Behind the lines: Just make all defense illegal

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    My ideal score is 45-44, it’s a perfect mix of offense and defense. No, I’m not talking about football, but rather basketball. My view of sports is juxtaposed with what the big-time pundits think the game should be.

    The front office believes in at least half of the adage that offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships. Championships are great at the end of a 17-game NFL season with another month of playoff football. The other major sports find ways to drag out the post-season along as far as they can.


    Does anyone remember when winning the conference meant something? Now it’s wildcards, underdogs, and more wildcard weekends as the playoffs expand.

    It even extends to high school sports where eight athletes now qualify for the state track meet and state wrestling tournaments, even though many brackets have open spots when the wrestlers arrive at the Ford Wyoming Center. The idea of 1-7 teams making the football playoffs is ludicrous but you have to find four teams from each side of Wyoming’s five divisions in the present format.

    It sells tickets, placates parents, and generates revenue.

    In 1969, in an effort to increase runs, both the National and the American League lowered the pitchers’ mound from 15 to 10 inches. This was meant with strong derision by the big league pitchers who knew it gave the batters an advantage.


    If you compare the average height of major league pitchers, you’ll find they are much taller since the mound was lowered. This move from a 6-1 hurler to a 6-6 or taller guy on the mound is an attempt by teams to compensate for the easier hitting that accompanied the lower mound.

    Four years later, the American League introduced the designated hitter. Pitchers are great athletes and at lower levels, they were often the best hitters on their teams, but by not taking batting practice, and protecting their arms they lost that hitting ability.

    In another effort to increase offense, the DH came into play. It allowed aging players a few more seasons since all they had to do was bat, and at least on paper, it increased run production by a fraction.


    Offense, offense, offense, at least baseball is still played close to the original rules.

    If you look at professional basketball, you witness a total disregard for the rules. Traveling, flopping, goaltending, and fouls called only when a franchise player has his shot affected are just more examples of increasing point production.

    Few casual fans of the game realize what’s happening, they just want to see the dunk and the 3-point shot in a game that ends 121 to 119. Not much entertainment in my opinion, just glandular giants running up and down the floor in short pants with officials that have as much control of the game as the poor guy trapped in a professional wrestling ring has in controlling the carefully orchestrated act of those steroid-ridden monsters.


    It’s not really sport, but just entertainment, and I guess it has its place.

    That’s one of the many reasons I prefer the high school game where fouls, traveling, and 3-seconds are called, but even the high school game is under attack.

    In 1986 both the high school and college ranks introduced the 3-point shot, which was a great equalizer for shorter teams that couldn’t dominate in the low post.

    At that same time, the NCAA implemented a 45-second shot clock. That wasn’t good enough, in 1993 it was shortened to 35 seconds, and at the NAIA level, the timer was set to just 30 seconds eight years ago.

    The intent was more offense, and it worked. Many high school state associations have implemented the shot clock already, and Wyoming is under pressure to do it as well.

    Which brings the greatest travesty in modern sport in my opinion, the crushing of defense in the National Football League by more and more rules favoring the offense.

    You can no longer hit a quarterback. You can’t tackle him below the waist, you can’t hit him above the shoulders and when you do make a picture-perfect hit mid-torso, the flag hits you in the back before you can get back on your feet.

    That’s just one example. You can’t bump and run, you can’t chip a tight end and if you touch a receiver even in the “legal” five-yard zone off the line of scrimmage you’re hit with a flag.

    Every flag on the defense aside from encroachment, (jumping offsides) is accompanied by an automatic first down.

    Defensive holding is a first down, illegal contact a first down, hands to the face a first down, and pass interference an automatic first down at the spot of the foul. It’s all slanted toward the offense.

    If you are flagged for holding on a running play, it’s a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul and you get the down back. You can gain yardage on an offensive penalty, it’s impossible for the defense.

    Receivers can push off and usually get away with all but the most egregiously blatant acts.

    For the offense to lose a down, it has to be an illegal forward pass, meaning one past the line of scrimmage, or intentional grounding. Even intentional grounding depends on where the quarterback is when he throws it away.

    Football, basketball, and to a lesser extent baseball, are all constantly under review trying to find a way to generate more offense.

    While the front offense adjusts the rules to get more points or runs on the scoreboard the defense always adjusts. Defenses are constantly improving, that’s the biggest change over the decades.

    NFL playbooks have as complicated a defensive scheme for each game as they do on the other side of the ball.

    Good basketball teams know when to press, how to press when to switch from man to zone, and which zone to run. They have half-court traps with even fronts, odd fronts, and combination defenses with box-and-one sets, and even triangle and two combinations. I’m surprised many of these defenses aren’t being considered illegal.

    I flipped on an MLB game between the Mets and Padres last night. The latest ploy to increase offense was on clear display. They have a pitch clock in place to speed up the game. Yes, it speeds up the pace, but it will help the batter, not the defense.

    The pitcher waits for his catcher to call the next pitch while the catcher looks for signs he might be able to steal from the opposing team’s third base coach before the time elapses. That’s 15 second with no one on base and 20 if there is a baserunner.

    The defense that can no longer shift. Modern batters don’t hit to the opposite field as well as those of earlier generations did, so rather than getting better hitters, the league made the defensive shift illegal.

    Now the batter can hit away, without worrying about most of the infield and outfield shading into left or right field.

    At the end of the season, despite the best efforts of league officials, the teams with the best defense almost always win. Defense does win championships.


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