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Original Issue

Let's Get Small Contraction--and not just in baseball--would be a blessing to a bloated sporting world

With naked delight we announce today the downsizing of sports,
which have become more bloated than Bill Parcells and about as
much fun. Effective immediately, then, we'll shorten everything
by half--hockey season, Shaquille O'Neal, Tiger off the tee--in
the interest of making it all interesting again. Baseball games
will henceforth be abandoned after three hours because, frankly,
I do care if I ever get back. I have to work in the morning.

See, life is short and sports are long. Who has the time?
Couldn't we all get by with an Indy 200? Dikembe Mutombo
Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo: Your new name is Mel Ott.

The hourlong SportsCenter shall immediately be abbreviated to 45
minutes. Instead of airing 11 times a day, as it frequently does
now, the program will run a mere 10 times daily. I have just
added, at no cost, three and a half hours a day to your life. Use
it, my friend, to learn Italian, to paint your basement, to get a

The Super Bowl halftime show--a tasteful medley of fireworks,
flybys, Flying Wallendas, white tigers, Jesse White Tumblers,
confetti cannons, Carrot Top, Britney Spears and Bud Light
Daredevils--shall, from this day forward, consist of one act: a
guy on a unicycle playing a kazoo. The game itself? New league
rules will require every offense to be No-Huddle, every defense,

Because sports, collectively, are buckling beneath their own
ponderous weight. How about a hiring freeze on hype? Superlatives
shall be rationed at the rate of one a decade. The time has come
to call things what they really are. I give you the Shot Heard
Round the Block. Fists of Calcium Compound. The Seven Blocks of

Sports journalism, it pains me to say, is often just an exercise
in exaggeration. No longer. Muhammad Ali's new nickname, then, is
Among the Greatest. Would it kill fans to wave, at college bowl
games, oversized novelty foam-rubber hands that have two (or even
three) raised fingers? Not every canyon is Grand, not every lake
is Great--except in sports, where every year serves up an event
that is One for the Ages. But it's all a mirage. Expansion and
steroids, the dual airbags of baseball, have detonated with
deadly force, leaving record books and players artificially
inflated, like Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor.

Thank goodness that baseball, alone among major professional
sports, has floated the concept of contraction. Let owners
euthanatize the Florida Marlins, the Montreal Expos and the Tampa
Bay Devil Rays--please!--but let us also remove three teams each
from the NBA, NHL and NFL. Let us remove every other sport from
the Olympics. Let us remove one of Dennis Miller's vocal cords
and feed it to hyenas.

Let us remove, above all, any archaic legal barriers that still
prohibit us from torturing the men and women who choose the
music--and decibel level--for NBA arena sound systems.
Mephistopheles, summon your chambermaids to prepare for these
people a special suite in your dominion, where they shall have to
hear, for all eternity, C+C Music Factory's Gonna Make You Sweat
(Everybody Dance Now).

It isn't too late to simplify, simplify. Whoever let the dogs
out can call them back in. The time has come to strip sports of
their self-importance. Imagine a world free from our most
ridiculous football coaches, with their 17 assistants, their
drive-thru-at-Hardee's headsets, their highway-patrol escorts.
Envision a paradise bereft of the pestilence of "big-time"
basketball coaches, who have turned the final two minutes of
every game into the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.

Americans are entitled to an NBA season that is guaranteed to end
before Father's Day. (So are NBA players, for whom that holiday
can be complicated enough.) So let's get small. Let's get sports,
metaphorically speaking, off androstenedione. We'll give the
Goodwill Games to Goodwill. We'll try, for just one year, a Tour
de Rhode Island.

We'll take every bit of excess in sports and leave it, like a
lead donut, in the on-deck circle. Only then will we notice how
sweet our new swing is.