Thursday, November 23, 2017
Sports

Is this lunacy? Your call, heads or tails

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If you're a Green Bay Packers fan feeling cheated by a tossed coin, take heart. The act has caused far worse than losing an NFL playoff game.

Just ask the Phoenix Suns, Hassan Shamsid-Deen of the long-lost Orlando Rage or Ritchie Valens.

Well, you can't ask Valens because he died in 1959 thanks to a coin toss.

Green Bay's loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night pales, but it raises the same quandary. Why do we let something so small decide something so big?

Games should be decided on planning and performance, not "heads" or "tails." Why not just play rock-paper-scissors at midfield?

I can't think of a better alternative, but maybe the NFL can set up a think tank with some of the $550 million relocation fee the Rams are paying to move from St. Louis to L.A.

Hire Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Charles Barkley and other great minds to come up with something that makes more sense than flipping a piece of metal into the air. The great mind of Vince McMahon tried something with the XFL in 2001.

Remember the "Opening Scramble"?

The ball was placed on the 50-yard line. A player from each team lined up 20 yards away. It was like a mad dash to recover a fumble, with the winning player's team getting the ball first.

The XFL's grand debut was at the Citrus Bowl. Shamsid-Deen got the scramble honors for the Orlando Rage.

He dislocated his shoulder diving for the ball.

"It was a very exciting thing as far as the coin toss being done like that," he said afterward, "but it was tragic that my arm went out."

The entire league tragically went out a few months later, and nobody seriously has questioned coin-flipping. Or in Green Bay's case, not flipping.

On Saturday night, referee Clete Blakeman tossed the coin to determine which team would get the first possession in overtime. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers called "tails."

The coin went up like a flying saucer and landed on heads without flipping once.

There is no rule stating it must rotate during flight, but the whole thing looked screwy so Blakeman quickly re-tossed the coin.

That riled Rodgers, who said he'd have called "heads" but wasn't given the chance. The coin landed on heads. The Cardinals got the ball and scored in three plays.

It shouldn't have taken a flubbed toss to make people question the whole process. A billion-dollar industry is resolving major decisions on the whims of fate, or God or Clete Blakeman's thumb.

One reason is tradition. People have been tossing coins since the days of Ancient Rome. It's quick and easy, but what a way to go.

Valens and Tommy Allsup tossed a coin to see who'd get the last seat in the plane Buddy Holly chartered during a 1959 tour. Allsup, the guitarist in Holly's band, lost.

Valens got on the plane, which crashed in an Iowa cornfield.

History has been altered countless other times by which way a coin landed. That's how Orville Wright beat brother Wilbur to see who'd get first crack at flying a plane.

That's how Lew Alcindor went to the Milwaukee Bucks instead of the Phoenix Suns, and Magic Johnson became a Laker instead of a Bull, and Terry Bradshaw went to the Pittsburgh Steelers instead of the Chicago Bears.

Would Terry Hanratty have led the Steelers to four Super Bowls?

Leagues gradually have tried to minimize the coin toss. Home-field advantage in the World Series, No. 1 draft picks and playoff berths no longer are decided by tossing fate to the winds.

Nothing against coins, but there have to be better ways to settle things. If you can think of one, you can bet Shamsid-Deen would love to hear it.

— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

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