In the history of technology, the simple ideas often turn out to be the most long-reaching. That usually means putting some new whiz-bang technology to use in a pedestrian way. The kitchen microwave is most obvious example. Our world has been made vastly different by this labor saving device that no one set out to design. CorningWare and non-stick pans are other great examples. We take these things for granted, but these happy accidents have contributed to our easy living more than 99% of most innovations dreamed up over the last century.
Like all normal males, I enjoy watching sports. The trouble is the games are often too long or too dull. European football is an example of the latter. The long stretches of tedium are too much to ask. Basketball is an example of the former in that the final five minutes seems to take an hour, with all the fouling and timeout calls. This post on MR has a simple and novel way to address some of this.
As kids, we played games to a certain score. Pickup basketball was always a game to some number of points. Pond hockey was whoever scored five goals or scored last. We did not have a way to keep time so made sense to do it this way. Applying this simple idea to professional sports could address a lot of the problems that plague modern sports, especially basketball. That way, a team up by 25-points is unlikely to coast as they can win the game by pouring it on once they have that big lead. It also makes fouling as a strategy pointless, thus shortening the games.
Soccer would not benefit from this approach as there’s not enough scoring. The alternative suggested in the MR post is that you use the score at the half as a baseline. If it is nil-nil after the break, then the first goal wins. If it is 1-nil, then the first team to two goals wins. The benefit here is that the second half would become a sudden death or “golden goal” period for many of these games. That’s always good for the fans and it puts pressure on players. Let’s face it. Sport is best when the pressure is the highest.
Other sports don’t seem to be an obvious fit for this approach. Basketball and soccer strike me as the two games that should be exciting, action packed and quick, but are too often the opposite. For soccer, I’d add a rule that requires the fake injured player to stay on the ground for two minutes if no foul is called. Do it twice and you get ejected and your team plays shorthanded. The cry baby nonsense spoils the game. Soccer is at its best when skilled players on the attack face skilled players on defense. We need more of that and less of the rolling around in agony stuff.
Basketball started down that road with the flopping, but has managed to curtail it so I don’t know if they have that as a serious issue like soccer. Basketball has way too many time outs and substitutions. Limiting the time outs could allow for more scoring runs and maybe quicker finishes. Good teams would want to keep playing and run up the score quickly. The weaker teams would tire and give out so the game would be over quickly. Two great teams, on the other hand, would be like Ali-Frazier slugging it out until the end.