Imagine a baseball team having to play with only two outfielders, or an NFL team losing their running back for a game.
A few weeks back I argued that U.S. sports should borrow from European soccer leagues by introducing promotion and relegation, now I'm making the case for red cards.
But the major U.S. sports (ie. not soccer – yet) already have things like ejections and penalty boxes, why do we need red cards, you ask? Red cards in soccer and rugby mean that not only are the players off the field for good – they can't be replaced for the rest of the game.
Now sometimes this can lead to more excitement – particularly when the better team gets the man sent off – other times it results in a dull, predictable game as either the team with more players steamrolls their weakened opposition, or the weakened team "shuts up shop" and plays defensively the rest of the game.
So whether it enhances a game will depend on the situation – but let's face it, it would be pretty exciting if a baseball team had to lose a fielder if their pitcher throws a beanball, and in NHL a red card would mean it's power-play time, all the time.
But the main reason it's needed is to be a better deterrent to foul play.
In soccer, a red card not only means you're off the field and your team's down a player, the player who receives it gets an automatic ban of at least three games– or one game if you get a red card because of two yellow (caution) cards.
In rugby the punishments can be even stricter. The cards are given for serious dangerous play (like dumping a player on his head), gouging, biting or causing intentional injuries, and bans can be in excess of six months and in the worst cases, for life.
Little disincentive to cheat
Now I know that, particularly in hockey and football, violence is a part of the game and some of the biggest talking points are when players break the rules – but I'd argue the rules currently in place are little disincentive to cheat.
The NFL has only just this year introduced a rule that 2 personal fouls means an ejection (following Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman's clashes last season), but even then teams will be allowed to bring on another player.
Remember how angry Wild fans were when Charlie Coyle was smacked in the face by Duncan Keith's stick last season? Sure he was ejected, but a Blackhawks teammate served the five-minute match penalty and then they were back up to full strength (which, to be fair, the Wild won).
Keith was suspended six games – six games in an 82-game season – for deliberately injuring a player.
Rougned Odor of the Texas Rangers – ejection and eight game ban (out of 162 games) for punching Jose Bautista in the face – Chase Utley, for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg with a slide, 2-game ban – later rescinded.
Imagine the Twins are playing at the Yankees and losing 3-0 for a spot in the playoffs (hey, we can dream), suddenly Aaron Hicks goes nuts and sucker punches Joe Mauer. They're stuck with two outfielders and the next Twins inning Byron Buxton saunters around the bases for an inside-the-park grand slam.
That ridiculous, wildly outlandish example aside, if these players knew that their actions would leave their team a man short – particularly in playoff games or in the NFL where limited games make all of them crucial – they're more likely rein in the violent play and instead focus their attention on beating the crap out of each other within the laws of the game.
The alternative is getting a beating in the locker room after the game from the teammates they let down.