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Thursday, July 11, 2002
Worst sports innovations

From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed the 10 most despicable sports innovations, and we asked you to send us your choices.

We received more than 750 e-mails, and here is how Page 2 readers ranked sports' not-so-bright ideas. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the worst innovation of them all.

1. The designated hitter (189 letters)
It reeks! The DH has only prolonged the sad downside of aging veterans who are nothing but defensive liabilities. I would love to see pitchers' at-bats as a strategic part of the offensive mix ... not as a nuisance.
Alan Tao
Cerritos, Calif.

I am an AL fan, and it tears me up inside to have to admit that the NL plays purer baseball. This rule can do as much damage to the old-time records as steroids are rumored to be. Think of Bonds going another three years after his field-playing days on some AL team as DH, and socking more home runs than Aaron. (I could go on a tangent here ... digress to the body armor he wears ... but I'll spare you.) I also think that if pitchers had been forced to hit since college, they can be a viable threat at the plate. Think of all the hitter-friendly adjustments baseball has made. Is it impossible to think of a 20-game winner who doubles as a .310 hitter with 10 home runs?
Jeremy G.
Charlotte, N.C.

You somehow managed to ignore the lead item on Dick Durbin's hall of shame: the designated hitter. This innovation managed to create a boom market for decrepit over-the-hill players, skew the competitive balance between leagues, eliminate strategy from AL games, and allow Roger Clemens to plunk with immunity.
Jeff Zeeman
Boston

2. Artificial turf (92 letters)
If a salesman came to you and tried to sell you a product that allowed you to move quicker at a cheaper price, but the downside was the increased chance of horrific injury -- would you buy it? I don't care how good a blender can make me a margarita, if my fingers come off in the process, I don't want it! Turf causes injuries -- turf needs to go. Case closed.
Troy
Norfolk, Va.

Artificial turf is ugly, dangerous and outdated. Free ACL tears for anyone who whines about getting rid of it!
Josh Wilson
Missoula, Mont.

Without a doubt it has to be artificial turf. Not only has it been the cause of who knows how many career threatening/ending injuries, but it also propagated the emergence of indoor "mallparks" where so-called "fans" mingle and carouse, paying attention to everything except the sport itself.
Brandon T. Sheumaker
Atlanta

3. BCS (89 letters)
Any bowl system, no matter how well constructed, will be flawed. Every year we will continue to have controversy, because the 11- or 12-game season rarely allows the separation of two top teams. A playoff is absolutely necessary. Imagine a March Madness-style, do-or-die playoff atmosphere, with college football as the backdrop. Fans would love it, ratings would be off the chart, and most importantly, the champion would have an undisputed claim to the title.
Adam
Denver

Worst sports innovation? The BCS -- on a number of levels.

First, what are collegiate athletes supposed to think when their schools tell 'em they can't accept money, bribes, kickbacks, whatever, because education still has integrity. Then they watch as the NCAA takes millions from companies like Doritos and GMAC just so the companies can paint their names on the fields before the game starts? (Insert take on stadium naming rights here.)

Also, what are these athletes supposed to think when their schools preach the value of education but let many of them skate through classes just so they can make it to one of a few dozen bowls? Where's the benefit in foregoing a legit college degree just to play in the GalleryFurniture.com Bowl anyway?

And finally (though obviously), why should we have to tell teams like 2001's CU Buffalos and Oregon Ducks that they're getting screwed out of a shot at the national title (I think -- which bowl is which, again?) because a coach, a reporter, and a Commodore 64 in some computer geek's parents' garage can't agree on what constitutes a championship football team?

Look at the Raiders-Pats game this year and we confirm, football will never be free of controversy. But I'm much happier with the Pats making the Super Bowl on a judgment call that could (arguably) have gone either way, than because a ranking system said they deserved it way back in late December.
Austin Kenney
San Diego

4. Performance-enhancing drugs (77 letters)
Through all of the tributes to Ted Williams over the past week, notice that not one had to make mention of the fact Teddy Ballgame never took steroids. He just hit over 500 home runs, and is still the greatest hitter who ever lived. Sure, if a player dopes up, he might hit 50 homers a year, he might also hit around .248 and be an afterthought three years later when he's washed up. John Kruk rode a diet of hot dogs and beer to a .300 lifetime average. It will be sad to see a cloud of steroid controversy hanging around when Hank Aaron's home run record is broken. Get rid of the juice!
Ben Cornelius
Keokuk, Iowa

Steroids. They are illegal, just like crack.
Sam
San Diego

Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs of any kind reflect today's money-and-fame-driven sporting environment which causes our "athletes" to do whatever it takes to be a "success." Surely, sporting success is not defined by the stuff you stick in your body, but by the competition itself, and how well you fare on a level playing field.

Don't give me this "we're being picked on." Those poor multimillionaire's playing baseball (the true working-class game), should be under the same scrutiny as Maurice Greene, Marion Jones or Marshall Faulk.
Michael Blakemore
Perth, Australia

5. Free agency (76 letters)
Free agency has to be the worst concoction ever created by sport. How many strikes and labor problems occurred before free agency? How many afterward? Was too much expansion and its flip-side -- contraction -- ever an issue before free agency? What about money? If I had the skill of Alex Rodriguez, I wouldn't care what amount of money I was given to PLAY -- I would do it for the love of the game, no bull. Yeah, free agency might be the death of all sports ... and to think it all started because someone wanted to get out of Philly?!
Tim Malcolm
Philadelphia

It's gotten to the point where, as Jerry Seinfield once said, "We're just rooting for laundry." As a Detroit sports fan, I have watched free agency ruin sports. The rich (like my beloved Red Wings) go rent the best players available, while the poor (just about any baseball team besides the Yankees) make trades for prospects because they can't afford to keep the players they've drafted and scouted well. My dad grew up with the '68 Tigers and watched all of them mature with the team and stay together. I'll never have that joy. I hope that Bud sees your list and notices that five of the top eight can be directly traced back to baseball. Is it any wonder this sport is on suicide watch?
Jeff Wierenga
Kalamazoo, Mich.

I'll give you my top-four obvious choices for this list ...

1) Free agency and arbitration -- increases the salaries for playing a game, which increases the costs of everything associated with games (seats, food, stadiums, and cable viewing).

2) The designated hitter -- Hello?! Different playing rules for each league?

3) Unions -- I understand their purpose, but I don't understand their purpose in sport. Professional athletes are being paid ridiculous amounts to play games!! To make their salaries and then have meal money, plus lodging, added on too is absolutely ludicrous to any working stiff. It's another facet that has caused prices to spiral out of control in all the major sports.

4) Drafts that allow teams to choose kids out of high school. MLB selections have had a poor track record. The NBA is a joke. Make the kids get an education or at least wait until they reach legal drinking age.
Lonnie Geer
Keene, N.H.

6. The glowing puck (59 letters)
The worst innovation has to be the Fox glowing puck. Designed to assist American viewers who apparently had difficulty following a black puck on white ice (?!?), the "glowing puck" was terrible. An insult to American viewers, and a joke to hockey regulars, the puck turned broadcasts into a glamorized video game. While the virtual first-down marker enhanced the football viewing experience, seeing cometlike pucks soaring around a rink only hurt the NHL's efforts to market the sport in the U.S. Fortunately, the failure of the glow puck scrapped the league's plan to have players play without skates, thereby slowing the game down so people could better follow the action.
Sandy Bailey
Toronto

I think the Canadians illustrated its idiocy best with their Molson beer commercials by showing a man wearing a cowboy hat and talking in a Texas accent (which is what all Americans are like, as far as the rest of the world is concerned) pitching the idea of a puck with a bright red tail to the NHL. Their response of course was to throw him out of their office at such a high speed, that he had a red streak of his own behind him. (Making fun of Americans evidently sells Canadian beer.) Glowing puck - worst idea ever.
Cole Bennett
Notre Dame, Ind.

I hate the glowing puck. It's like having 12 guys skating around the ice chasing after Tinkerbell.
Eric
State College, Pa.

7. Naming rights/commercialization (44 letters)
"Naming Rights" is only half of the problem. Underwriting in general has gotten out of control. Tradition-rich college bowls have been tainted. No one will use AT&T simply because they sponsor the Rose Bowl, or Tostito's because they back the Fiesta Bowl, or GalleryFurniture.com because they sponsor any bowl. It doesn't stop there: The Valvoline Halftime Report, the AFLAC Trivia Question, the list continues. Ridiculous.
Austin Gray
Hays, Kan.


Instead of names with some significance and/or history, we are reminded of big business, crooked execs, recent Wall Street failures, and all things corporate we're going to the ballpark to escape.
Brian
San Antonio


Corporations buying the names to stadiums has got to go. Qualcomm Stadium? Safeco Field? The BOB? Business advertising and sports just do not mix. It's like the captain of the high school football team taking the math club president to the prom. It's just not right.
Paul
Columbus, Ohio

8. Luxury boxes (39 letters)
How could you forget the luxury box? NBA arenas in particular are overrun by these on-site living rooms. They've taken away the atmosphere of a crazy blue-collar crowd cheering as one and has replaced them with suits sitting silently on their hands while talking with business clients instead of rooting for the home team. How long until we see a stadium composed of nothing but luxury boxes. Oh dear owners, think of the revenue! ... (and yes, the sarcasm).
Greg Wondra
Mayville, Wis.

Why would you want to pay for a ticket and sit inside a small box to watch a sporting event?? You miss the camaraderie of the other fans, the true roar of the crowd, the stale beer, and fattening food. If you want a gourmet meal while watching sports alone, save the price of a ticket, stay home for the afternoon, and hire a caterer.
Mike Hollenbeck
Ottawa, Ill.

9. Personal seat licenses (24 letters)
Is there another way to milk us fans for more money? It's like the owners decided to make attending sports an elitist activity. Isn't the common man responsible for those huge TV ratings? Now the common man can't afford to go to the games. It's just a matter of time before the common man never goes and eventually never watches either. Pricing sports out of our ability to pay is a BAD idea and the next generations will surely prove it.
Dan
Louisville


This is easily the most heinous development in sports. Why am I going to pay you twice for the same seat? Is it not the height of arrogance to demand that I pay you for the right to pay for a ticket? This is a direct development of the overpowering greed of players and owners clamoring for more revenue from the people who are simply trying to support their team. The only people who can afford going to games these days are corporate fat cats who give away the seats to clients, etc., paying for these personal seat licenses and tickets with overstated profits. What a racket!
Shawn Lyon
Palm City, Fla.

10. Shootouts/penalty kicks to decide winners (22 letters)
Shootouts are by far the worst way to determine the winner of any event. Soccer and hockey are team sports, and shootouts take a handful of players and let them decide who wins. It is not fair to the players who are forced to sit and watch or to the coaches, and the goalies. Get rid of the shootouts!!
Blake Koen
Moorestown, N.J.


Soccer shootouts are the worst things invented. It's not even remotely close to the sport anymore. It would be like having a basketball game decided by a slam dunk competition or an NFL game won with extra points.
Mike
Atlanta

Also receiving votes
  • Batting body armor
  • The XFL
  • TV timeouts
  • Interleague play
  • Tie games
  • College 3-point shot