The United States and Spain played for the Davis Cup in Seville, Spain last week. The host country chooses the playing surface in Davis Cup. Spanish players grow up playing on slow red clay courts. American players grow up playing on fast hard courts. The weather can be unpredictable in Spain this time of year so the Spanish put a roof over the courts. This helped the Americans because a dry court is faster and we need help because the last time an American won the a Grand Slam on clay was 1999 and even he got some help. Andre Agassi won the French Open after Arnaud Clément developed cramps needing only one more game to win the match early in the draw and the rain arrived just in time to give Andre a much needed time out to change the momentum in the finals against Andre Medveded.
Spain didn’t help enough. Andy Roddick lost to 18 year old Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya and the U.S. lost the Davis Cup final 3-1.
What if other sports allowed the home team to choose playing conditions like they do in Davis Cup? In baseball, we already have this. Teams get to choose how far you have to hit the ball to get a home run. If their field is a synthetic surface they stock the roster with fast players and good fielders. Groundskeepers are known to mess with the basepaths and the pitching mound depending on who’s coming to town. But what if some teams took it a bit further?
Let’s say your football team is playing in a blinding snowstorm and you are just about to attempt the winning field goal late in a scoreless game. You take a time out and ask the snow plow operator to drive onto the field as if he’s clearing one of the yard lines then swerve just enough to clear a path for your field goal kicker.
What about home court advantage in reverse. You set up one of your own players to improve your team’s chances. Let’s say you made a huge mistake by giving a big contract to a pitcher who hasn’t pitched all year and didn’t pitch that well when he did. You think to yourself, “If I can get this guy up on a morals charge of some sort, I can void his contract. What if I hire a prostitute to proposition him and then tip off a cop to the activities? The worst that can happen is the player says no. The best that can happen is that he takes the bait and we get million of dollars off our books.”
Or maybe that troubled but talented player isn’t performing as well as he was. You’d like to get rid of him but no one will take his contract off your hands. Simple, just pay a fan to throw something at him during play and terminate his contract when he jumps into the stands and beats up the fan and anyone else he comes across.
How about passing the buck in troubles times? A player testifies before the grand jury that he used steroids and knows that the testimony will likely become public. He tells a national sports magazine, “Hey, my good friend gave me those illegal substances. I had no idea what they were. They didn’t even help my game, I didn’t notice any difference.” He makes sure to include stories that demostrate the truly awful personality of his now former friend, a fellow player, to emphasize that he would never be involved with such a person had he known he was using steroids. It’s always better to blame your friends than take the blame yourself.
I hope you can tell which of these events really happened and which didn’t but I would understand if you couldn’t, I’m not sure myself.