It's Election Day, so get out and vote. I don't care how you vote. You can vote the way I do or you can screw up the country. Your choice. Just vote.
Aside from throwing the bums out -- what bums? Who ya got? -- here is the agenda I, a voting sports fan, would like to see enacted as our country marches boldly into the future. Or stumbles lamely, if enough of you vote the opposite way I'm planning to, as you usually do.
I vote for:
The NBA to dial back its new rules about player conduct just a little. The smackdown on whining and arguing to the refs is a good thing, but guys are getting T'd up for merely reacting to a foul call, or shouting when they dunk.
Considering this policy and the picky new uniform rules that govern the proper usage of sweatbands and hosiery, the NBA seems to be trying to emulate the least likable aspect of the NFL, its No Fun League tendencies. The NBA is about the passion and personalities of its players as much as it's about their mind-boggling athleticism and skill. Let's not have NBA come to mean No Brio Allowed.
The NFL to do the same. Is it really such a terrible thing if players, say, use the ball as a prop to celebrate a touchdown? The NFL considers overly enthusiastic touchdown celebrations a form of taunting, but is there any evidence they bother the other team, or that the other team even notices? Or do they just bother the suits at corporate and their middle-aged brethren in the luxury suites?
I vote to heck with those people. They'll still pay. Let 'em eat Kobe beef dumplings and imported beer.
I vote for:
The NBA to reinvogorate its long, boring regular season -- known around here as the preseason -- by letting fewer teams into the playoffs. Sixteen of the league's 30 teams get in. I vote for half of that. I may have mentioned this before. Almost annually. But the first round of the NBA playoffs is the most useless thing in sports, except maybe sideline reporters.
With only eight teams -- the three division winners and a wild-card team in each conference, just like baseball -- there'd be some actual meaningful games between good teams late in the season, and we wouldn't have to sit through two weeks of blowouts in the first round.
All sideline reporters to be reassigned. As long as you brought them up.
Sideline reporters are the TV sports equivalent of that TV news thing where they do a live report from the courthouse steps on the 11 o'clock news -- about a trial that adjourned at noon. Totally unnecessary. The sideline reporters get used because they're there.
A production assistant could do the "reporting" to find out that Joe Receiver, who twisted his ankle a few plays ago, has a twisted ankle and is probable to return, and we can do without those halftime "interviews" with the coach as he trots off the field or court and talks about how his team just has to cut down on the mistakes and score more in the second half.
We can also do without those "I talked to Jim Quarterback's mom, and she told me she had half the team over to eat her world-famous chili on Friday ..." "stories."
Without the mostly female sideline reporter ghetto, maybe somebody'd give talents like Andrea Kremer, Suzy Kolber, Michelle Tafoya, Cheryl Miller and Doris Burke more work that's more substantive. I vote for that.
I also vote for:
The NHL, which has the same season and playoff length as the NBA, to keep its playoff system but shorten its regular season. Unlike the NBA playoffs, the NHL playoffs are dynamite right from the start. Eighth seeds beat No. 1's all the time. So keep that, and cut that preseason slog down to maybe 60 games.
There's no need for the NHL to try to compete with the baseball playoffs for attention, and there's no need for hockey in June, or even late May.
Baseball to get out of the business of playing its World Series in football weather around Halloween. We just got done talking about this. But as long as we're on the subject of baseball I also vote for:
No more ugly "third jerseys." In the 1970s those colored uniforms were a breath of fresh air, a needed jolt for a stodgy game. Now they just make perfectly good major-league teams look like beer-league softball players. Save the red or blue or green shirts for batting practice and spring training.
College football to get a real playoff system. Something. Anything.
And finally, I vote for:
TV networks to point the camera at the ball, puck or whatever focal point of the sport at hand, always, and from an angle that allows we, the people, to see what's going on. Even if there are angles that are more "interesting" or "artistic" or that get you, the director, praised on industry listservs.
A lot of people have their pet issue. Education, healthcare, the war in Iraq, human rights, whatever. This is mine. Show us the game.
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No column Wednesday [PERMALINK]
I'll be lending my editorial talents, such as they are, to Salon's efforts at covering the big midterm elections aftermath Wednesday, so no sports column. The column returns Thursday.
Previous column: The NFL in a nutshell
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