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MMQB: Which Rule In Sports Would You Most Like To Change?

Rules are meant to be broken, changed, and removed. Which rule, or rules, most offends your sports sensibilities?

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It can be very aggravating to watch your favorite sport, only to see it negatively impacted by a rule that you may not consider necessary. As Penn State football fans, we can all agree that the targeting rule could probably use a little work. You could argue that the rule is not necessary, as existing rules could be applied to penalize the exact behavior.

Anyone remember this play?

Linebacker University was short on depth at its signature position heading into the Michigan game. The undeserved ejection of Brandon Smith may not have changed the outcome of the game, but should that even matter? The interpretation of the targeting rule at times forces the officials to guess what the intentions of a player may have been. At other times it leaves no room for interpretation, which can result in the ejection of a player that did something not allowed, with no intent to harm the other player, in a manner that did not change the outcome of the play.

Part of the problem is that it puts the onus of avoiding helmet to helmet contact on the defensive player. When two players go after a ball such as was the case in the Smith ejection incident, with an equal chance to make the play, it seems unfair to add additional responsibility to one player. Especially when there are no clear bad intentions, advantage gained, or abnormal harm caused to the offended player.

Many college football fans are not happy with the current status of the targeting rule. Few would argue if it went away. There are existing rules that cover the behavior we are trying to avoid.

The Restricted Zone In Basketball

Twenty years ago a strange little arc appeared on the floor of basketball courts. It is known as the ‘no charge zone’ or ‘restricted zone’ by hoops fans. The idea was to discourage players from attempting to draw a charge directly in front of the basket, which would in theory create a safer situation for offensive players. It has been a part of the game for so long that it is unlikely to ever go away, but for many old-school fans it would not be missed.

There is no fan that would argue on behalf of injuring players, or to encourage such intentional behavior. However, there were rules on the books, and still are, that would allow officials to handle a player that intentionally tries to undercut a player driving to the hoop.

It seems as though the referees could make the same decision without the line. It is a shame that there exists a place on the court where a player can theoretically stand in place, allow another player to dribble the length of the court, launch, and land on top of them and still be called for a foul. It doesn’t seem right that there is a place on the court that one player has more of a right to than another, without earning and establishing position.

This arc has not changed the game so drastically as the much larger one that delineates two-point shots from those that are worth three, but fans that have been watching for thirty years or more can see a noticeable change; the softening of low-post defensive play and the undeserved fearlessness of driving offensive players. It changes the pursuit angle that a defensive player can take. It can put the defensive player in danger since at times a defender must tap-dance and lean in an unnatural position to keep the feet outside the arc.

The Manner In Which Pass Interference Is Called

Over the years the pass interference rule has morphed into something that it was never intended to become when created. What we have now, especially in the NFL, is a game-changing monster always lurking nearby, ready to snatch the competitive balance out of an otherwise fair game. One call that could go either way, or go without a whistle, can alter the outcome of a game.

The drama should be placed in the hands of the players, to complete the catch or defend against it, as much as possible. What often is the case is the drama happens just after the play, when fans hold their stomachs from exiting their mouths as they wait for a split second to see if a yellow flag will garnish the play. Then there is the relief or dismay of a referee’s interpretation of a fuzzy rule. It’s more a part of the game than it needs to be.

The rule should be simplified and de-emphasized. If a player deliberately gains an advantage, it should called. Otherwise, let the dang kids play!

Another Newfangled Rule To Shake An Angry Fist At

The MLB no longer forces a team to throw four pitches in order to send a batter to first base with an intentional walk. It’s not a huge change in the way that the game is played, but some fans feel that it is an unnecessary alteration of the rules. It also takes out the chance that something out of the ordinary may happen in the process.

What say you, BSD reader? Do you have any sports rules that you would like to tone down, change, or get rid of altogether?