The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 23, 2014

Pick 3: Our thoughts on topics impacting the games we love


From Staff Reports

— Pick 3 will be a new regular feature in The Register-Herald. Each time, different writers will take on the same three topics, giving their opinion on some of the major issues in sports. This week, sports editor Cam Huffman and sports writer J. Daniel Rollins will give their takes on three topics from three different sports — some national and others local.

1. The NFL is considering eliminating extra points from the game. Your thoughts?

CH: Kicking what amounts to a 20-yard field goal from the center of the field is about as difficult for professional kickers as playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the guitar for Willie Nelson. It’s just not much of a challenge.

So I can see the intrigue in replacing the kick with something more interesting.

But I’m never a fan of changing the basic rules of a game just to try something new. Trying something new is what led to the awful “work of art” in center field at Marlins Park in Miami.

Although the extra point is as automatic as bad cologne at a high school prom, the new proposal to award 7 points for a touchdown and then give a team a chance to convert what is now a 2-point conversion to gain an extra point completely changes the strategy of the game.

I like anything that makes coaches think and make difficult decisions. That’s what the 2-point conversion has done for the game. But going for that extra point every time — with no option to go for 2 or 3 — takes away the decision process.

My parents told me a long time ago, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Judging by the television ratings and the crowds filling stadiums, there’s nothing wrong with the NFL the way it is.

JDR: When I was in fourth grade, my grandpa Buster and I took a trip to Canton, Ohio, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was in there that I saw the honors of legends like “Mean” Joe Green, Dick Butkus and Jim Brown. Guess what? That NFL doesn’t exist anymore.

The league has changed and evolved. Kickoffs are sailing out of the end zone, and every bit of contact is considered a penalty. Why not change the single most boring play in football — the extra point kick — and add some excitement back to the league?

I don’t think the kick should be eliminated completely, but it should be made more difficult. Here’s what I propose: Coaches are given an option of going for a 2-point conversion on the 5-yard line or an extra point kick from the 20-yard line.

During the 2013 season, kickers missed a grand total of five extra points. The risk for the reward is too low. But by moving the kick back, it makes the coach have to think if he would rather go for 2 or convert a longer, and much harder, extra point.

No one remembers who makes the extra point from the 2-yard line, because it’s thoughtless. But moving it back? That’s where guys like Adam Vinatieri became legends.

 

2. Which player on this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot should have been voted in but wasn’t?

CH: Can I answer Dale Murphy? I’ve been fighting that fight for years — mostly because he and Don Mattingly were the best players of their era, and a Hall of Fame that completely leaves out an era makes about as much sense as wearing a Speedo on a ski slope — but Murphy is no longer on the ballot, so I’ll give up.

I’ll turn, instead, to Mike Piazza. Tell me again why he fell almost 100 votes short?

The man was a 12-time All-Star. He won 10 Silver Slugger awards and ended his career with 427 home runs a .308 batting average.

More importantly, Piazza spent is career as a catcher and did things that nobody had done before at that position. His home run total is the best ever among catchers, and most who played against him agree he was one of the best hitting catchers of all-time.

Piazza belongs among the best to ever play the game.

JDR: I love baseball. I love the history of it. During this time of year, I stay glued to the MLB Network and MLB Radio to see what moves the Red Sox and Reds are going to make. I’ve watched the classic documentary “Baseball” by Ken Burns more times than I can count and understand the deep tradition of the game.

But I’m also a realist.

To punish a select few players from the so-called “steroid era” because of what they may or may not have taken doesn’t do the history of the game justice. The Hall of Fame is a museum, where the best athletes from the era should have their stories told.

As someone who was born in the ’80s and grew up during the ’90s and early 2000’s, there is absolutely no question that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were two of the greatest players of my lifetime — if not of all-time. Do I believe they took performance enhancing drugs? Yes. Do I think that should exclude them from Cooperstown? Absolutely not.

Bonds is without a doubt the best power hitter of all-time. Steroids did not help him hit a baseball. They may have made him hit home runs further — in an era when it’s becoming evident that more and more players were using PEDs — but he hit more of them than anyone in baseball history.

Despite Clemens’ run in Yankee pinstripes, even this Red Sox homer has to admit that he is among the greatest of all-time — 354 wins, seven Cy Young awards. That’s more than enough to qualify for the Hall of Fame.

 

3. Should West Virginia counties have a no school-no play rule for holding athletic events on snow days?

CH
: I have mixed feelings on this. If the weather is such that students can’t get to school for history, science and math, should they really be there for basketball or cheerleading?

I understand administrators’ reluctance to approve games or practices in such a situation.

On the other hand, the weather can greatly change from 7 a.m., when decisions have to be made about school, to 7 p.m., when many athletic events are scheduled. I understand why coaches get frustrated when they can’t practice but look out their windows and see nothing but yellow lines on the roads.

For that reason, I don’t think there should be an unbreakable rule in place. But the coaches shouldn’t be the ones making the decisions. Their desire to get in games or practices should get in the way of making the best decisions for their athletes. Therefore, it should be an administrator — a principal or a superintendent — who makes the final call.

JDR: When snow creates havoc and school is canceled, it sends those of us who make a living covering prep sports scrambling to find stories, schedule make-up dates and rearrange schedules to make sure that we provide the best coverage possible.

But sports is, and should always be, secondary to safety.

If there is no school, there should be no games played. Period.

At the end of the day, it’s about the kids. When I hear stories of teenagers around the country being injured or worse in car accidents due to weather, my heart breaks. When I think that we would possibly subject our own kids to that same fate, just to watch them put a ball in a hoop, I cringe.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sports. I love the excitement of going to the gyms and hearing the crowd and getting (normally) the best seat in the house for the biggest games. But I know that sports are just a small part of life and we must do what we can to protect that life from needless pain.

If the roads are too bad to reward those who are thriving academically, then they are also too bad to reward those who are thriving athletically.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

— E-mail: jrollins@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.