Sports need simplified, uncomplicated rules
It is scary how often sports and broadcasters annoy newcomers who just want to see why others are so interested in the sport.
I realise this is not really news to Roarers; most of us seem to be armchair critics more prone to knocking than offering congratulations.
The television was on Channel Seven Sunday morning when I turned it on for the rugby and found the Bathurst 1000 about to begin.
I’ve never been a rev-head and gave up watching as a kid when the bloke who happened to be the team’s number two driver let the number one pass him to take the flag first. I am sure devotees can point out why this is the right thing to do, but as a casual viewer and competitive sportsman this is just plain nonsense. You always want to win.
I knew the rugby was 20 minutes into the first-half but, hey, the cars were all lined up and 30 seconds to go to the start. So I thought I would check out the excitement of the first few minutes. All I got was frustration.
I couldn’t see the cars because the broadcaster deemed it more important to put up the names and pictures of the drivers and the order in which they had left pole than to actually let me see the cars as they jockeyed for position.
I swore at the television, got reprimanded by my wife for pointless profanity, gave up on motor racing and went to the rugby. This was a chance to get me interested and they blew it.
Of course there was also lots of blowing it when I got to the rugby. Joubert has always been a pedantic referee, so I was reminded again of how bloody annoying all the rules are in union.
Ignoring any mistakes the players made, there are just too many reasons to blow the whistle. It was 12-6 when I tuned in at 22 minutes, so I knew at least six penalties had been awarded. Were there even that many in the entire league grand final?
Many of us whinge about the referees in union but it is not really their fault; they are just following the rules, which need to be simplified, not made more complicated like the pause, touch, engage nonsense. We all want to see a flowing game; it’s time the rules allowed it.
And union is still so elitist. It is almost impossible to get good seats unless you’re a member of something or rich or work for a company with a corporate box.
My brother-in-law is a soccer-loving Pom who has only been to one rugby game in his life, the Centenary Test between Australia and England. When I asked him what it was like live, he said he didn’t watch it. He was in the corporate box drinking and schmoozing; he wasn’t there for the game!
Sevens may be the saving of rugby, particularly now it is an Olympic sport. This cut down version is exciting, running rugby without much whistle blowing. It doesn’t have the fun of forward play but, for a novice viewer, it is not as confusing. A good way to get a taste for the game.
Similarly with cricket, there’s been some whinging this week about T20. For those of us brought up on backyard cricket who don’t have five days (what a class-based concept that is!) it is an exciting innovation. One-day cricket showed batsmen that they did not have to plod. I believe it is the reason Australia started wrapping up Test games in three or four days.
And to soccer. It is, indisputably, the world’s favourite game. And yet it is tedious for people who have not been brought up on it. A nil-all draw is claimed as a good result. World Cups are decided on penalty shoot-outs.
Again, for fans of the game, if this is good for you, fine. But how do you expect to convert people over from sports where they actually score points? Regularly. In most games.
Basketball is the opposite. They score too often. At least though, unlike rugby, the referees let things go if it is spectacular and entertaining.
We have too many team ball sports in Australia (yes, I am aware I haven’t mentioned the two major ones) and it is possible not all will survive.
It is a fine balance between keeping the purists happy and growing your audience, but those in charge of a game ignore the latter at their peril.