07/11/06 — Opinion - Sports Commissioner ... just for one day

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Opinion - Sports Commissioner ... just for one day

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on July 11, 2006 2:14 PM

I haven't played soccer competitively in years.

But when you grow up kicking it around, the sport -- like any -- has a way of growing on you.

So, obviously I watched the World Cup. I actually look forward to it every four years.

There were some games I was more glued to than others, namely any U.S. or Germany game, and some I just chose to read about the next day. Still, I followed it from start-to-finish.

I respect the sport and know what it takes to endure the grind of a match, so I'm content with watching a 1-0 -- or even an 0-0 -- contest. A lot of people aren't, which turns many away. That's understandable. I like offense, too.

But what I don't like are penalty kicks deciding the outcome of the championship match, or any match for that matter, which happened at the end of Sunday's battle between France and Italy -- eventually won in penalty kicks by the Italians.

I know, I know ... they played a pair of 15-minute overtime halves, didn't score and players can't run around the pitch forever. Plus, P.K.'s add excitement and keep a matches length within a reasonable time for television.

Points taken.

Still, I would like to see FIFA (and high school and college soccer for that matter) adopt the "golden-goal," or first-goal wins, for its matches. The excitement would remain as both teams pushed forward trying to get the first goal. Sure, it may take a little more time to complete. Then again, it may only take one minute. Simply, I would just like to see the match decided on the field by all of the players instead of a 1-vs.-1 situation.

So, if I could create the artificial title of "Sports Commissioner" for a day, what other sports would I change? Well, a few when it comes to how they determine a winner in overtime.

I'll hit the highlights ...

* Football -- I don't like sudden death in the NFL -- especially since it's based on a coin toss. I don't really agree with the alternating-possesion style in college and high school ball since it doesn't incorporate the whole field, only the red zone. I'm a fan of simplicity ... professional, college and high school should all adopt the same tiebreaker. Use parts of both of the overtime procedures and give both teams a chance with the ball. It's like "innings" for football ...

Still have a coin flip and the winner decides to take the ball first or second. But have a kickoff and subsequent drive. If Team A scores -- either a field goal or touchdown -- Team B gets a chance to win or tie after receiving another kickoff. If Team A stops Team B, game over. If Team B stops Team A on the first drive, they can win it with a field goal or touchdown after Team A punts (or goes for it on fourth down). If Team B ties it, the process starts over until a winner is determined. I promise, in practice it would be simpler than it sounds.

* Golf -- We ran an Associated Press story last week clamoring for elimination of the 18-hole playoff. I couldn't agree more. I'm not a rabid golf fan (or player), but 18 holes seems extreme. I like the one-hole, sudden-death idea for golf ... nine holes at the most if you had to appease the television folks.

* Hockey -- If you got into the Canes run through the playoffs this year like many did, you saw your fair share of overtime hockey. I think sudden death is good for the sport, and much like soccer, I think it should be adopted in the regular season as well -- instead of shoot-outs. Sure, shoot-outs are fun, but hockey is a team game just as much -- or more -- than any other. I'll let the NHL slide on this one, since they were coming out of the lockout and had to make a few changes last year.

* Basketball -- I'm good with basketball overtimes. Pretty cut-and-dry ... add a few more minutes to the clock and toss it up. Though I've always thought college and high school should adopt a "sixth-foul" rule to give players an extra foul if a game goes into overtime.

* Baseball -- The inning structure is perfect ... thanks Mr. Doubleday. Some Japanese leagues only play three innings before a game is ruled a tie ... thanks google. I'd like to use my Commissioner powers here to switch the All-Star game back to a true exhibition and not a determinant of homefield advantage for the World Series. That may be the most baffling rule in sports history. Homefield should go to the team with the best regular-season record. Oh yeah, and I'd move Milwaukee back to the American League to even things out again.

* Tennis -- The tiebreaker system can stay. "If it ain't broke ..."

If I had to guess, I would say there is a slim-to-none chance any of these changes are made in the near or even distant future. But the bottom line is there are issues in most of the major sports concerning extra time that are often overlooked but should be evaluated.