Football's little-loved and rarely-anticipated extra point kick might actually be on the way out, as even the commissioner of the NFL is on board with its retirement. Roger Goodell suggested that he is considering eliminating one of the sport's oldest rules, because it's become too routine to actually matter.
The point-after kick is a relic of an older age of football, when field goals were more difficult, but football specialization has made the kicker virtually perfect at this job. This past year PATs at the pro level were successful at a 99.6 percent clip. Yet, after every touchdown the special teams players was 35 seconds and a lot of potential neck injuries to go through with the charade of the supremely unexciting point-after attempt.
Goodell acknowledged that fact on NFL Network on Sunday, and noted that the NFL Competition Committee was considering ending the play, possibly by making the 7th point automatic, and leaving two-point conversion optional. The solution, then, is basically to adopt the rules of the NFL Blitz video game. The arcade-style sports game had a "Free" automatic one-point after touchdowns, and gamers could also go for the 2-point conversion, because even in 1997 they knew extra points were worthless.
People will probably feel a little sad about ending such an ancient and essential characteristic of the game. (It is called "football," after all.) Yet, it's hard to argue that the extra point is not totally worthless. But is it the most worthless play in sports? At least after the extra point, your team gets a point. There are lots of other time-honored traditions, that do little more than waste time and add nothing to their sports.
Baseball's intentional walk
The problem with the intentional walk isn't just that it robs baseball's best players of a chance to hit. The issue is that it's a waste of time in an already plodding game. Once the decision to intentionally walk has been made, the manager, pitcher, catcher, and batter all resign themselves to watching blankly as the pitcher lobs the ball way high and outside. Four. Consecutive. Times. At lower amateur levels, the manager usually says he wants to walk that guy and the umpire sends him to first. But major leaguers keeping going through the motions on the almost infinitesimal chance that the pitcher might get the yips and throw it away. (Like so.) But is that really something people will miss? Doubtful.
Basketball's jump ball
When two players have equal possession of a loose ball, the NBA goes to a jump ball to solve the debate. College basketball did away with this years ago, because it's time consuming and generally unfair. As Weak Side Awareness blogger Michael Wilczynski found, when the height difference of the two is above a foot, the taller player almost always wins the jump ball. Do we really need to embarrass these short players any more? Don't they put up with enough abuse on the court? Let's shorten this waste of time and just give the ball to the monster 7-footers. No need to make a sub-six-footer reach into the sky like a toddler going for the cookie jar. (Except when Nate Robinson is involved. Never count out Nate Robinson's ups.)
The "puck over the glass" penalty
In hockey, if a defensive player intentionally shoots the puck out of the rink, it's a two-minute penalty. Basically, if someone delays the game, the remedy is .... to delay the game further by calling a penalty that serves no purpose. Good luck, trying to determine if he was intentionally shooting it over the glass or if he's just bad at his job. It's such a frustratingly useless rule that the even NHL referees are on record saying it's dumb. (A lot of hockey fans would argue that the shootout is just as pointless, but at least it's potentially interesting.)
So what's your vote for the most pointless sports rule/play that the world would not miss if it went away?