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Starkey: Silliest rule in sports

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Saturday, March 23, 2013, 11:45 p.m.

Marc-Andre Fleury might have to shorten his pads. The Pro Bowl might become a pick-up game. NFL running backs might get flagged for — gasp! — lowering their heads.

In a minute we'll dig into details of the just-completed NFL owners meetings and NHL GMs meetings.

First, the headline: There is a new silliest rule in sports.

The old silliest rule — the NFL's comical tuck rule — was pronounced dead Wednesday. The throne did not stay vacant for long. The NCAA Tournament immediately introduced a successor.

It is called the “flagrant 1.” All hail the flagrant 1.

Born two years ago, its applications include excessively penalizing a player and his team for an incidental elbow. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo labeled the rule “ridiculous.”

He was being kind.

CBS analyst Doug Gottleib was a bit more pointed when the flagrant 1 reared its ugly head in the Pitt-Wichita State game.

“Dumbest thing in basketball,” Gottlieb said. “Absolutely, completely moronic.”

It's actually much worse than that. You know as much if you saw Lamar Patterson whistled for a flagrant 1 on a drive after he accidentally elbowed Wichita State's Ron Baker.

Good call. Terrible rule.

Patterson's actions were in no way reckless. He lifted an arm because that is what human beings often do when they propel themselves forward. He was also trying to protect the basketball (a rare sight for Pitt that day).

Don't your arms move when you run? Nothing short of taping Patterson's limbs to his sides could have prevented this. Yet Wichita State got two foul shots and the ball.

That rule must die.

Meanwhile, NFL and NHL execs were plenty busy. Some highlights …

NFL meetings

• Ball carriers now are prohibited from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field.

Take: A mere cosmetic change. The issue is the game itself, boys, and the best way to curb brain damage is to play less football, not more. Still talkin' about 18 games?

• Peel-back blocks are now prohibited.

Take: Wait, so players can no longer turn back toward their goal line and block an opponent low from behind? What took so long?

• Pro Bowl captains might choose squads pick-up style.

Take: Can't wait.

What they missed: James Harrison's tweet said it all: “I'm still waiting to see what they're going to do about the high-low blocks in the running game!”

NHL meetings

• Recommended reducing goalie equipment. Specifically, the pad height above the knee and the inner-pad bulkiness around the knee.

Take: If they keep shrinking equipment, how will we recognize Henrik Lundqvist?

• Recommended hybrid icing, whereby the race ends at the faceoff dot.

Take: What's not to like? You get the race without the injury risk.

• The Toronto war room could review four-minute high-sticking penalties to make sure the victim wasn't cut by a teammate.

Take: Wow. We're still talking about “blood drawn” as a factor in implementing a rule in a professional sports league. That's almost as idiotic as the flagrant 1.

But not quite.

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