I'd like to share a solution of sorts for the National Football League. As ridiculous as it seems, I believe that the NFL can learn from a rule in my rotisserie golf league.
Every decade or so there is a college star on the gridiron that plays his final season as the prohibitive favorite to go first overall in the NFL draft. Think John Elway. Jeff George. Orlando Pace. This year, it's Stanford's quarterback, Andrew Luck.
Because the team with the worst record in the NFL is given the first pick in its draft, discussion on which franchise will fall into Luck has been rampant with accusations that certain teams will be trying to lose to guarantee pole position. Attempting to prove this is unnecessary, but the fact that the dynamic exists at all opens the door for the needless negative vibe.
While it probably keeps fans of the bottom-feeders of the NFL interested, and in some way must be good for business, the very notion of hoping your team loses -- regardless of the reason -- goes against the essence of competition. This is where my fantasy golf league steps in.
We have 10 owners. Our draft order is set by a weighted lottery based on the results of the previous year. The twist is that the teams that finish in the bottom half are given identical odds in the lottery. None of us would ever accuse another of deliberately tanking one's season to secure the first overall pick in the next draft, but the rule prevents the possibility.
Furthermore, the teams in the top half of the overall standings earn various rewards the bottom half doesn't, but five best are also represented in the lottery (albeit with long odds for an early pick). Therefore, the objective is always on improving one's position relative to others. It's worth noting that my league is comprised of a complex set of components, one of which involves a diminishing returns principle if an owner gets too active and doesn't succeed. However, the pros outweigh the cons, and all owners knows that the worst-case scenario is a share of the best odds in the next lottery.
For many years, the honor of finishing last meant imminent ownership of Tiger Woods, a once-perennial lock as the No. 1 pick and coincidentally a product of the Cardinal. However, since implementing the rule I'm proposing to the NFL, the conversation regarding which owner benefits has ended. We are now forced to build a team and remain committed until the final stroke of the season.
You'd think that if some teams didn't have Andrew Luck, they wouldn't have any luck at all. Quite the contrary, that they can control their own destiny is downright scary.
Do I expect the NFL to consider such a radical maneuver? Hardly. We'd likely see leather helmets again first. But is the absence of a perceived goal to post the worst win-loss record a bad thing? Never. Nor is it an unrealistic option.