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Monardo: Changing the world of professional sports (Feb. 8)

Joseph Monardo | Tuesday, February 7, 2012

As the GM of Sports, Executive of Athletics, President of Play and Dictator of the Sporting World, I would guide my realm to prosperity. Changes and mandates would abound as my opinion became the only one that mattered.

Firstly, there are some sports that could stand to be terminated. Despite its apparent popularity (how many true racing fans do you know?), NASCAR is a goner in my world. It is extremely dangerous, the drivers feud and pout ad nauseam and the events are too long.

Billiards should never be seen again on ESPN or its affiliate networks. I don’t think I need to provide any justification for this. Rather, I should ask ESPN to justify why they would ever have crowded the wonderful world of sports with billiards of all things.

Ditto for bowling.

UFC has no place in the sporting world. The violence of the brawls is startling, and I want no such event to call my kingdom home.

Having expelled some of the less appealing sports (I am the dictator, remember), I find it fit to add at least one sport into the mix. Team handball should at the very least have a chance in the United States. Already popular in other countries around the world, the sport offers excitement, rewards versatile athleticism and produces “SportsCenter” worthy highlights. Why I have never seen team handball on television inside the United States is beyond me. The initiation of a televised American Handball League, or even the importation of European matches to American television, would provide a welcome addition to the periods in between the NFL and MLB seasons. Worst case scenario, team handball is a flop in the states. It would still be 100 times less ridiculous than slam ball.

One of the main targets for my reform would be the NFL, where the product on the field is fantastic, the fan base is enormous and superstars abound. My reforms won’t be aimed so much at the National Football League, but rather at the No Fun League, the damning nickname that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has earned for his league in recent years.

Remember the days, not so long ago, when a player could christen his entrance into the end zone with a celebratory display of triumph? When Terrell Owens showered himself with popcorn, Randy Moss mooned the crowd at Lambeau and the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson went golfing with the pylon? Remember the buzz created when Johnson hinted at a touchdown celebration involving a live deer? Alas, the cervine celebration never was, and the NFL voted to restrict end zone celebrations in 2009.

The dances, slam dunks, leaps and belt-bucklings that follow touchdowns in today’s NFL lack the creativity and flair of their predecessors. If the restrictions were intended to eliminate shows of selfishness or ego, they failed. Jumping into the crowd, rising up to slam the football through the goal posts or “dougie-ing” are equally instances of a player wishing to make himself stand out in his celebration. Because celebrations now prohibit multiple team members from participating, the league rules actually mandate that any player wishing to celebrate a successful play does so without the inclusion of his teammates.

As dictator of the sporting world, I would not only allow touchdown celebrations in all of their forms, I would encourage creative and thoughtful displays. Celebrations allow professional football players, often regarded as other-worldly figures, to connect with the fans on a personal level.

I would implement a system by which a committee of selected fans and sports writers, headed by Chad Ochocinco ⎯ when he retires ⎯ would record and rate all touchdown celebrations. At the end of the season, the top player in terms of Touchdown Celebration Rating will receive recognition and be crowned King of all End Zones for the year. This system would spark inventiveness and provide a further incentive for players to reach the end zone and cater to the fans’ wants.

And for those of you who don’t like the idea of offensive players dancing their way to glory, keep them out of the end zone. Maybe there will be a defensive edition of the award in coming seasons.