Dear President Obama:
Congrats on winning the big one. The Super Bowl of American politics. Your popularity level in this country sprinted off the charts weeks ago, a fact likely traced to your unparalleled charisma and two other rather important factors: 1) You've been in the White House for something like 20 minutes and 2) The coast-to-coast unpopularity of your predecessor.
Timing is everything, huh? Anyway, Your Breath-Of-Fresh-Airness, if I can have your ear for a few moments I would like to see if there is any way you can change or consider changing those things that ail professional and collegiate sports in these United States of America.
There are many. The list is longer than one of Shawn Bradley's legs, which meant some serious trimming on my part. But here are five good ones in no particular order:
NFL PLAYOFF SEEDING — San Diego plays in a weak division, wins it and gets to host a playoff game. Ditto the Arizona Cardinals, who got to host two and rode their good fortune all the way to Super Bowl XLIII.
Indianapolis posts a dozen regular-season victories, four more than the Chargers and three more than the Cardinals, and are asked to board a jet and fly 2,100 miles west. Baltimore wins 11 during the regular season then goes 2-1 in the playoffs — all three games taking place in enemy stadiums. New England is 11 times victorious and doesn't even qualify for the playoffs.
Whichever group of brain surgeons came up with this format should be ashamed. The NFL, ahead of the curve in so many ways, completely missed the boat on this one.
LONG-WINDED NBA PLAYOFF SERIES — The reason the NBA playoffs seem to drag on forever is because, well, they do. Everything is presented in best-of-seven wrapping paper be it the first round, semifinals or championship series.
Make first-round series best-of-three, the semifinals a best-of-five and keep the finals a best-of-seven. Increased sense of urgency might help boost television ratings and fan interest overall.
CAP-LESS MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL — Want to know why baseball's popularity continues to drop? Simple. Cinderella stories are few and far between. Sure, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were a great story in 2008, but they were a once-in-a-two-decade-span phenomenon. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox saw to that with their offseason wheeling and dealing.
Small-market franchises like Kansas City, Minnesota and Tampa Bay are always positioning themselves beneath storm clouds in an effort to catch lightning in a bottle. More often than not, though, deep pockets find a way to frisbee Cinderella's glass slipper into the nearest dumpster.
Baseball needs a salary cap. Bad.
THE BCS SYSTEM — Move eliminating this water-cooler punchline to the top of the list and fast. Using computers to determine a national champion rids us of the human element, which rubs against the grain of what makes sports so special.
Maybe the Florida Gators were the best team in college football this season. Maybe they weren't. The fact that so much uncertainty continues to persist weeks after the so-called title game was played is a demonstration of how flimsy the system is.
THE FIVE-MAN BROADCASTING TABLE - NFL pregame shows need to understand more is less and that less is more. Somewhere Howard Cosell is choking on his own cigar smoke watching Terry talk to Howie, who then has to say something witty to Shannon, who then fumbles his words in the direction of Jimmie, who throws it back to whoever that James Brown wanna-be is on the far left of your television screen.
At this rate, by 2017 the pregame shows will be roundtable discussions with anywhere from 10-14 voices.