Each week, The Reporters put their thumbs out to the good and the bad in the world of sports. This week they discuss the Winter Classic, the value of the BCS, a possible rule change by FIFA and hockey tournament formats.
Bruce Arthur, National Post: My thumb is up to the most recent Winter Classic between Toronto and Detroit at Michigan Stadium, despite everything. In the first period there was so much snow that even completing a pass was an accomplishment. The horn blew midway through the third - and midway through overtime, with Henrik Zetterberg breaking in - to switch ends, because of the wind. It was goofy, but with over 105,000 fans, a record, this game was an irresistible spectacle. And really, it was just hockey. Teams simplify their games all the time. The shootout is a gimmick, indoors or outdoors. And somehow, the Winter Classic makes all its imperfections seem small. Eventually the NHL will exhaust this gold mine. But on New Year's Day, we got treated to something rare: beautiful ugly hockey.
Dave Naylor, TSN: My thumb is up to the Bowl Championship Series - better known as the BCS - which plays out its existence tomorrow night in the National Championship game between Auburn and Florida State. In its 16-year run, the BCS brought up plenty of controversy and debate, but it also brought us a game each year featuring No. 1 versus No. 2. While some may have said it made other bowl games irrelevant, consider this week's Orange Bowl between Ohio State and Clemson or Sugar Bowl between Alabama and Oklahoma as evidence that the BCS season was never just about one game. Next year the BCS will be replaced with the four-team playoff. But let's remember the BCS fondly as part of the evolution of college football.
Michael Farber, Sports Illustrated: My thumb is up to Sepp Blatter, normally the occupationally challenged president of FIFA who, shockingly, has come up with a good idea. Borrowing from hockey, Blatter has proposed a virtual penalty box for those who feign injuries. For decades, a visit to the soccer touchline for an apparently mortally injured player has been like a pilgrimage to Lourdes; the healing powers there are miraculous. Now, rather than sprinting back onto the field, that player would have to stay off for an unspecified spell, obliging his team to play a man down. Given the scourge of soccer fakery, Blatter is right. The time has come to institute a time penalty.
Dave Hodge, TSN: My thumb would be up to hockey's tournament format, such as we see at the World Juniors and as we're about to see again at the Olympics, if only it could be designed differently. To make the quarter-final round at Malmo, Canada needed to win just one game, against Germany. It was considered important to win the group, as Canada did, but it wasn't essential. The games would have been much more compelling if only four of 10 teams qualified for the so-called playoffs, instead of eight. It's worse at the Olympics. Twelve teams take part in round-robin play and all twelve move on to play outside their groups, some with winless records. So next month, wake me when there are games that will eliminate the losing teams, and when the names of those teams aren't so obvious.