An Interesting And Simple Idea

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.

6 thoughts on “An Interesting And Simple Idea

  1. Soccer/football – Isn’t that the sport that Europeans enjoy so they can wind down from a hard day of watching paint dry?

    To be more serious, I played soccer in my youth. It is a lot of fun and one of the best workouts you can get. It’s just that in my own personal opinion, as a spectator sport, it is one of the most boring there is.

    American football isn’t much better. A 90 minute game on television consists of about 10% play, 40% jabbering sports celebrities, and 50% commercials.

    And then there is televised Golf. Naah, I won’t go there.

  2. Trouble is, as I say, things don’t work as planned. In soccer the Golden Goal was tried, and failed because teams knew if they went on the defensive for extra time then they had a chance with a penalty shoot-out. As they were tired by then and wary of making a mistake that would cost them a deciding goal they reasoned playing for 30 extra minutes of goalless football was worth the chance of a penalty win.

    I believe Russian soccer once experimented with doing away with draws and assuming that every match played to a definite result would be more interesting. As far as I know it wasn’t.

    Also, I can appreciate for US watchers what you term soccer seems to have long spells of tedium, but you have to watch not the goalmouth action (which is why ‘edited highlights’ are not that interesting as it tells you nothing about the game) but how the game ebbs and flows. I admit that if you have been brought up on, say, endless scoring then goal less equates to boredom, whereas to those brought up on it there are always subtleties of influence. Also, as has been said by John Bergen, there is always the chance of something extraordinary.

    A goal in soccer is a dynamic, game changing event. With respect to other games, some scoring is relatively meaningless. A couple of points here or there might add up eventually but it is unlikely to be a landmark event.

    As for injuries, the problem with soccer is that often the tackle causes — when connecting with lower legs — an explosive if short-lived pain. Ankles and shins have little flesh to cushion blows and knocks, and so players go down quickly. In the same way head collisions — while rare — happen unexpectedly and cause potentially a lot of damage.

    This is not to excuse the ones who play for fouls or dramatics, screaming blue murder at the slightest touch. I despise them too, though Britain in bringing in lots of Latin temperament players sees far too much of it.

    • Re: Soccer/Football

      The thing I’ve always found odd about fans of the beautiful game is their unwillingness to tinker with the sport. In America, tinkering with the rules of our games is as much fun as the games. We love tinkering with the rules. Baseball, the most traditional of our main sports, has evolved considerably over my lifetime. Even stock car racing has endless tinkering and they are just driving sedans around in circles.

      Now, the whole strategy of the game stuff is just not true. Soccer is by far the simplest of the major sports. It is as subtle as a sledgehammer. There’s a Ulysses quality to it. Instead of one man wandering around and nothing happening; it is 20 men wandering around while nothing happens. I agree that it often looks like nothing, when it is maneuvering for an attack, but very often it is just killing time. That’s where the problem lies. I don’t want to have to pretend something is happening when the players are just milking the clock.

      But I’m an unsophisticated Yank…

  3. Hey,I love soccer, especially English soccer. Don’t mess with it. Even the games that end 0-0. Because there is always the chance of something extraordinary which will be the difference between success and failure. And they never last more than two hours. There is always something to appreciate, especially with the top teams.

  4. How about a , say, 60 second clock in soccer, in which a team has 60 seconds to take a shot on goal. If no shot is taken, the other team takes possession of the ball.
    Or maybe change the ” offside” rules to allow the offense more latitude in getting the ball near the opposing goal.
    Baseball, basketball, football etc., have modified their rules to accomodate “progress” in player fitness, capabilities and strategies, and soccer should do likewise to avoid those 90 minute games ending with zero zero score.

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