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Archive for July 20, 2019

July 20, 2019 — Return of The Sports Curmudgeon

NOTE: Frank Deford (1938-2017) not only wrote articles for Sports Illustrated and was editor of The National Sports Daily, he contributed oral commentaries to National Public Radio for 37 years. The Sports Curmudgeon was a character he invented as a trope to either predict the future of a particular pastime, or to rant about how the sport in question “used to be.”  

OK, people. In about a week’s time, the National Federation of State High School Associations is going to issue its annual press release about changes in the sport of girls’ lacrosse.

The talk around the lacrosse world for much of the last decade has been how to brighten, freshen up, or, for lack of a better term, “sex up” the fastest game on two feet.

I never thought the game ever needed sexing up; it’s a ritual borne from Native American combat, where teams numbering in the hundreds would play in forests, clearings, and the paths in between, hoping to use sticks to propel a ball towards a goal of some kind.

In the men’s game, there were mechanisms to speed up the game if the officials believed that the offense was being passive, including the ultimate punishment of making the attack keep it in an attack box 35 yards long and 40 yards wide. A few years ago, that punishment was changed to a 30-second shot clock.

Eventually, that was changed to an 80-second clock for college, and a clock varying from 52 to 60 seconds in the pro game. For the women, the possession clock is 90 seconds for the NCAA, and 60 seconds for the WPLL pro game.

The problem with implementing a possession clock in scholastic lacrosse — both men’s and women’s — is that the scorer’s table is now responsible for three clocks. With nearly 3,500 schools across America offering the sport these days, finding people competent enough to run these clocks is going to be an absolute nightmare.

Therefore, by the power invested in your Sports Curmudgeon, the National Federation and U.S. Lacrosse (who co-write the rules for the U-19 game nationwide) are directed to implement what I call the “Clock Lock” when it comes to running the game clock, possession clock, and any and all penalty clocks that may occur during the contest.

“Clock Lock” means that the time counts off any and all operating clocks simultaneously, even in situations when the game clock is supposed to be running (such as when one team takes a 10-goal lead). In other words, there should be no reason for the game clock to be running while the possession clock is not, and vice-versa.

Take, for example, when a card is issued. The umpire should be allowed to stop the game and clock, send the player to the penalty bench, record the foul, and ensure that the time is set. This goes even if the game score is out of hand.

I have seen a number of times in the most recent NCAA season, a running game clock has harmed a team’s chances to get back into a game late when the possession clock is not running.

What that does is change the calculus of comebacks: with five minutes to go in the second half, a coaching staff expects four possessions (three full 90-second clocks and about 30 seconds of leftover time). But if one team dawdles in getting the ball back into play while the possession clock is still and the game clock is not, that takes a critical possession away from the team that is trailing.

I think the “Clock Lock” rule simplifies timing for people running the clocks, whether they are parents, student managers, volunteers, or even paid cadet officials.

Your Sports Curmudgeon has spoken.