This is how you do an All-Star Game!
Perhaps the only redeemable thing Gary Bettman has ever done. Seeing the excitement having a player draft has created in the NHL All-Star game, the only remaining question is simple: why can’t other sports do exactly the same thing?
The NHL took the game of “shinny” (a Canadian thing, look it up – all you need to know is it involves a pond and a bunch of sticks thrown into the middle of the ice) and turned it into a whole bunch of fun. The players are ridiculously excited. The fans are ridiculously excited. All-Star games have gradually become a draining waste of time where disinterested players forget how to play defense and spend most of the time actually playing the game for fun. The NHL saw that the game meant nothing to anybody other than the players invited and made a move to improve the game. It worked out, big time.
Well, except for Phil Kessel…
(Though – he did get a car and charity money)
Why can’t other sports apply the same “pickup game” style? The answer: They can! Here is what it could look like!
1) The NFL
Why It Needs to Change – The Pro Bowl is in desperate need of some kind of change. A couple of years ago they moved the game a couple of weeks forward so that people do not have to go a week without a football game before the Super Bowl. Okay. Okay. I am still waiting to see how this possibly makes sense. The two Super Bowl teams are obviously not going to send anyone to the game (and they are objectively the two teams with the most All-Stars). It was a dumb change and the NFL has continued to stick by it because they believe the ratings will be higher since after the Super Bowl people are drained and done with football for six months.
How it Can Change – Football is a difficult sport to do a draft in since it is so position specific. However, if you made it a round by round positional draft – round one both teams take a QB / round two both teams take a RB / round three both teams take a WR…and so on – it would completely work. Think about how much people love the NFL Draft (bigger than any NHL event) and there is serious potential for this to be huge. The strategy involved would be intense: Would you take Brady first or Manning? What if the draft happened right after the Super Bowl? Would you take the on-field hero? How would the mix of players work out? Imagine Tom Brady throwing to recievers from either league! Or handing it to Adrian Peterson? Or watching the corner tandem of Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis shut down the Johnsons (Andre and Calvin?) I am talking myself into this more and more…
Movie Connection – “Little Giants” also know as the kid Cowboys vs. the kid Giants except the Cowboys are a terrifying team of boys who are definitely not twelve and the Giants feature players who may be seven. Think about a ragtag team versus a juggernaut, maybe then some fans would finally come out. The NFL could even try out some other names like Knights or Scorpians – or maybe the fans could contribute the names and design the jerseys.
Awesomeness Factor – 8 out of 10.
Why it Needs to Change – After the 11-11 extra innings debacle of a few years ago that left fans livid, Baseball made a change. They are the first sport to actually make the All-Star outcome count for something; the winner gets homefield advantage in the World Series. This was a great idea, yet we are still trapped by the separation of the two leagues. Given all the interleague play that now takes place it makes a lot of sense for the teams to switch up the players. You could take away World Series homefield advantage but add another incentive of some kind – such as the Winning Manager (NL or AL) gets the World Series advantage. This would mean All-Star coaches actually have something to do.
How it Can Change – As with the NFL, Baseball’s draft would have to be positional. However, given the plethora of talent it would be extremely interesting to watch the battle unfold over pitchers. Imagine a team with Roy Halliday starting, and Mariano Rivera closing. Sounds pretty sweet? I would continue the “one inning per pitcher” rule, however…I would allow starters back into the game in the later innings. I would do so becuase of the Diamondbacks/Yankees World Series in 2001. Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson came in to relieve in the final games on no rest and it was incredible. The performances earned both co-MVP honors. I want to see that fire in an All-Star game too! Most pitchers sit around the game with their families and throw twenty-five pitches at most. Hitters at least get the Home Run derby to show off their skills, Pitchers should have more to look forward to. Give them a chance to make a real impact on the game’s outcome.
Movie Connection – “The Sandlot”. In fact the inagural draft MLB All-Star game should be called “The Sandlot game” (maybe even played on a dirt field). This is how children grow up playing baseball in the summers! Let the All-Stars have a chance to be kids again and pick their teams like this. I mean, honestly, “The Sandlot” may not just be the best baseball movie of all time – it may be the best kids movie of all time. Since it was set in the 60’s the story really holds up; this was something that could have happened to you and your friends in any given summer. We should give Major Leaguers the chance to return to the days of the sandlot just pause and imagine the looks of pure joy on their faces (except A-Rod of course). Additionally, each year the game should start with an escalating insult contest that eventually ends with the immortal taunt “you play ball like a girl”. How sweet would that be?
Awesomeness Factor – 9 out of 10.
3) The NBA
Why it Needs to Change – Actually, the NBA has the All-Star game least necessary to change. Sure, the scoring gets out of hand at times given that no one actually plays defense, but that is beside the point. Players do spectacular things in the All-Star games and some of the contests have been awesome (1992 – the MVP return of Magic Johnson). However…one of the major problems with the NBA All-Star game is the Fan Voting. Yao Ming is currently the starting center for the West Squad and he has not played for 90% of the season. Additionally, I can see the future – an aging Kobe Bryant, whose skills continue to diminish is voted a starter year after year. (In defense of Fan Voting: they did get it right in the East this year and the starting five are all perfectly deserving) Fan voting in their favourites is not cool when there are so many young players who are going to be eligable and deserving of nods. The snub list in the NBA grows each year because aging vets continue to hang on and play at All-Star levels. Take this season as an example: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Lamar Odom, Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler – at least one or (more likely) two will not make the team.
How it Can Change – For the next few years anyways, how about a Young Bucks vs. Vets all-star game. Lebron and Kobe teaming up to take down Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and others in the craziest, most dunk happy game in All-Star history. Given how popular Playground hoops are, how can the NBA not have an All-Star draft? It could even keep the fan component: the top two vote getters are team captains. They pick 11 more players from a pool of 30 players (yes, I am suggesting some do not make it – what kind of motivation would that snub give someone? Get ready for the most intense playoff push ever!). Take this scenario: Team Kobe vs. Team Lebron…I am nearly giddy with anticipation, already. Lebron takes Dwight Howard; Kobe takes DWade; LBJ gets Blake Griffin; Kobe gets Durant….That is right, Lebron to Blake Griffin for alley-oops…in the All-Star game. They would break attendence records worldwide. It would be an NBA fan’s dream. They could even bring back “Great Rivals” to coach each time (Bird v. Magic? Isiah v. MJ?). This would completely make the All-Star game must see TV. How to make it better? Play it streetball style on an outdoor court like Rucker Park.
Movie Connection – “White Men Can’t Jump” / “Above the Rim” / “Hoop Dreams”: This would be crazy. I am still hyped up on this idea. How can the NBA not do this? If they have a lockout, this would save them! Please NBA try it out for one year and if it fails you can always go back to the old format. However, you are entering a new era and if you want to make it a pay-per-view I would gladly be willing to pay to view this.
Awesomeness Factor – 11 out of 10.
A Concerned Fan