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These sports quirks need to go way of the dinosaur

As part of a new continuing series – funded in part by the Smithsonian Institution, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and In-n-Out Burger – Couch Slouch brings you the first installment of “Stupidest Things in Sports”:

State troopers escorting the coach as he leaves the football field. Throughout the course of history, I understand when polarizing political figures – Napoleon, Mussolini, Gandhi, Sarah Palin, et al – are heavily protected in public arenas. But football coaches? I’m sure Bob Stoops knows the way to the locker room by now. Considering the state of the economy, aren’t there better ways for our tax dollars to be at work? Frankly, I’d rather see a state trooper getting a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts than running alongside Mack Brown through a stadium tunnel.

“Quiet Please” signs at golf tournaments. Kobe Bryant can make free throws at the end of a basketball game with 15,000 fans screaming and waving stuff behind the basket, but Matt Kuchar can’t putt unless he’s in the freakin’ library? Olympic gymnasts can perform intricate moves on a four-inch-wide balance beam with a flurry of activity around them and crowds cheering floor-exercise routines, but Steve Stricker can’t hit a 5-iron unless he’s in a Broadway theater? Hey, the ball doesn’t move. The hole doesn’t move. Step up and play, pal.

The guy whose job is to squirt water into football players’ mouths. You’ve seen it a thousand times – during a timeout, some fella comes over to the players and squirts water into their mouths. Uh, really? Take the wide receivers – they have great hands; they can’t manage a plastic bottle? There are no hazardous materials or sharp objects here. It’s not like asking Itzhak Perlman to shuck oysters. Geez. Okay, so they don’t want to squirt their own water; would it kill them to catch the ball once in a while?

Baseball managers wearing a uniform. Granted, a baseball dugout is not the board room of Goldman Sachs or the sales floor of a Lexus dealership; it’s not even as dignified as courtside at a basketball game. But the sight of these 50-, 60- and even 80-year-old men – yes, you Jack McKeon – donning the play clothes of their players is laughable. Now, they don’t have to go full-throttle, Armani-suit Pat Riley on us, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a manager or two in a nice golf shirt and khakis for a change.

The two-minute warning in football. Does the referee really have to go over to each sideline and tell the coaches that there are two minutes left in the half? What, they can’t see the stadium clock? IT’S HUGE. Rather than warning the coaches in regard to time remaining, what would be more helpful – particularly if you’re, say, Lovie Smith – is if the referee could warn a coach that Jay Cutler is about to throw a game-changing interception.

Penalty kicks in soccer (and the shootout in the NHL). Even though basketball has become a foul-fest joke in a game’s final minutes, at least if the game is tied through overtime, each team doesn’t shoot free throws to determine the winner. How do you play 90 minutes of soccer, then 30 minutes of OT, before deciding the outcome by repeating a play that virtually never occurs during the context of a game? Besides, I could make a penalty kick four times out of five while sitting on my couch. Just let them keep playing until someone scores – if it takes a week, it takes a week; it’s good for beer sales.

There’s one stupid thing disappearing that I’d like to see come back: The bullpen cart. This has always been a hilarious baseball (and American) tradition: driving the relief pitcher 275 feet from the bullpen to the infield. We’re the richest nation on Earth – why not? Only nowadays – to be politically and environmentally correct – let’s make the bullpen cart a hybrid!

Ask The Slouch

Q. What is the penalty if a ballplayer plays “pepper” in a “no pepper” zone? (Fred Lawrence; Laurel, Md.)

A. Every time you get traded and move into a new neighborhood, you have to register as a “pepper offender” with the local police.

Q. Ohio State just vacated the 2010 season. Have you ever thought about vacating one of your previous marriages? (Radu Marinescu; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Actually, I believe it’s been done for me.

Q. If Derek Jeter went face down in his soup, would the media oooooohh and aaaaaahh over the bubbles? (Phil Linden; Linden, N.J.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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