So last weekend I was dutifully watching some college football, as any good American citizen is expected to do in the fall. In particular I was rooting on our Gamecocks in a valiantly played game against Georgia. And while watching, I was reminded again of what I think is the best idea ever had in sports. Ever. The penalty box in hockey.
In hockey, when you break one of the rules, you have to sit out for a few minutes and think about what you've done. Not only that, but your team doesn't get to replace you, they have to play shorthanded until your penalty is over, and you're allowed to start playing again. This is not only a wonderfully simple system, but it is just, fair, and righteous. And what's more, its a fairly strong penalty deterrent. If you commit a foul, then the game goes on 5 against 4. Two people commit fouls? The game goes on 5 against 3. Beautiful.
In football, it seems like there is a penalty flag thrown on nearly every play. And the penalties are always too lax. A loss of a few yards here and there, big deal. The number of penalties per game shows that the punishments are not strong enough to encourage people to play more cleanly. My suggestion? The penalty box. Make the offending player sit in a box for a couple of minutes while his team plays shorthanded. I bet that would reduce the number of fouls per game awfully quickly. Which position do you give up if you lose a defender?
Same with basketball, where the loss of a player would really be felt. Its hard to know how this might transfer to baseball, since there are very rarely any penalties in baseball, although if there were, it would be fun to watch a team play with only two outfielders.
Honorable mention for the best idea in sports (and I do mean honorable) is that in golf players call their own penalties on themselves.
Second honorable mention goes to hockey for the Lady Byng trophy. Among other end-of-the-season awards, this one goes to the most gentlemanly player. Despite hockey being known for fighting, at least there is one (more) incentive for clean play.