Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fighting In Hockey, A Not So Necessary Evil

Let me premise this by saying I grew up in SoCal in the 70s and 80s, so I never got a chance to play hockey, but I was a huge fan of the Marcel Dione (Triple Crown line) teams and later the Gretzky team. I don't follow the day to day NHL grind too closely any more, more or less my hockey viewing is saved for the team my 6 year old plays on.

The other day in a post (at The Book Blog) about certain aspects of baseball games that cause delays and games to drag on needlessly, the following exchange took place.

I’ll bet you could cut down on wasted time in hockey games by outlawing fighting. Scrum or no scrum, ready or not ready, the linesman will drop the puck on the faceoff spot 15 seconds after any stoppage of play.

There, I solved a “problem"…

As you may or may not know, Chief Operator of The Book Blog, Tom Tango is a huge hockey fan, who often holds hockey up as the "gold standard" for the way other leagues should be ran. When Mr. Tango got a whiff of the above comment, he quickly retorted.

Fighting serves a purpose, so that’s not a valid comparison.

This quote set off a red flag for me. I wondered "what purpose" he was referring to. I'm sure it served a purpose, but wanted to hear from a hockey subject matter expert how this was going to be likely explained as a "good" purpose. After being called an asshole and a drunk fool for asking in a sarcastic yet friendly manner Tango had this response.

The argument for fighting is that the players can self-police better than the officials. In a regular season game, if you remove fighting, you risk increasing stick fouls.
It’s a fair argument that it’s a necessary evil.

So basically, we have here that Mr. Tango believes that fighting in hockey serves a necessary purpose as a way for players to self police the game. Adults getting in to violent fist fights, trying to punch each other in the face with their bare fists, all the while trying to pull their opponents jersey over their heads in such a way that they cannot defend themselves from the punches to the head serves a necessary purpose. That's some high horse you have to be riding to think that hockey fights serve a necessary purpose or are "just part of the game". This from the same person who went to extremes (some good, some bad) about rule changes baseball needed to outlaw collisions at home plate. Baseball needs commit lines, forces at home plate on tag plays, red zone creases etc.., but violent fist fights in hockey are needed.

I really enjoyed a few of the other comments that pointed out the ridiculousness of this comment.

Yea, great purpose. It serves in stopping me from bringing my son to any NHL game.

Exactly! I will never turn on a hockey game in my house or take my kid to an NHL game. Never!!

But I think the next quote takes the cake and is spot on!

How does fighting serve a purpose in hockey? That’s like saying bench clearing brawls serve a purpose in baseball. No, they do not server a purpose. They appease the fans who enjoy violence with their entertainment. They appease themselves with childish acts of seeing which one has a bigger d*ck. It’s quite honestly shocking that you’d argue that fighting serves a purpose when you spent days arguing that baserunners shouldn’t be allowed to bowl over catchers. Very inconsistent.

I’ll admit I don’t watch hockey and have no intention of doing so, but I don’t need to watch it to know that fighting serves no purpose whatsoever. It doesn’t serve a purpose on the playground. It doesn’t serve one on basketball courts, baseball fields or football fields either. It also doesn’t serve a purpose in the office, between husband and wife, or between nations.

That is poster material right there. That is something that should be engrained into the heart and minds of any young child, teenager, or adult. Fighting serves no purpose. Self defense from bodily harm yes. Fighting no.

Mr. Tango then had the gall to ignore and write this off due to the assumed risks of playing hockey. And that if asked, (Summary opinion with no evidence) most if not all hockey players in the NHL would be against ejecting players for fighting. To which we get another great response from the peanut gallery.

Why do we have to ask the players what they think about fighting? Is fighting wrong? Are there better ways to accomplish your intended goal than through fighting? Do we expect adults to behave as adults, which means they do not get into fights.

I don’t care what the players think. We could ask 30 catchers and 25 of them are going to say a collision is fine. So why is it OK for one and not the other? Neither has a place in either game. Neither makes the game more exciting except for those fans who enjoy the violence of which there are far too many. Those are the fans these leagues should be going out of their way to make unhappy.

Look, I am not a square - I know that fights are going to take place from time to time in sports. I know there are sports where fighting is the sport (ie - boxing, MMA, kick boxing etc...). In those sports you win or lose through your fighting skills. In hockey the purpose of the game is to score more goals than your opponent through team work, stick skills, skating skills and goal tending. You do not get points for punching someone in the face with your bare knuckles. Fights may occur from time to time, like they do in baseball, basketball and soccer (rare), but it is NOT a necessary evil. It is an evil. An evil through and through and there is no rationale for saying that fighting is a necessary part of hockey. It does not matter if stick hits will be up or down without fighting. Just doesn't matter. Fighting should not be allowed in hockey and the "golden god" sport should be overhauled in such a manner that leading analysts aren't passing along nonsensical statements that the fighting is with merits.

Our society is too violent. People accepting punching someone in the face as a form of self policing is part of the problem. Violence in our society is very serious. Kids are bullied at school. Husbands beat up wives. Is it ok for bullies to beat up kids at schools as a means of self policing? Is it ok for husbands to beat wives as a means of self policing? No, and it is not ok in hockey either. I am not saying Mr. Tango advocates these things. But they are all related. Young children are impressionable, as are teenagers and unfortunately some adults who have yet to grow up. Mr. Tango should sit down and talk with some of the (anti) domestic violence advocacy groups and hear their take on violence and self policing via the clinched fist to the face. I wonder if they think that fighting in hockey is a necessary evil.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Performance Enhancers In Baseball

Baseball in its history has had its fair share of cheaters. Whether that meant stealing signs, spitting on baseballs or enhancing ones physical ability to play the game. I am going to look at the last part, which has been labelled in the main stream media (MSM) as PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs).

There are some performance enhancers that are drugs (HGH, Steroids) and other performance enhancers that are not (equipment, weight training, surgeries). Technically, these are all "performance enhancers", but to give equal weight to someone who wears contact lenses to someone who takes Anabolic Steroids is misguided and dull-witted on so many levels.

I like to think of the different types of performance enhancers being laid out on a spectrum with the left side housing things like LASIK, contact lenses, cleats, eating right, arm surgeries, legal advances in equipment... with the right side littered with things like HGH, Anabolic Steroids and other muscle mass building drugs and supplements (legal and illegal). The legal muscle mass building stuff would be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

There is a good fundamental reason why LASIK (IS NOT EQUAL TO) PED and it stems from having a fair and safe playing field (competition wise). Steroids are against the rules of baseball (atleast they are now). There is a good reason for this. Steroids can be dangerous to your body. Every player would pretty much be forced to take steroids in order to have a successful major league career if they were legal. Now LASIK is legal and for good reason. LASIK (contact lenses, eye glasses) pose very little health risk to players and is easily and safely available to all players. There is a fair and safe playing field as far as vision enhancement goes. Not so for steroids and many of the PEDs that are illegal in baseball.

I am not here to draw a line in the sand and label every single item that should be considered legal and illegal for baseball players, as I am not a chemist or doping expert. But by using common sense, it is easy to know where on this spectrum to place most of the common enhancers that come up for debate and lumping the items on the far left side of the spectrum in with the items on the far right side of the spectrum is rather ridiculous. Some of the items near the middle or right leaning side of the spectrum should be open for debate - but that's it.

Expanding The NCAA Basketball Tournament

We are right in the middle of March Madness and there has been a big buzz going around regarding the possible expansion of the field from 65 to 72, 80 or even 96 teams. The two things that would need to be improved upon from such an expansion before I'd support such a move, would be that an expansion is necessary based on "fairness" and that an expansion is necessary due to the potential for the NCAA to make a lot more money.

Now, I am by no means an NCAA financial expert, so I will stick to tackling the fairness issue. An expansion of the tournament would help the so called "bubble" teams get into the tournament, but would of course create a different class of "bubble" teams. The highest seed I could imagine a "bubble" team being, if they were to replace the 65th seeded team would probably be around a 12th or 13th seed. No 12th or 13th seeded team has ever made the final four, so I don't believe we are missing out on a potential National Champion by not expanding the field.

I believe we already have expansion, and it is called the conference tournaments that pretty much each and every conference plays at the end of the regular season. The conference tournament in effect, is already an expansion of the field of 65 teams. The conference tournaments can be thought of as "play in" games for the bubble teams and the teams that have no shot at making the field of 65 based off of merit.

In conclusion, I don't believe that the NCAA Basketball Tournament should be expanded beyond the 65 (not sure why we even have a play-in game) that currently make up the field of teams. There is not a fairness issue that would be solved and with the conference tournaments, we already have a quasi-expanded field.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

College Football Fallacy

As you probably know I am a a big proponent of a College Football Playoff System. You can Go Here to read more about that, but what I would like to touch on here is what I believe to be a common fallacy among proponents of the status quo, which is a single National Title BCS playoff game. What I believe to be the fallacy, which gets thrown around in the mainstream media (MSM) all the time, is that under the current BCS format the regular season games mean more than it would under an 8 team playoff (picking 8 for arguments sake).

Listening to this argument coming from the MSM got me to ponder if this was really the case. Yes, under the current system the regular season games mean more... but not for many teams. The problem is that too many teams are eliminated from serious championship contention early in the season. If a solid Division-1 team loses a game during the season, it takes a hope and a prayer and devine intervention from a computer program to get a shot at the National Title game. I remember one year, a one loss USC team had its National Title hopes resting on a meaningless WAC game at the end of the year, because their strength of schedule would look better or worse to the computer program depending on who won the game.

Under the current BCS system, as the season progresses more and more teams (often very good ones) drop out of title contention, only to have the rest of their season become meaningless as far as title hopes go. By the last two or three weeks, you only have a half a dozen teams playing meaningful games with the top two or three teams only controlling their own destiny. On the surface, there appear to be quite a few meaningless regular season games. In fact, nearly all the games are meaningless towards the last couple of weeks of the season.

Under an eight team playoff system, you would have college teams fighting for 8 spots, not 2 during the regular season. Many of these 8 spots would be up for grabs deep into a season, thus making more of the regular season games meaningful. No longer would you have a TCU or Boise State team winning every single game during the regular season and have nothing to show for it. I mean, how meaningful can the regular season be, when a good team like TCU or Boise State goes undefeated during the regular season and doesn't get a shot to play for the National Title.

The current system is unfair and it does not render the regular season more meaningful, in fact it renders it less meaningful. Below are my estimates as to how many teams left in contention for the National Title (realistically not mathematically) there are each week under both a 2 and 8 team playoff system.

Week #
BCS 2-Team
8 Team

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

19 And 1, How the NBA Handles High School Superstars

The NBA currently has a rule, which was part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players, where a player must be both 19 years of age and one year or more removed from high school. While I do think there is some harm done to the development of players who would find themselves jumping straight from high school to the NBA, I believe it is not fair (and probably not legal) to have such a rule that disallows 18 year olds from playing in the NBA.

Can you think of any other job where you are not allowed to work there because you are 18 years old? The only such jobs I can think of are POTUS, Senator etc..., but these are written into the Constitution of the USA. There are no "good" reasons to deny an 18 year old the right to pursue a career playing in the NBA. It is only for NBA selfish reasons that this rule was put into place, even if it was part of a bargain with the players union.

The NBA argues that players coming straight out of high school are too inmature and missing the refinement to their skills that they could get in college. Does the NBA really think one year in college or playing overseas will make such a huge leap in the 18 year olds maturity and basketball skill set that it is worth implementing such a rule? Any player who would make the jump straight from high school to the NBA won't likely be attending college for more than one year. Nor will he be taking his college studies seriously.

The NFL has a rule that a player must be three years removed from high school. This rule is also unfair for the same reasons that the NBA rule is, but it's much less contraversial due to the fact that not many football players recently out of high school are physically ready to compete at the NFL level. Both baseball and hockey allow 18 year olds or seniors in high school to be drafted. So what are the differences between the NBA and NFL on one side and the NHL and MLB on the other? The biggest difference I can find is that both basketball and football have huge money making machines at the NCAA level. Meanwhile, NCAA hockey and baseball dwarf in the revenue that they bring in compared to football and basketball. Baseball and hockey to a lesser degree have a well established minor league system for players both drafted out of high school and college. Players aren't called up until they are ready to compete at the major league level.

So let's get back to this thing about the NCAA and making money. Is the NCAA a financial stakeholder in the "19 And 1" rule? You better believe they are. College basketball benefits from having big marquee names playing at the larger schools. Could you imagine the media feeding frenzy that would've drove ratings of a LeBron James or Kobe Bryant playing in the NCAA? There is a lot of money for the NCAA to be made from having these big name players play college ball. Having these big name players (ie - O.J. Mayo) play one year in the NCAA brings in more revenue for the NCAA but is very awkward to say the least when everyone and their uncle knows that these phenoms will be "one and done". This must be frustrating for the NCAA, because it's hard to market a player for only one year. That is why you are starting to hear rumors of the rule being changed from "19 And 1" to "20 And 2". The NCAA would really benefit financially from two years of the best young players. The NCAA really misses the old days of Ralph Sampson and Patrick Ewing, when it was almost unheard of for a player to leave college before having played for four years.

So what are some of the alternatives. There really only is one, and that is to open up the NBA to any player that is 18 years or older. Any age below 18, I have no problem with placing restrictions as this gets into the "Child labor law" area, which I have no plan of tackling in this post. I believe the "19 And 1" rule is unfair and illegal. Why is it that an 18 year old can pursue any other job, including joining the military and being sent overseas to fight and possibly die for his country? It is plain and simple, age discrimination!!!

If I were an 18 year old basketball phenom, I would strongly consider heading overseas to play for pay. Sure, you could stay at home in the US and play one year for a high profile college team. You could even think of your one year as a try-out or marketing scheme, but you are losing money by not going directly into the NBA, especially if you are a projected lottery draft pick. You also risk injury by playing for free and those insurance policies aren't cheap.

So if I were consulting the NBA and NCAA on how to legally entice 18 and 19 year olds to play in the NCAA what would I do? The only thing I can think of is for college basketball players to get paid. I know the NCAA would probably not go for that. They are worried about the can of worms that could open up. Full ride college scholarships are not enough of an enticement for someone who could currently be making $2-$3M in the NBA. If you want to keep the 18 and 19 year olds from going directly to the NBA then pay them. Realistically, you could not pay a college player what a rookie drafted in the lottery would make, but if the NCAA wants a certain type of player to play college basketball for 2+ years then those players need to be compensated in such a way to make them decide to play college basketball.

Please feel free to comment on my blog entry. Comments and feedback are always very interesting to read.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

College Football Playoff System

last updated: 10/18/2010
College football is currently the only major US sport that does not have a playoff system. Currently hundreds of college football teams battle each week to impress a computerized ranking system. Is it fair that a team can go undefeated and not get a chance to play for the National Championship? Is it fair that a computer program can rank the #2 team ahead of the #3 team by .001 and the #3 rank team does not get the chance to battle for the title? Of course the answers are no.

The main argument(s) in favor of the BCS is that all the possible scenarios that different teams have of making the championship game add fun and flavor. The current system knocks some very good teams out of contention of the National Title too early in the season. Often you only have a half a dozen or so teams playing meaningful games the last 3 or 4 weeks of the season. My playoff system is an eight team single elimination playoff that takes place during December and makes use of the prominent bowl sites. The system also takes into consideration whether or not a team won it's conference and it's BCS ranking.

No team not ranked in the Top 12 (arbitrary number that could change) could participate. Any conference champion ranked in the Top 12 would get an automatic bid. All remaining bids would go to the highest ranked non-conference winning teams.
All teams would be seeded based on their BCS ranking. First round games would be played at the home field of the highest ranked team. The semi-final and championship matchups would be played at a rotating BCS bowl site. Bowl sites that weren't involved could be used for other non playoff bowl games. Teams not in the 8 team playoff could still participate in bowl games like they currently do now. I am no longer advocating my 12 and 16 team playoff scenarios as they are not too realistic at this point. The pros are that no undefeated major conference team should be left out, it only takes three weeks to play and there will be more meaningful regular season games towards the tail end of the season. The cons are that it's possible a high ranking non-conference winner could get left out, or that an undefeated team that played a powder-puff schedule would get left out, but I'm not sure that last one is a con.

This is how the current 2010 playoff would look like...

Invited Teams
- Aurburn (SEC Leader)
- Oklahoma (Big 12 Leader)
- Michigan St. (Big 10 Leader)
- Oregon (Pac 10 Leader)
- TCU (Mountain West Leader)
- Boise St. (Western Athletic Leader)
- LSU (wild-card)
- Alabama (wild-card)

Playoff Matchups
#5 TCU vs #4 Auburn
#8 Alabama vs #1 Oklahoma
#6 LSU vs #3 Boise St.
#7 Michigan St. vs #2 Oregon

Remarks: This is what an eight team playoff would look like under my system. Keep in mind it is way too early to crown conference champs so in the case of a tie or where two teams have yet to lose a conference game, I just temporarily selected the team with the higher BCS ranking as the placeholder for the conference champion.