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Christmas wishes from The Sports Couple

We here at the Sports Couple are never happy. We constantly debate, dissect and analyze the makeup of our favourite sports. After 11 months and 16 days, we’ve come up with our 2011 Christmas wishlist of the things we’d most like to change in sports.

1) An end to NFL instant replay challenges

Sounds absurd right? Everyone loves the high level of accuracy in NFL football refereeing of late. But I find myself enjoying the NFL less and less these days. With every catch, every loose ball, every sideline juggle, every touchdown, my joy or anger is sublimated by the possibility of instant replay review.

Review creates a cheering hesitancy, an unnatural pause between action on the screen and emotion on the couch.

In addition, the proliferation of review has created a new phenomenon in the NFL: the dissection of minutia. Does it really matter, that, after 10 minutes of staring at 17 different camera angles, a tiny portion of the ball clipped the tip of a grass blade? Or that a pinkie toe may have touched the sideline?

The goal of replay review was to eliminate controversy, yet it has simply created more of it. With each confusing call, comes another debate on the language of a rule, on the letter vs. the spirit. Just ask the Detroit Lions, or Cincinnati Bengals fans if they think instant replay was fair.

I liked the old days. The refs didn’t always get it right, but it was better than the constant stopping and starting, and the hesitancy of emotion that goes along with it.

It’s a football game, not life and death. Human error is a part of it, and in the end, everything evens out.

2) Allow citizens to buy their teams

Sports teams are ours, not the play things of billionaires. They should not be moved, stripped of assets or mismanaged for profit.

The Green Bay Packers, the only socialistic model of community ownership in North American sports, today, was and is successful – so NFL owners created a constitutional rule preventing community ownership from ever happening again.

The Green Bay Packers have the cheapest beer in the NFL (that alone should have fans of other teams around North America picketing in the streets). And when costs of seats go up in Green Bay, or new shares are sold, citizens know where their money is going to community projects or to aid in the long term stability of the franchise, not to further line the pockets of billionaires.

We all love the Canucks, and we are fortunate to have local owners and a solid fan base. But it wasn’t always this way. When John Mccaw owned the club, and the Canadian dollar sat firm at 62 cents, the Canucks could easily have been sold to outside interests. The Canucks are as much a part of this city as Stanley Park or Robson street, yet their place in this city depends solely on the whims of a rotating oligarchy of owners. It shouldn’t be this way.

3) Commissioners deal with head injuries

We are losing the stars of our sports at the fastest rate in history, yet the commissioners of the Big Four have been slow to act.

In North America, NBA and MLB commissioners David Stern and Bud Selig can be forgiven for not giving head shots their proper consideration; theirs is but a small problem. But in the NHL and the NFL, for Gary Bettman and Roger Goodell, concussions are reaching epidemic proportions and they need to start treating this issue with the level of seriousness it deserves.

There are 20 NHLers out with head injuries right now. The list includes Sidney Crosby, NHL leading scorer Claude Giroux, last year's Calder winner Jeff Skinner and future hall of famer Chris Pronger.

I agree with Ken Dryden, who suggests the sponsorship of a yearly concussions symposium.

From increased research and knowledge should come recommendations for improvements to safety equipment and measures to lessen the amount and severity of head shots.

In hockey, where head injuries are reaching critical mass, the culture of the game needs to change. I love hockey the way it is, but I also recognize, that I would prefer a softer, more European style game than a game bereft of many of its skilled players.

I am also in favour of fighting in the pro ranks, but, again, if the elimination of fighting improves health and safety, ultimately allowing for a better on ice product, and sparing players from long term health problems, the fighting has got to go.

4) Create competitive balance in baseball, basketball and soccer

I don’t care if it’s through a luxury tax, a salary cap or revenue sharing, parity makes sports great.

I don’t follow European soccer as closely as I’d like to because I’m tired of the same teams winning year after year. I don’t care if Barcelona wins La Liga over Real Madrid or vice versa. Or Manchester United vs. Chelsea. Or AC Milan vs. Juventus vs. Inter. It’s boring.

Same goes for baseball and basketball. Let’s see the Kansas City Royals in the playoffs! The Milwaukee Bucks! Or the Southampton Tiddling Quay Crumpets win a Premiership.

The NHL and the NFL are strengthened through parity, through the underlying belief that you don’t need rich owners or a large urban populace to succeed, and other sports should do the same.

5) No more BCS

Everyone is sick to death of this conversation… believe me, so am I. I can’t watch Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser or Mike and Mike or anyone for that matter, rehash this tired old debate again.

No one likes the BCS, no one likes talking about the BCS, no fan of sports in their right might could ever agree that a computer should decide the champion of a sport based on a complex series of statistics.

My lack of understanding of the American college sports bureaucracy prevents a more detailed analysis of why a playoff system hasn’t been created yet, so I just shake my head and wonder why, hoping hopelessly that this strange and confusing system will eventually make way for a playoff.

There you have it. Agree? Disagree? Tweet us @thesportscouple

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