is only permitted one two-strike foul ball before he is called out.

As always, please, control your incredulity. Baseball, as a game, has gotten demonstrably slower over the years — not just because more batters are getting on base, but also because they’re taking longer to do so. Major leaguers averaged 3.81 pitches per plate appearance this season, just down from record numbers in recent years. Contrast that with 1988, the first year that Baseball-Reference tracked the stat, when plate appearances lasted a mere 3.59 pitches.* Continue reading

The Sports Revolution: Simultaneous Overtime!

Let ESPN’s Brian Griese set the scene for you: “It’s almost like the TD was given; it’s all going to come down to the two-point conversion.”

Let NPI’s Pierre Menard reset the scene for you: “Nothing in college football’s overtime can possibly be described as ‘given.’”

We have spent so much time analyzing the inadequacies of professional football’s overtime logistics that we have overlooked the larger flaws in college’s practice of the extra session(s). We are lucky that Monsieur Griese was describing a game between his alma mater, Michigan, and Illinois—one that Pierre can safely say was, in all aspects, irrelevant and insignificant.

Yes, college football’s overtime, mon ami, is broken. It is too easy to score, and like its professional predecessor, places an unnecessary significance on the initial coin toss. Furthermore, it skews statistics, scores, and the very nature of the sport.

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The Sports Revolution: Saving the Division Series

Last year about this time, I laid out my plans for an entire postseason overhaul. This year, while standing by most of those innovative suggestions — the nine-game World Series, in particular — I want to revisit the aspect of the Major League Baseball postseason that I, and every baseball fan I know,* continues to find most troubling.

*I do not know John S.

I speak, of course, of the Division Series.

The Division Series — scourge of the favorite and the underdog alike, a duality best occupied, it seems, by the Minnesota Twins. The Division Series — where a season of tidings of comfort and joy can come crashing down in four days. The Division Series — where baseball’s postseason most trivializes its regular-season and creates fundamental questions regarding the justice of its champion. The Division Series — why does it drop the “League” when the LCS never does?*

*Methinks the answer lay in an aversion to a certain FX television program. Perhaps I’ve anthropomorphized too much. That, or they don’t want to confuse members of the Latter-Day Saints.

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The Sports Revolution: To Halve Is To Have Not

Let me say first that, in general, I agree with my colleague’s assessment of the Ryder Cup. There is something so…so sporting about the event that I enjoy it very much, despite its reprehensible underrepresentation of my native land.*

*No love this year for U.S. Open runner-up Gregory Havret, Captain Monty?

But it is not all the sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows that mon frere makes it out to be. No, the Ryder Cup is not perfect. It has one very glaring, to the point of being almost unignorable, flaw: The Half.

The Half is merely golf’s pretentious term for a draw, which is soccer’s pretentious term for a tie. The Ryder Cup embraces ties like no event outside of the World Cup. Every match must end by the 18th, and the ones that end with neither team having an advantage are, well, halved. But you can’t eat your cake and halve it, too.* You can’t host an event all about winning while expressing no qualms when several of its constitutive parts end in draws.

*Forgive my inversion of the phrase for a larger rhetorical punch.

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