Giving 'Em Fitz: Revising the sports rule book

Maryland QB Danny O'Brien can't be missed in his uniform with the red and white design on the left shoulder and a yellow and black checkerboard on the right - patterns on the state flag.
Maryland QB Danny O'Brien can't be missed in his uniform with the red and white design on the left shoulder and a yellow and black checkerboard on the right - patterns on the state flag. (ROB CARR / Getty Images)
Posted: September 07, 2011

Ten sports rules I'd like to see instituted or changed:

1. Limit practice swings in golf: Nothing worse than playing with or behind a 17-handicapper who thinks he's going to challenge the course record, warming up before every stroke like Ed Norton on Prozac. Yo, this ain't the U.S. Open! You're playing a $25-a-round public course with weedy fairways, lumpy greens, inept partners, and dementia-addled marshals. Hit the ball! Three practice swings, you lose a stroke, four and you lose a tooth.

2. No running after dropped third strikes: Can anyone explain this baseball custom to me? If it made any sense at all, the batter should be prohibited from taking first base when the catcher holds on to ball four. And why is the rule negated if there's a runner on first? Is it harder to catch a thrown ball in that circumstance? If you swing and miss at a pitch so badly that the catcher can't even get a glove on it, sit down, you've done nothing to warrant your being on base.

3. No foul-bunt strikeouts: Similarly, this baseball chestnut defies common sense. A foul is never a third strike - except when the batter pushes at the ball instead of swinging. By that logic, Ichiro would lead baseball in strikeouts every year. It just seems so arbitrary, like invalidating a strikeout if the catcher collects the pitch with one hand instead of two.

4. No penalties on punts or kickoffs: Only the no-fun NFL could transform what is potentially its most exciting play into the guaranteed best moment to refill the beer-nut bowl. When was the last time you saw two consecutive kicks without a penalty? I'm betting it was so long ago that Terrell Owens still had friends. Punts and kickoffs routinely generate more illegal blocks than a Chinese toy manufacturer. Why not turn these plays into every-man-for-himself, free-for-all fire drills? Tripping, clipping, and hair-pulling would enliven the game.

5. Shoot the shot clock: College basketball's shot clock, like so much else in college sports, is designed to favor the powerful. The more talented team almost always is going to win. Kill the clock and the biggest underdog, able to hold the ball as long as it's able, has a chance. After all, unless I'm misreading the rule book, the object of basketball is to score more points than your opponent. It doesn't matter how many you score or how you do it. And, really, could a 10-7 game be any less entertaining than watching North Carolina whip Mars Hill by 67?

6. Negating body armor: If a batter wearing protective gear on his arms or legs is hit by a pitch in any of those places, he should not be awarded first base. The armor provides an unfair advantage for hitters. They want to be rewarded, they should show a little courage. If they are so afraid of getting hit, maybe they also should insist that the pitcher throw underhand or use a Nerf ball.

7. Ground your club in hazards: How does the fact that my 56-degree wedge brushes the sand on my backswing give me an advantage? I guarantee you it still will take me no fewer than 4 shots to escape any bunker. This rule might make sense if I carried a shovel in my bag.

8. Out-of-bounds throw-ins: This is another one of those illogical traditions that no one has ever bothered to address. If it's OK to roam basketball's baseline when in-bounding after a made basket, why is it illegal after a turnover? That's akin to saying a foul-shooter can bend his knees if he's hacked on a layup try, but not if the offense takes place on a jump shot. Either let in-bounders move all the time or not at all.

9. Go ahead, hit the punter: Why not? Isn't he wearing a helmet and pads, too? If you're going to make punters immune from contact unless the kick is touched, then maybe the league should require that they wear sweaters, slacks, and wing tips.

10. Sacrifice flies are at-bats: You hit a lazy fly ball to center with a runner on second and it's an at-bat. Do the same thing with a runner on a third and it's not. Sacrifice fly, my butt. An out is an out is an out.

Maryland, my God, Maryland

As I write this, I can't get my grandchild's talking coloring book to stop chanting "Who let the dogs out . . .". And speaking of a 2-year-old's coloring book, did you catch those state-flag uniforms Maryland wore in defeating Miami on Monday night?

Who designed them? Edith Headcase?

That might have been the dopiest sports attire since the Flyers wore long pants.

(Just took the coloring book to the garage, where its muffled, telltale-heart chants still can be heard emanating from beneath the recycling bin.)

Team malpractice

Phillies fever is getting a little out of hand.

Saw a commercial the other night for in which the success of the Phillies was compared to that of the firm's "birth-injury team."

Tiki seeki job

Unretired Giants running back Tiki Barber couldn't land a spot on an NFL roster, which - if nothing else - proves that football owners have better judgment than NBC's Today show.

An impossible task

I'll give anyone who can correctly spell the names of the 16 men's and women's quarterfinalists in the U.S. Open - and I'll spot you "Williams" - a diploma from the online college of your choice.

Second prize is a diploma from any SEC school.

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068,, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, Giving 'Em Fitz, at