COLUMN: Changing sports for the better

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By John Herndon

It is said that everything can improve. Everything.

So with that in mind, I recently had a little too much time on my hands, so I jotted down – OK, I actually used my thumbs to type them into my iPhone – five things I wish I could change about sports.

Some of these will never happen but if I ever get a magic wand that could change things with one wave, these would be the end result.

1. Wild cards would end in pro sports.

All sports would end the hideous practice of letting some team that has not won anything into playoffs or a tournament.

If you are a Cincinnati Reds fan, like me, you have to acknowledge that the wild card might help a team that many were picking for the World Series but has been decimated by injuries all season long. As of last Thursday, the Reds were 2.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central race but six games up on the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second, and final, wild card berth.

At this writing, the Reds are in good shape to make the post-season, but really what have they won?

I know that several teams have won the World Series or Super Bowl championships as the wild cards, but that does not negate the idea champions should be regular season winners.

Call me old-school if you want. I might actually revel in that.

While I am at it, the wave of the magic wand would create an NCAA basketball tournament with only 32 teams or thereabout. Win your conference and you are in.  Otherwise stay home.

Chances of either happening: About the same as getting Final Four tickets at mid-court for five bucks. You know how that is. Money talks.


2. The Kentucky-Louisville football game would move to Thanksgiving weekend.

Oh, never mind.

For the most part, I like the move that was announced last Wednesday. Most big rivalry games are played around that time, give or take a weekend, so it makes sense.

It is also very cool that with Louisville going to the ACC next year, the game will be part of a four-game SEC-ACC challenge that weekend.

What I don't like about the move is that the buildup of having the game as the opener is gone. I always thought that was good for the state, but playing the big game as the last one of the year has a lot of positives.

Still, it's a good move.


3. Parents would stop living vicariously through their kids.

Too many times, I have seen people take the enjoyment of games away because they try to live through their kids' accomplishments. Then when the reality hits that the young person is not one of the rare ones to receive a big-time athletic scholarship, there is a let-down and plenty of finger-pointing.

Along that line, I wish more people were as concerned about their kids' academic prowess than their athletic ability. Ask any high school or college guidance counselor and you will probably find that, unless your name is Kevin Durant or Joey Votto, academics will take a kid much farther than what he can do on the field.

Chances of that happening? About the same as me going to a Lady Gaga concert. If you need a further hint, I can't tell you a song Lady Gaga sings, nor do I care to tell you one.


4. People get off the kick of colleges exploiting athletes.

I understand that many see some inequities in the colleges making millions while the NCAA rules do not allow athletes to have a job in season or receive a small stipend. I will agree that part of the system needs to be changed. And no one can deny the hypocrisy of the NCAA.

But on the other hand, has anyone griping about the system ever added up what four years of college on a full ride costs? I did some figuring and came up with the answer: a lot.

People enter into those contracts voluntarily, though.  No one is making someone go to college to play sports. There are options, such as going overseas.

The system is flawed, but can't be fully at fault when someone enters the system voluntarily.

Chances of it happening? About the same as Billy Gillispie becoming governor of Kentucky.

5.The NBA puts a franchise in Louisville.

There should already be a team there. They could even play some games in Lexington.

Louisville is roughly the same size as several NBA cities, most notably Oklahoma City, and has a rabid basketball fan base. When the Kentucky Colonels folded with the ABA nearly 40 years ago, they had one of the highest average attendance figures in pro basketball.

Why is there no team in town now? Good question.

Chances of it happening? It could. But more than likely won't anytime soon.

And that's a shame.


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