I have to admit, soccer has definitely grown on me. It used to be just as taboo as hockey in my household, but now I can sit through most of a soccer match (even though I don’t understand what’s going on most of the time) and I usually enjoy it.
This caused me to watch the Champions League (I don’t really know what that is) Final today on ESPN2. I knew that Manchester United and Chelsea are both from England, and that Cristiano Ronaldo is good, but that’s about it. Anyway when I turned it on in the second half it was 1-1, and, not surprisingly, the game ended in a tie. After 30 minutes of extra time (and a Chelsea player getting ejected for slapping a Man-U player in the face…only in soccer), the game was still tied. So the game went to penalty kicks.
Winning the Champions League is widely considered the highest prize for a soccer team, and now it was going to be decided by a schoolyard activity that involves just as much luck as skill. Manchester United ended up winning after Chelsea’s Nicolas Anelka was denied by goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, but it felt like they had won by forefeit or something. Even though shootouts are appealing because you actually see goals scored, it’s not the right way to crown a winner in one of the world’s most important championship games.
This got me thinking about what the equivalent of a shootout would be in the popular American sports, and this is what I came up with:
Baseball: If the game remains tied after 12 innings of play, both teams clear the field except for a pitcher and a batter. With the pitcher throwing his best stuff, the batter gets one swing to hit the ball and try to round the bases and score before the pitcher can retreive the ball and either touch home plate, tag the runner with the ball, or hit the runner with a thrown ball. The teams alternate just like penalty shots until a winner is determined.
So if the batter hits a line drive, the team will pretty much score (assuming the runner doesn’t tear his ACL rounding the bases). If it’s a pop fly to the infield or a weak grounder, you’re gonna see some serious hustle!
Ideal Matchup: Juan Pierre vs. Bartolo Colon
Basketball: There are some pretty easy equivalents in basketball. A game of HORSE or a three-point contest seems logical. But in order to simulate the one-on-one nature of a shootout, I suggest a game entitled, “Dunk on Him!”
It’s pretty simple. Instead of a second overtime, one team selects its best dunker and the other picks its best defender. Each player starts at the half court line, on opposite sides of the court. When the whistle blows, they both sprint towards the basket with the offensive player trying to dunk the ball and the defender trying to stop him without fouling. This solution will result in countless SportsCenter highlights and will take half as long as the 45 minutes of an NBA overtime.
Ideal Mathcup: Josh Smith vs. Kevin Garnett or Anybody vs. Patrick Ewing (he got dunked on a lot)
Football: Ok everybody hates the NFL sudden-death overtime and college overtime is almost like a shootout to begin with, so we have to come up with something different…and here it is.
Each team selects an offensive player (probably a running back) to go through an American Gladiators-style Breakthrough and Conquer against one of the other team’s best defenders. For those of you not familiar with the show (the original, not the Hulk Hogan version), first the runner has to juke and get by a defender and then immediately attempt to wrestle and push the defender out of a painted circle.
Ideal Matchup: LaDanian Tomlinson vs. Ray Lewis (original AG used two Gladiators, but I think it’s fair to have just one defender required to do both)
So, in an effort to unify the sports, I suggest we adopt these tie-breakers for our major sports. They’d be a lot more soccer-like and could help bridge the gap between American sports and European sports. Or soccer could just continue playing until somebody actually wins. I guess that could work too.