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Embracing the Penalty Kick

By most accounts, the 2006 World Cup was a resounding success here in the States. Forget about the fact that 17 million people tuned in for the final between Italy and France-about 4 million more than tuned in, on average, to the Mavericks-Heat NBA Finals. And forget about the fact that most Americans were buzzing around the water cooler about Zinedine Zidane' head-butt against a player who insulted his mother and sister.

No, we at CRACKED believe the real reason the 2006 World Cup thrived in the States was the rash of games decided by penalty kicks. Is there a more dramatic spectacle in all of sports? Never mind the fact that 120 minutes of graceful, artful and hard-fought soccer is decided by fives assholes winding up and firing balls at a virtually defenseless goalkeeper. Never mind the fact that after all the blood, sweat and tears it all comes down to whether a goalie guesses right.

It doesn't matter, because even the most soccer-ignorant observer can get riled up for penalty kicks. In fact, we think American sports can learn a lesson from soccer and spice up our end-of-game situations-bring that penalty kick mentality to those games we most cherish here. Like:


BASEBALL
Everyone remembers Aaron Boone' dramatic 11th-inning home run in the 2003 ALCS to catapult the Yankees past the Red Sox. But should it have even come to that? Why go to extra innings to determine the winner of such a big game? Instead, in AL parks, if the game is tied after nine innings, why not have a home run derby? Pick three guys from each team, give them five pitches each and let them swing away.

And in the NL? How about setting up a cardboard batter in the batter' box, getting out the radar gun, and seeing who can clock the highest MPH on the radar gun? Whichever team' player throws the most smoke wins the game. This way, the better team goes rewarded.



BASKETBALL
With the Western Conference Championship series locked at 3-3 this year, the Mavericks and Spurs found themselves all tied up at the end of regulation in Game 7. The Mavs settled things in overtime, but it didn't really seem fair. Shouldn't the Mavs and Spurs have skipped overtime and settled it with half-court shots? Both teams could have alternated chucking up half-courters, and whichever team made the first would have earned the honor of competing in the NBA Finals.

Or, why not pick a player from each team and settle it with a game of HORSE? Or better yet, after 48 minutes, drag one of those little trampolines onto the court and have each squad' mascot compete in a dunk contest. Set up an "Applause-O-Meter" on the jumbotron, and whichever mascot gets the loudest applause, well, we have a champion.



FOOTBALL
The NFL definitely has the most work to do. Overtime games are already largely decided by an arbitrary coin toss. Let' get rid of that and put some skill back into winning. Get a tire, paint it red, hang it from the goalpost and see which team' quarterback can throw more balls through it from 25 yards out. And then-boom-you have your winner.


GOLF
This is a pretty easy one. If at the end of a major tournament two players are tied for the lead-say, Tiger and Phil all square at the Masters-let' skip the sudden death playoff. Instead, pull out some beers, head down to the range, and have one of those charity hole-in-one contests. You could even put a nice car on display and promise it to any player that actually gets a hole-in-one. If nobody holes out, closest to the pin gets the Green
Jacket and a brand-new Buick.


BOXING
No more bouts decided by judges, and no more draws. If after 13 rounds there' no winner, settle it like men and have an arm-wrestling contest in the middle of the ring. The arm-wrestling option would both provide the arbitrary ending that America is apparently looking for and present the possibility of a Rockymeets Over the Top cross-over, the likes of which would make every member of the CRACKED editorial team' head explode from sheer, unbridled awesomeness.



HOCKEY
Hockey-namely, the NHL-cements itself as the most irrelevant league in America by already subscribing to the soccer model and settling games with penalty shoot-outs. Just go away already, NHL.
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