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Tom Jones: Changes that have spoiled traditions in sports

Wimbledon — the coolest tennis tournament in the world, the one with the richest tradition — jumped the shark Monday. In the name of progress, innovation and fan friendliness, it closed the retractable roof on Centre Court to keep rain from interrupting its precious tournament. Fans cheered and players praised, but a tradition was lost, just like when lights were installed at Wrigley Field. The thing that was supposed to make it better actually made it a little worse. Here are some sports traditions lost in the name of advancement.

Braves on TBS

Atlanta's "SuperStation'' was one of the first cable stations. The best thing was, anywhere in the country, you could watch Dale Murphy, right, and the Braves. They were horrible, the old "Launching Pad'' was practically empty and announcer Skip Caray talked more about what movie was on after the game. You didn't always watch, but it was comforting to know they were on. These days, TBS shows a national Game of the Week, and fans can watch any game they want. But there was something special about watching the Cubs on WGN during the day and the Braves on TBS at night.

New Yankee Stadium

These days it's all about private suites and swanky clubs and plush clubhouses. But not only does the new stadium lack the charm and tradition of the old digs, it's a joke with homers flying out at a record pace. It's like a new easy chair that might look nice and have a place for your drink and remote. The old chair had stains and rips and a missing handle, but it sure was comfortable.

New Year's Day bowl games

You're supposed to have the Cotton Bowl in the mid afternoon, the Rose Bowl in the late afternoon and the Sugar and Orange at night. And by the end, we're supposed to have a national champion. Now these classic bowls are spread out. Did you know that last year there was a bowl game on Jan. 6? And it was the GMAC Bowl, for crying out loud.

Organ music at hockey games

Go to a hockey game and prepare to have your senses blasted. Loud music, screaming promotion announcers, overly caffeinated "spirit'' team kids firing T-shirts out of air guns. Teams still have an organ, but we're subjected to AC/DC and Guns N' Roses before every faceoff. Maybe just once a season, teams could have "organ night.'' No announcers. No T-shirts. No rock music. Just a guy playing an organ during the breaks.

Scheduled doubleheaders

The holiday baseball doubleheaders — Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day — were great. Twi-night double­headers were the best. Now, the only time there's a doubleheader is to make up a rainout. And it's always a day-night doubleheader so teams can squeeze out full gates from every game they play. Once again, another example of greed taking one of the great traditions from sports.

World Series day games

Gone for good are the days when kids would sneak a transistor to school and listen to the first couple innings before racing home to watch the end. Or maybe you had a really cool teacher who would close the blinds, turn off the lights and wheel in that black-and-white television on that huge stand so you could enjoy the game. Memories like that build fans. The first night World Series game was in 1971, Orioles-Pirates Game 4. Now games end so late that kids can't stay up to watch.

Roof at Wimbledon

Rain is part of the tournament's charm. It changes momentum. It adds intrigue. Last year's final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer became an epic, partly because of the rain. When you think of Wimbledon, what comes to mind? Grass, strawberries and cream, and rain. Not anymore. Now we have a roof. At Wimbledon. Blasphemy!

Tom Jones: Changes that have spoiled traditions in sports 06/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 7:10am]
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