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Go Reconfigure
Steve Rushin
April 19, 2004
If Augusta national can reconfigure its golf course every year to make it longer and more narrow, surely we can reconfigure everything else in sports—including my 5'4" editor, Dick Friedman, who would also like to be made longer and more narrow. "So I can dunk," he says, "and get 20 more yards on my drive."
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April 19, 2004

Go Reconfigure

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If Augusta national can reconfigure its golf course every year to make it longer and more narrow, surely we can reconfigure everything else in sports—including my 5'4" editor, Dick Friedman, who would also like to be made longer and more narrow. "So I can dunk," he says, "and get 20 more yards on my drive."

Fair enough. But the point is to modify sports in a way that makes them more difficult, not less. Advances in equipment, biology and biochemistry are rendering our most beloved games, and their timeless dimensions, obsolete or insufficient. The time has come to make all sports more challenging. Adapt or adieu.

So let's eliminate NASCAR pit crews. Make drivers on pit road prepay for gas while waiting in line behind six people buying Kools and Kit Kats from a cashier in a booth—built of bulletproof Lucite—that resembles, right down to the slotted window, Hannibal Lecter's holding pen. Now that's real driving.

Any fool can straddle a pommel horse. But gymnastics won't be fraught with excitement—and those hilarious groin injuries, set to circus music, that enliven the end of 11 o'clock sports shows—until we introduce the pommel camel, with its perilous center hump.

If Augusta can Tiger-proof its fairways, shouldn't the Staples Center Shaq-proof its lanes—not by widening them, mind you, but by requiring the Lakers' center to wear size-60 clown shoes, so that he can't set foot within 15 yards of the basket without being whistled for a three-second violation? (Sure, Shaq will be shooting free throws from the three-point line and three-pointers from half-court, but his percentages in those categories will hardly, can hardly, be made worse.)

Bonds-proof the rightfield wall at SBC Park by putting it on pontoons in McCovey Cove, 700 feet from home plate. Require Red Wings goalie Manny Legace to defend a soccer goal at Joe Louis Arena—and D.C. United's Freddy Adu to shoot at a hockey goal in RFK Stadium.

Serena-proof Centre Court at Wimbledon by placing it on the world's largest lazy Susan, so that even when she switches sides Williams will forever be serving into the sun. For fans, this will create a happy optical illusion: Though stationary, they will feel as if they're watching each match from the revolving restaurant on the roof of the Tampa Airport Marriott.

If sports are to survive, they have to do more than revolve. They have to evolve: Three-point lines, two-point conversions after touchdowns, 36 new pine trees on number 11 at the Masters. Maybe Augusta's membership isn't made up of fossilized flat-earthers after all—or not merely that. Maybe Augusta is in the avant-garde.

Heaven knows someone needs to raise the bar. Literally. We should winch up the crossbar and cinch in the uprights for unerring Colts placekicker Mike Vanderjagt. Conversely, we should widen the goalposts—and shorten the field—at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium, encouraging Arena Football-like pyrotechnics and making infinitely more difficult the Cornhuskers' annual quest to bore Americans into catatonia.

Rather than introducing new sports, like synchronized shvitzing, the Olympics should stick with the old ones but increase their degree of difficulty: Uphill skiing, for instance, or the javelin catch. Let's devote our Olympic-sized swimming pools to Marco Polo, which is even more rigorous than water polo.

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