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Nobody asked me, but ...
By Drew Markol, Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I've done a 180 when it comes to the suggestion that it may be time to change the playing surfaces in sports.
In order to lessen injuries, among other things, move the players further away from each other and give them more space.
Be it a gradual shift, or done all at once, here's what I'd propose:
* In football, and this could start on the professional and collegiate levels, widen the field.
Football fields in pro, college and high school are 53 yards wide (OK, they're 53 and 1/3 yards wide, but let's not get picky).
Make them 60 yards wide. Open it up and allow more players to turn the corner. Also, make the end zones deeper. Ten yards is not enough. Go to 15. Yes, some will say if you do that, you're almost like the CFL. So what if it is. It would make things more exciting.
One concession to widening and deepening things would be to raise the height of the goal posts and make them more narrow.
Have you ever compared the field goal percentages of the great kickers from yesteryear against the average guys from today? The average guys from today are much better.
Why? Because it's too easy for them. Kickers have adapted and what they're aiming at hasn't.
Make the goalposts 15 feet off the ground, instead of 10, and narrow the distance between the uprights.
In the NFL and college, the width is 18 feet, six inches. Shrink that to 15 feet and you'll have more teams going for touchdowns instead of just trying to get into field goal range.
* In baseball, moving the fences back, making them higher, and raising the pitching mound would do the opposite from football, you'd bring pitching back to prominence and there's nothing wrong with that.
Just add a couple of feet to the height of the walls, push them back 10 feet across the board and - bingo! - your hitter-friendly park is now pitcher friendly. And if you raise the mound just a little bit, pitchers will thrive. When major league baseball did it in the 1960s, ERAs shrank. The best part would be all teams would need only a little extra dirt, not construction projects.
* When you talk basketball, here's where a gradual increase would work better than an immediate jump.
The basket, at 10 feet, isn't high enough.
The jump shooter has gone the way of the dodo because with the rim in reach for so many, there hasn't been a need.
It's feels blasphemous to say that, but it's the truth.
Raise the rim a half a foot for five years and then another half a foot after that, stopping at 11 feet.
Make the rim unreachable for all but the biggest and best leapers and you bring jump shooting back into the game. Again, do it in college and the pros. The shooters, because they're shooters, will adapt.
* Ice hockey cries out for a bigger rink and bigger nets. In no other sport are things as cramped on the ice as in the NHL.
The players are too big and too fast. The league tries to stop injuries by dishing out harsher penalties and fines, but that's not enough.
Give the guys more room, like Olympic ice hockey does on bigger rinks, and you take away the goon and add finesse. And while we're at it, make the net bigger because goalies with all their equipment swallow the current model.
One sport that has adjusted to the times is professional golf.
Faced with never-ending equipment advances, and the fact that the players are bigger and stronger, just like all the other sports, something had to be done.
So golf got bigger.
Courses like Merion (Pa.) Golf Club, which played at 6,400 yards 30-plus years ago for the U.S. Open, will be stretched to nearly 7,000 yards when the Open returns to the Main Line layout in 2013. That's just one example of many.
While golf adapted, or is at least trying to (having the PGA Tour pros use a limited-flight golf ball for tournament play would go a long way toward leveling things, but that's a story for another day), don't hold your breath waiting for the other sports to join in.
Cost, like anything else, is the biggest drawback.
Owners aren't going to expand playing surfaces because that decreases seats, a bad combination in their eyes. Until that changes, nothing else will.
But it is kind of fun to thing about.
Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several Philadelphia- area newspapers for over 25 years.
04/24 12:06:29 ET
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