Let me set the scene for you: You are playing the game of basketball, and you drive to the basket, and you are fouled on a layup attempt that you miss. You receive two free throws. The next play, the same thing occurs, except that you make the layup. You receive one free throw.
Let me reset the scene for you: Playing the game of basketball, yadda yadda, miss layup + foul = two free throws, made layup + foul = two free throws.
Yes, mon ami, Pierre returns and with a vengeance. The NBA shall draw my unique ire over the course of the next several weeks, as I once again spew vitriol at the odd presumptions of American sports rules, taking aim at its most athletic and aesthetic of sports, but one that is passing away before our very eyes.
Let me set the scene for you: The Games of the XXI Winter Olympiad are about to end, and they were pretty good.
Let me reset the scene for you: The Games of the XXI Winter Olympiad are about to end, and they were truly transcendent. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the Closing Ceremonies, complete with the first unveiling of the Ultimate Podium and the first declaration of a real Olympic winner.
We all know that the Winter Olympics suffer from a bit of a middle-child syndrome, perpetually locked between the last Summer Olympics and the next Summer Olympics. But at their heart, the Winter Olympics should be more fascinating than their vernal kin. This is because so many of its events are so novel to us living in America. We no longer live in the peaceful America of Saturdays spent with Jim McKay and ABC’s Wide World of Sports, where we’d occasionally catch a glimpse of a skiing event in a year that wasn’t divisible by four.* With our sporting purview more limited to the mainstream now, our predominant reaction to the sports of the Winter Olympics comprises questions such as, “What’s going on here?” and “How come nobody else thinks this is that cool?” (The latter of which is adopted by my own colleague.)
*This was back when the Winter Olympics only occurred in years divisible by four. Continue reading
Let me set the scene for you: At the end of regulation, the Saints and Colts are tied at 48 in what has already been proclaimed the Greatest Sporting Event in the History of the West. In overtime, however, whoever wins the coin toss unimpressively moves 35 yards down the field and anticlimactically kicks a championship-winning field goal. Its status as GSEHW is quickly revoked and handed back, somewhat perplexingly, to the Toronto Blue Jays’ 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers from June 17, 1995.
Let me reset the scene for you: At the end of regulation, the Saints and Colts are tied at 48 in what has already been proclaimed the Greatest Sporting Event in the History of the West. The drama doesn’t cease there but rather builds to an astonishing Wagnerian crescendo in overtime, where one of the teams finally crosses the goal line to claim the Lombardi Trophy. The game’s status as GSEHW is not only confirmed but changed slightly, with “West” being replaced by “World.” This is possible because, finally and logically, we have changed the rules that govern overtime in the National Football League.
There is no secret that overtime in the NFL is broken. The team that wins the coin toss wins an alarming amount of the time—close to 60 percent since 2000. Despite a prominent countryman of mine’s firm belief that chance is the only reasonable divinity (Tim’s favorite, Camus, although I doubt he understands the complexity of The Fall) or a not-so-prominent co-blogger of mine’s own investigation into the morality of the coin toss, the outcome of football games should not rest on the flick of a referee’s finger.
Let me set the scene for you: There are four seconds left in an intense NFL playoff game. The visiting team, down by three and at the opponent’s 30-yard line, sends out its placekicker for a 48-yard field goal that will either end his team’s season or send the game to overtime. It is a dramatic moment.
Let me reset the scene for you: There are four seconds left in an intense NFL playoff game. The visiting team, down by three and at the opponent’s 30-yard line, sends out its placekicker for a 48-yard field goal that will end his team’s season, send the game to overtime, or end the other team’s season. Because especially accurate kicks that travel between Arena League-style interior uprights are worth four points, it is as dramatic as moments get in sports. Win, tie, and loss are all in play.
We can all agree that not all field goals are the same; some are more difficult than others. This has been the main motivation for changing the point distribution on field goals; theoretically, kicks that are harder to make should be worth more than easier ones. Most suggestions along this line, then, endorse making a field goal in excess of 50 yards worth an extra point.
Let me set the scene for you: College football, as is, is a gross miscarriage of justice in all forms, a charlatan that pretends to properly judge the talent of teams and players alike and to prepare them for the NFL and real life.
Let me reset the scene for you: College football is perfect because its major problem has been fixed. That’s right, we change the rules so that you’re not down when your knee hits the ground and nobody touches you.
One of my “esteemed” colleagues has used this space on previous Fridays to lament the trivial woes of the Bowl Championship Series. Let me, in one two-claused sentence, dispossess him of his revolutionary cause. Sports have the meaning we ascribe to them. That is all.
Let me set the scene for you: It is the World Series, and designated hitter Hideki Matsui goes 8-for-13 en route to winning Series MVP for the Yankees. The men the Phillies add to their order in the Bronx, Ben Francisco and Matt Stairs, go 1-for-11.
Let me reset the scene for you: It is the World Series, and designated hitter Hideki Matsui has a tremendous hot streak en route to winning Series MVP for the Yankees. The Phillies, however, acquitted themselves nicely, stretching the series to seven games with the aid of their own designated hitter, Jim Thome.
Now, Pierre should not need to tell you that he is against the designated hitter. Pierre is a man of reason, and that should inform you of his stance on that issue.* But since he sees no hope for the elimination of the designated hitter in the near future, he is forced to advocate for an even more extreme solution: The National League must begin using a designated hitter, as well.
Let me set the scene for you: It’s the Division Series, and a team that’s 15 games better than the team it’s playing has just been eliminated in four days. Some people notice.
Let me reset the scene for you: It’s the Division Series, and a team that’s 15 games better than the team it’s playing has just survived quite the scare in a taut seven-game series that drew national attention.
We must face a simple truth, sports fans: Baseball’s playoff system is broken. In this, the Fifteenth Year of the Wild Card, it is time to finally discuss change.
The main flaw with Major League Baseball’s postseason is its reliance on Chip Caray as its announcer. Pierre kids…maybe.
The main flaw with Major League Baseball’s postseason is that the regular season’s best team rarely if ever wins the World Series anymore. My evidence: The team with the best record in the regular season has won the World Series just twice since the inception of the Wild Card in 1995. Those two teams are the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games and are the second-best regular-season team in American League history, and the 2007 Red Sox, who won 96 games. I’m tempted to exclude the ’07 Red Sox from this “Best Team” discussion because their 96 wins not only tied them with another team (the politically incorrect Indians) but also marked the fewest wins by a league leader since at least 1978, and that includes the strike-shortened, 144-game 1995 season.*
*But not the strike-shortened 1994 and 1981 seasons, where winning 96 games would have been a remarkable achievement in each case.
Let me set the scene for you: It’s the final week of the golf season, except nobody notices because the most important tournaments have already been played.
Let me reset the scene for you: It’s the final week of the golf season, and everybody’s* attention is riveted as the most important tournament wraps up six weeks of must-see golf.
*“Everybody” here does not, of course, mean “everybody,” but rather, you know, anyone somewhat enthused by the adventurous journey of that petite dimpled ball.
This is the third year of the FedEx Cup—golf’s subpar attempt at concocting end-of-season excitement with some absurd form of “playoffs.” There are four tournaments, a point system, and a reduced number of players in the field each week. But in 2007, Tiger Woods won easily because he dominated the whole year, and in 2008, Vijay Singh won easily because he won the first two of the “playoff” tournaments.
Golf’s problem is this: It wants the playoffs to be approached both by the players and its fans with the same level of seriousness and significance as the sport’s major championships, played intermittently throughout the season. But therein lies the rub: The playoffs won’t be taken this seriously while they’re competing with the major titles.
Let me set the scene for you: it’s Lap 97 of 250 in a NASCAR race, and a whole lot of cars are moving counter-clockwise in an oval, with some stopped getting gas. And nobody is watching on television.
Let me reset the scene for you: it’s Lap 9 of 10 in a NASCAR race, and only two cars are moving clockwise in an oval, and there’s no getting gas or anything. And some people are watching on television.
Some upfront honesty: The appeal of NASCAR has always escaped me. I, too, can drive, and occasionally at high speeds. I can also turn right.
It is possible that NASCAR may never appeal to the high-minded intellectual that I present myself to be. Even my more regional Formula One falls short of my high standards for transcendence in sport. But this does not mean NASCAR can rest on its laurels and deny its need for improvement. There is, in fact, one very obvious way for the sport to become much more competitive, much more interesting, and far more entertaining: NASCAR needs to become a one-on-one event.
Let me set the scene for you: It’s an All-Star Game, and nobody cares.
Let me reset the scene for you: It’s an All-Star Game, and everybody cares.
My esteemed colleague wrote a vapid, nonsensical, and generally tedious post on why the Major League Baseball All-Star Game isn’t that bad. But John S, let’s be honest with ourselves and call a spade a spade. What fan of baseball is actually going to subject themselves to the abject torture that is the All-Star Game? I challenge you, John S, to sit there through the interminable player introductions, ceremonial first pitches, shots of Bud Selig, and not least in inducing woe, the actual four-hour game, and come out on the other side of it thinking yourself somehow enhanced by the experience.
A confession: I have not watched an All-Star Game in its entirety; this is because I have a sense of propriety. I did monitor bits and pieces of last year’s, which proved mildly interesting. But suffice it to say that, each year, Major League Baseball errs more in its All-Star shenanigans than Daniel Uggla.