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If I ruled professional sports, here's what I'd change

Posted by Adam Kaufman  December 17, 2013 09:34 PM

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If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be that all the children of the world to join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.

If I had two wishes that I could make this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace…and the second would be for $30 million a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.

Those, of course, are the memorable words of Steve Martin in his 1991 “Saturday Night Live” Holiday Wish sketch. Eventually, his desires aren't so selfless, but they are hilarious.

In that spirit and with Christmas right around the corner, let’s ask a new question:

If you were the commissioner for all professional sports, what would you change?

Move over Bud Selig, David Stern ... err, Adam Silver, Roger Goodell, and Gary Bettman. Below, in no particular order, are the tweaks I would make. Some are, um, more realistic than others.

Across the board

  • A salary cap in every sport, including a minimum spending floor. Those numbers would vary from sport to sport based on their revenue systems, but it would help increase parity and smart spending. Really, I’m looking at you, MLB.
  • A maximum of six-year deals for all players. Also, and I know this is impossible, but no player in any sport could earn more than $15 million per year – which is still excessive for playing a game for a living.
  • Only championship rounds in MLB, the NBA, and NHL would be seven-game series, and they would follow a 2-2-1-1-1 format. Prior rounds would be best-of-five to speed up the postseason. There’s no need for two months of playoffs. In addition, no more than one day between games in the postseason, and that’s only for travel days. The obvious exception would be when breaks fall between rounds.
  • More replay but, much like in the NHL with goals, handled quickly and privately out of the league’s home office, rather than at the venue. The sports can afford the extra personnel.
  • Increase the regularity of drug testing. Want to keep the games clean, or at least force more creativity? How about testing twice a month?
  • Three uniforms for all teams: home, road, and alternate. That’s it. No more throwbacks or specialty jerseys. Sell those, don’t wear them.
  • Regarding eligibility, no sports would require time in college. It’s not essential in baseball or hockey, given the structure and depth of their minor league systems, and it shouldn’t be elsewhere either.
  • More behind-the-scenes entertainment. The NFL has “Hard Knocks,” the NHL has “24/7,” MLB does a ton with its “Fan Cave,” and NBA Entertainment produces compelling commentary as well. Individual teams, however, have varied views when it comes to access and it should be league-mandated. More mics, more players, more cameras, and more locations. Imagine if every team had a “Behind the B” for its fans?
  • Fewer commercials during games, especially those on national television. My bathroom breaks aren’t that long.

Major League Baseball

Bug Selig.jpg

  • A time limit between pitches. Enough of this 30-second, toe the rubber, wipe the ball, rub your brow, adjust your cap, look at each base three times garbage. Pitchers would have 15 seconds, max, or they are charged with a ball. Batters would be timed as well, and prevented from regularly stepping out of the batter’s box, otherwise it’s the loss of a strike. Fortunately, Nomar Garciapparra is retired. Pace of play is killing the game and this is the easiest way to reverse course to the two-hour games of 30 years ago.
  • Along the lines of speeding up games, why throw four pitches to intentionally walk a guy? Signal it to the ump, and he can put him on.
  • There would be a designated hitter in both leagues. Two leagues shouldn’t operate under different rules. Can only the Eastern Conference take 3-pointers in the NBA? Are fewer penalties called in hockey’s Western Conference?
  • The Wild Card playoff round would be a best-of-three, followed by the criteria listed above. Having a 162-game season decided by one contest is appalling.
  • Not every team needs an All-Star, nor should it be a fan-driven popularity contest. Players and managers would vote for the most deserving talent to represent their leagues.
  • Bring back home-plate collisions. I know they’re not gone yet, but I miss them already.
  • Put all the statistically-worthy cheaters in the Hall of Fame in a separate wing. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and all the rest, even Alex Rodriguez, are a part of the game’s history, just like their numbers and records. The gray area determining who’s clean and who isn’t at this point is simply too great and lasted too long. Moreover, they wouldn’t be the first members of the Hall with blemishes on their records. While we’re at it, it’s time for Pete Rose to barrel his way into Cooperstown.

National Basketball Association

David Stern Adam Silver.jpg

  • There would be fewer playoff teams. Six per conference instead of eight. Same goes for the NHL.
  • No more Draft Lottery. If you’re the worst, you’re entitled to the best. Wait, you mean Vancouver would have drafted Tim Duncan?
  • Technical fouls would count as personal fouls. Players would still foul out with two techs, but they would only have five personal fouls to work with rather than six.
  • Each team would have one timeout in the final two minutes of a game. The last 45 seconds of a close NBA contest currently takes like a half-hour. Oh, and calling a timeout immediately after a timeout would be a no-no.
  • Traveling would be called! This isn’t dodgeball; you can't run with the ball.
  • Courts would be widened from 50 to 56 feet and the 3-point line would be moved back to a uniform 25 feet all the way around (rather than 23 ¾ feet and 22 feet in the corners). Jordan Crawford range.
  • At All-Star Weekend, there would be an annual event that includes MTV Rock N’ Jock rules. Baskets worth 25 points, hoops that are 50 feet in the air, and Bill Bellamy would get to coach. Dan Cortese could be his assistant. Dean Cain would be captain. Every year. Also, the Slam Dunk competition would be put on hiatus until guys that the average fan has heard of are willing to participate.
  • While we’re at it, during the All-Star Game itself, psych-outs would be allowed, just like in "BASEketball."

National Football League

Roger Goodell.jpg

  • Pass interference is on the verge of becoming a gimme penalty. Teams basically target it. Going forward, it would only be called if it’s egregious. Also, it's a 15-yard penalty.
  • Welcome back, celebrations on touchdowns. No Sharpies, though, please.
  • No more Thursday night games, other than on Thanksgiving where only the Lions and Cowboys host games. I’m a sucker for this tradition. Plus, the league would be able to flex every Sunday night game to give the most interesting matchup the spotlight.
  • The book would be closed on adding games. It’s a 16-game schedule over 17 weeks and that’s that.
  • Enough with the NFL in London talk. Football will never be futbol over there. Time to accept that. In the meantime, it’s only irritating the U.S. fans.
  • You want to do away with concussions, or at least ensure you don’t see more than a handful throughout the league for an entire season? Flag football rules. No tackles, little contact. Otherwise, there’s no way to remove them from a game so violent.

National Hockey League

Gary Bettman.jpg

  • Teams would play a 20-minute overtime before a shootout. Skills competitions are entertaining, but they should rarely decide the outcome to a game.
  • The standings point system would be changed. A regulation win would earn a club 3 points and an overtime/shootout victory would net 2. For losing teams, 1 point for a defeat in overtime or a shootout and, naturally, nothing for falling in regulation.
  • This is a minor one, but the intermissions would be shortened from 18 minutes to 15.
  • Say goodbye to teams in Phoenix, Florida, Dallas, and Carolina, and hello to Quebec City, Hartford, Hamilton, and Seattle. Oh, and Toronto could have a second club.
  • How about some concrete decisions from the refs? No more calling diving and tripping or hooking at the same time. It’s one or the other.
  • Obstruction penalties would be eliminated. Believe it or not, even hockey could use a little more permissible contact. Oh, and fighting would remain. There’s still a place for it. But get rid of the instigator rule.
  • Players could not go out in their hometowns if they’ve already beaten that city for the Stanley Cup. Got ya covered, Milan Lucic.

Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About this blog

Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.

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