Thursday, November 30, 2006

Proposed rule change for NCAA basketball

I've been somewhat jaded of late with college basketball. Growing up in Kansas, we had every reason to love college hoops - Larry Brown, Roy Williams, and now Bill Self have brought much success to the Kansas basketball team, and Kansas State has improved quite a bit with Jim Woolridge and potentially with Bob Huggins. Even Wichita State is doing rather well! Both Williams and Self are excellent strategists who have conditioned and coached their players well, and it shows on the court. But one aspect of the basketball that is absolutely ridiculous is this: using the foul as a strategic advantage.

Of all the sports I enjoy, basketball is the only one where it is strategic and advantageous to incur a penalty. Countless games have been improbably won because the losing team fouls the winning team, the winning team doesn't hit the freethrows, and the losing team manages to race down the court and shoot, only to foul again, miss again, race down, shoot, foul, miss, etc., until the losing team eventually pulls ahead and wins the game. This is silly.

The NCAA rules committee tried an experimental rule change in 1999 to address this issue. The rule change was that if you are in the double bonus, you have an option of not shooting free throws and instead maintaining possession of the basketball. I really liked the change, but it apparently didn't garner enough support to be a permanent change. That simple change allowed Stanford to beat Duke 80-79 in overtime because the "incur a penalty as a strategy" was effectively taken away.

I propose two alternative rules:

1. If you are fouled while in the double bonus with less than two minutes to go, you shoot two free throws and have the option of taking 10 seconds off of the game clock.

~ or ~

2. If you are fouled while in the double bonus with less than two minutes to go, you treat each foul as though it were a technical foul. Two free throws AND possession.

The goal here is to eliminate the use of a foul as a strategic advantage. This is a game of basketball, not a game of let's-abuse-the-rules. Football rules gurus ran across a similar situation when the offense would intentionally incur a penalty to stop the clock in order to set up a play or to get the field-goal team out on the field. They made a rule where if the losing or tied team's offense incurs certain penalties with less than a minute and a half remaining in the game, then 10 seconds are ran off the clock.

Basketball is a very good sport that involves a lot of strategy, skill, and, to some extent, luck. But it shouldn't involve abusing the rules to gain a strategic advantage. Please, NCAA rules committee, consider bringing basketball back to its roots!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gun Ownership and Gun Suicides

I love violent video games. Blowing things up and shooting everything in sight with guns of all sorts - ah, great release of frustration and escape from reality. I have no moral objection against owning a gun - they have several legitimate uses, such as overthrowing governments, killing "game", and committing suicide. Natural selection at its best. Several of my friends and relatives own guns and that's perfectly okay with me. Owning a gun dramatically increases the likelihood of accidental or intentional death via gunshot wound.

We've all heard countless horror stories of little Johnnie getting daddy's gun and blowing little Jack's brains out. These stories are quite rare in the grand scheme of gun ownership, but I'm all for mandating guns to be more difficult to fire - childproof safeties, a simple trigger key lock, or RFID technology - to counterbalance the irresponsible gun owner. This would prevent many gun-related deaths, but it wouldn't prevent my main reason for personally not owning a gun: suicide.

Many studies have shown that all gun owners are at a much higher risk of homicide; a well-cited Harvard study found that "in areas where household firearm ownership rates were higher, a disproportionately large number of people died from homicide." 56% of all gun deaths in the US were suicides (source). The key statistic is that nearly 60% of all suicides in general are carried out with a gun (source, source). That is a staggering statistic, especially when pitted against the percentage of individuals who actually own a gun: only 25%, according to a US government study, and that rate is allegedly declining. Both of these statistics are taken from the general national population from the same time frame without bias; they are both representing the same sample. Simply having access to a gun significantly increases the likelihood that you will commit suicide; it provides easy, lethal means in impulsive suicidal moments.

So what am I advocating here? On a national level, mandating trigger locks is a must. I'm not saying that we should have laws that prevent gun ownership, making owning guns any more difficult than it is, or restricting who should own guns - all of which have strengths and weaknesses. I'm simply stating that owning a gun dramatically increases the likelihood that you'll commit suicide. Unless you're a hunter, owning a gun does nothing except provide a pseudo warm fuzzy blanket of security and an easy, lazy, impulsive means for suicide.