We watch sports because there is always a chance that something thrilling will happen: the last-second shot that wins the game, the potential game-winning drive with less than a minute to go, the walk-off grand slam in what once was a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning, the split millisecond that determines the difference between gold and silver medals. The list goes on, thankfully.
But as many spectacular plays and amazing finishes as there have been in the sporting world that make us scream, ‘Did you see that!?’ there are those annoying plays that make us say, ‘No, not again!’
A few examples: the basketball head coach taking a timeout when his team is down by 12 points with four seconds to go; the intentional walk that makes 30 seconds feel like five minutes; the football head coach calling a timeout just before the other team’s kicker attempts a potential game-tying/winning field goal in a foolish try to make him kick it again, giving him a second chance even if he missed the three points; the intentional foul to send a player to the free throw line; and, in my mind the worst, the faking of the injury to make time. The list, unfortunately, goes on.
Now I know what you’re saying. They’re for strategic purposes, and in competition, anything within the rules goes when a team is trying to win a game. Trust me, I understand that, and sympathize with doing everything possible to win. But the line between strategy and unnecessary antics is thin and it’s getting crossed more than a few times.
Take for example faking the severity of an injury. And yes, of course this has happened in the world of sports. During the UEFA Euro this past summer, I viewed a handful of soccer matches. While watching this marvelous event that only comes around every four years, I witnessed some great moments and a few unforgettable games. Regretfully, I also remember seeing some players who were on the winning team in the late stages of the match killing time by staying down on the field an extra minute or two after being knocked down.
I’m not saying they’re totally faking it. In the 85th minute of a grueling soccer match, no player is at 100 percent, and getting kicked in the knee is going to hurt a bit extra. But, with five minutes to go and with your team up 2-1’hellip;you might want to stay down a couple of minutes more for premeditated purposes. Give your teammates a chance to get a breather and stop any momentum the other team could have gained. In a sport where there is no such thing as a timeout, it’s good strategy, but do you really want to win like that? I guess they do, but fans hate that. By the way, even the commentators, the impartial voices of the sport, were getting annoyed at the lack of integrity and sportsmanship displayed by the fakers.
Other professional sports are worse. Why do you think conspiracy theorists believe games are fixed and that Las Vegas sports books and television ratings control everything? Well, one reason could be those head-scratching plays.
You know a play is exasperating and inexcusable when you can’t even explain it to someone who is trying to learn the rules of the game. Your girlfriend asked you why Denver Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan called a timeout just as the opposing kicker kicked a field goal, which missed, thus giving him another crack at it. What could you say? Nothing. You just sat there without a response and, yes, scratching your head.
What happened in reality was Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas was lining up for a 56-yard field goal attempt. Shanahan called a timeout a split-second before the ball was snapped. The play proceeded and Bironas missed the kick badly. However, the kicker got a second chance because the timeout nullified the miss. Guess what? Bironas nailed the second attempt.
Or in the NBA, ask Shaquille O’Neal if he likes intentional fouls. Last week, O’Neal said he will get back at the San Antonio Spurs for using the Hack-a-Shaq strategy in games where they led by double-digits during last season’s playoffs.
‘The only thing I call cowardly is when you’re up by 10 and do it,’ O’Neal told Phoenix radio station KTAR. ‘That’s a coward move and (Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich) knows that and I’ll make them pay for it.’
O’Neal said he thinks the Hack-a-Shaq strategy, which consists of fouling a notoriously poor free-throw shooter ‘- O’Neal’s case – to make the opposing team earn their points at the line, makes the game less appealing to fans. He said he didn’t have a problem with the ploy, only the timing.
Well I have a problem with the ploy. Why do teams need to intentionally foul? Can’t they play defense and stop the other team from scoring?
O’Neal is right when he says it makes the game less appealing to fans. He’s not going to make anyone pay anything because he is not what he used to be anymore, but he’s right. All these unnecessary antics make the games less attractive to fans. That’s not to mention how they take away the essence, genuineness and credibility of sports.
Imagine if that last-second shot that won the game didn’t happen because the other team made the player beat them by making two free throws. Imagine the walk-off grand slam never happened, because the batter was intentionally walked. Think of what would happen if a rival team’s kicker missed a Super Bowl win-or-lose field goal, but got a second chance and was succesful thanks to your team’s bonehead of a coach and his ‘icing’ timeout.
Wouldn’t you be annoyed?