Tradition has often trumped safety in sports.
Too many athletic associations and governing bodies of sports are being reactive to tragic events. They are confusing traditionalism, with laziness. The leaders of some of the most popular sports in the country fear changes to their sports will affect a fan’s trust, or more importantly, the league’s profits.
Give sports fans more credit. Passion doesn’t die with helmets and safety nets. Playing sports can be dangerous. Athletes know the physical demands and they do it anyway. But athletes deserve to be protected and some leagues need to check thier morals:
1) Open-Cockpit Race Cars – The most ignorant thing about IndyCar racing is it’s nickname, “open-wheel racing.” This phrase used by fans, writers and announcers calls attention to four exposed tires, without commenting on the un-sheltered human protected by a visored dome on his head.
In 2010 IndyCar partnered with Dallara Automobili and its ICONIC Committee (Innovative, Competitive, Open-wheel, New, Industry-relevant, Cost-effective). They designed a 2012 model race car said to be “fast, attractive, innovative, green, and cost effective.” This past May an even newer design was being tested and expected to be released in 2018 under those same bullet points.
Speed, looks, cheap and new. Nothing about safety.
Old school IndyCar drivers have a popular saying about the sport’s lack of protection. “Nothing between me and God but the sky.” This is not a religious debate, but I believe there are better times to be in direct contact with God than in a 200 mph driving competition. Making a safer car is the least IndyCar can do in honor of Justin Wilson.
2) Extended Foul-Ball Nets – No fan should leave a professional baseball game on a stretcher. Nets behind home plate at all MLB ballparks need to be extended to the outfield side of both dugouts.
When fans at home hear “fouled off” by the local broadcaster it signifies a chance to check your phone, start a conversation or grab a cold beverage. For fans in the seats it means hit the deck. Major League Baseball has benefited from a precedent setting case in the 1800’s that determined ballparks are required only to warn fans of objects or persons from the field entering the stands. Mascots armed with hot dogs and t-shirts aside, baseball needs to take the initiative to protect fans at the game rather than simply protecting its team in a court room.
The Cardinals Club, or “green seats” as they are commonly known by St. Louis Cardinals fans, are the most expensive seats for any baseball game at Busch Stadium. At just over $220 a pop for this weekend’s series against Pittsburgh. They include food and beverages delivered to your seat and something many people don’t factor into the price, safety. The net protects every seat from 100-plus mph line drives and could do the same for tens of thousands of other fans.
3) Guaranteed Full-Ride Scholarships – Physical harm is not the only danger athletes are facing. Athletes often overlook financial damage, but in many cases it can be just as detrimental to a person’s life.
I don’t think the general public knows much about full-ride scholarship except that they can mean a free education. The most surprising fact to me was, every year it has to be renewed. Full-ride is only for one academic year, meaning a student has to live up to the scholarship in the classroom and on the playing field to keep it. Any NCAA full-ride scholarship can be taken away during the off-season for reasons as immoral as injury or under-performance.
This is not an argument to pay all college athletes. This is about a specific situation in which a career-ending injury, also ends a full-ride scholarship. Google the names Kyle Hardick, Joseph Agnew, Stanley Doughty or Cal Schaefer. They are all Division I athletes with an injury sustained in college athletics that ended their career.
4) Year-Round Competitive Youth Baseball – November baseball.
It still sounds like an oxymoron and before the 2001 World Series it was. Winter meant the off-season began for major leaguers. Rest, vacation and taking your mind off the game for a while. For kids, November should mean soccer season, football games, winter sports and putting your baseball mitt on the shelf.
This problem lies entirely with youth pitchers and their winning-crazed coaches who dream of a 12-6 curve, a triple digit fastball and an un-hittable slider before they even hit high school. Some preteens play as many games of little league, travel team, fall ball and CYC baseball in one season as professionals do. But most of them don’t get the care, medical attention and rest of a big league pitcher.
John Smoltz said in his hall of fame speech, “Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don’t go outside, they don’t have fun, they don’t throw enough — but they’re competing and maxing out too hard, too early.”
I wouldn’t argue with a Hall of Famer.
5) Team Fighting Championship Shouldn’t be a Thing – First watch these videos:
Yes, this is apparently a thing. Yes, the U.S. has a team. No, it’s not legal in this country. It better not ever be.
This scheduled bar fighting event is actually available on pay-per-view. The broadcast rights are owned by a New Jersey based fight promotion company, Global Proving Ground. They work mostly in MMA style fighting, and need to stay there.