Fans try to be nicer...sort of.
In early December, right around the time Bud Selig was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the sport abolished one of the silliest rules ever implemented by the former Major League Baseball commissioner. MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement stipulates that home-field advantage in the World Series no longer will be determined by which team wins the All-Star Game.
That 14-year-old decree, which potentially allowed the outcome of an exhibition game to affect Game 7 of the World Series, dates back to 2002’s so-called Midsummer Classic at Miller Park. That game ended in a controversial 7-7 tie after 11 innings, when both teams ran out of available pitchers. Selig hoped that by making the outcome matter, players would take the All-Star Game more seriously.
Now that one wrong in the world of sports is righted, how about fixing some more? Here are three places to start:
Drop NFL games on Thursday nights. The richest professional sports league in the world decided in 2006 to generate more television revenue by cutting significantly short two teams’ prep time every week. Not only is the NFL endangering its players (who hate Thursday games, by the way), but the schedule also has resulted in completely unappealing matchups. Cleveland at Baltimore, anyone? Speaking of unappealing, the less said about Nike’s single-color, head-to-toe “Color Rush” uniforms worn exclusively on Thursdays, the better.
Find a way to better recognize worthy teams that fall outside the four-team College Football Playoff format. Sending No. 8 Wisconsin to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl to face a team from the Mid-American Conference isn’t good enough. How about expanding the playoff format to five or even seven teams, with the No. 1 seed receiving a bye? That wouldn’t have helped the Badgers this season, but it would have given No. 5 Penn State — whose comeback victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game should have counted for more — a shot at the national title.
Get serious about sportsmanship at the youth and high school levels. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association endured widespread ridicule from the likes of comedian Stephen Colbert and ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt last winter for distributing to member schools a reminder list of unacceptable student chants, including “air ball,” “sieve” and “fundamentals.” I’ve heard a lot worse come out of adult mouths at middle school basketball games and club swim meets. If we’re truly concerned about sportsmanship — and we should be — let’s take a broader approach and focus on real change. Let’s begin by kicking out a few flagrant fans.