Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Six months ago I wrote about some proposed rule changes for sports, after which I received a bunch of e-mails, as well as several comments online from folks who agreed or disagreed or had their own brilliant ideas.
With recent news this month about golf instituting a rule to ban “belly putting” and the NCAA declining to shorten the 35-second shot clock in college basketball, I thought it might be time to revisit sports rules and report some of the reader suggestions.
In all, I received more than two dozen suggestions about rule changes in sports ranging from thoughtful, rational ones to absurd, outrageous ones.
Although it was November at the time, the sport that surprisingly received more suggestions than any other was soccer. Next came basketball, followed by football, baseball and golf. Nobody commented on tennis, where I suggested eliminating “do-overs “on serves.
The complaints with soccer have to do with scoring, or lack thereof. Fans don’t like 0-0 ties or sitting through a game that produces just a single goal in 90 minutes. Of course, soccer purists will tell you the game is beautiful the way it is, regardless of the number of goals scored.
The main suggestions for soccer are No.1 — eliminate the offsides rule, and No. 2 — create slightly larger goals to allow more scores into the net. Other suggestions included instituting a penalty box like hockey rather than issuing red and yellow cards, using fewer players on the field (perhaps nine instead of 11) and adding another official on the field.
As one reader put it, “soccer is boring . . . soccer is unfair . . . soccer rewards the inferior team with a win or tie more than any other major sport.’’
In basketball, readers suggested no foul-outs, a 30-second clock, allowing more contact (and fewer foul calls) and improving the block/charge conundrum. Several agreed with my suggestion to limit the number of timeouts in each game.
Among the football suggestions were a 5-yard penalty for holding, eliminating kickoffs (ball on the 30) and changing the timeout-to-freeze-the kicker-at-the-end-of-the-game option.
Baseball wishes included eliminating the designated hitter and increased use of technology, even for balls and strikes.
Rules are tweaked in most sports each year, but rarely in such a manner that the average sports fan can notice. It’s unlikely many of the above suggestions will be implemented any time soon, but we can only hope some are.
As for the recent rules in the news, I think golf and college basketball both got it wrong — golf for changing something that doesn’t need changing and basketball for missing a chance to improve its game.
Golf, a sport with declining interest, needs all the help it can get right now and making the game harder for some is not the right way to go. I think the USGA and R&A instituted Rule 14-1b because of the increased use of belly putters on the PGA Tour and the recent success (four of the last six winners of majors employ the belly putter technique.).
However, less than 15 percent of professional golfers even use the belly method — anchoring a longer putter against your body to make it easier to control the putter — and only a handful of the top 30 golfers in the world use that method.
I don’t feel sorry for the pros who are complaining about having to give up their belly putters by the year 2016 when the change becomes official.
The ones I’m concerned about are the everyday golfers who may have the putting yips, but have found a way to cure them and make the game more enjoyable by anchoring the putter to their body.
Some people argue that the recreational golfers who don’t play in tournaments don’t follow all the rules anyway, so they can still continue to anchor their putters on their bellies or wherever.
However perception is often reality and if golfers feel like a way to make the game easier for them is being taken away, they may decide to abandon the game completely.
As for college basketball, it needs to make some changes to a sport that is getting harder to watch each year. Cutting five seconds off the shot clock is a start. It would promote more scoring as well as provide added excitement at the end of games with less time per possession.
The fact is, scoring in college basketball fell to its lowest average since 1952 last year — and it didn’t even use a shot clock way back then.
Sure there are other things that can be done to improve the offense in college basketball — cutting down the physical play in the middle is another — but cutting the shot clock is a good start.
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