Out of Bounds

"Back in the day" might possibly be the most overused cliché of all time, regardless of the manner in which it is used.

Whether it be how much soda pop used to cost, or how tough our parents were on their walk to school uphill both ways, it is often more of a nostalgic statement than anything rooted in fact.

However, lately I get the feeling that sports need to be played, or rather governed, more like those "back in the day."

In the past month there have been more suspensions handed out by the four major sports than Britney Spears' "vacations" to the nearest rehabilitation facility, and it seems that the suspensions are getting more and more out of hand.

Last week, the New York Rangers were down big late in the fifth game of their seven-game series against the Washington Capitals, when a rowdy Capitals fan dumped a beer over the glass onto an already frustrated Ranger coach John Tortorella.

Tortorella responded by jumping on the glass and squirting the fan with a bottle of water, probably to go along with a few R-rated words. This would seem like a reasonable response, maybe a bit out of control, but nothing to write home about.

However, the image-conscious NHL acted swiftly in suspending the coach for one playoff game.

Compare this to 30 years ago, when a brawl broke out between the Bruins and Rangers in a regular season game at Madison Square Garden. Terry O'Reilly, a Bruins enforcer, was hit in the head with a stick that a fan had somehow gotten his hands on. O'Reilly decided this was unacceptable, and proceeded to climb into the stands and beat the fan with his own shoe, quickly followed by the rest of the Bruins.

For this O'Reilly received an eight game suspension. Can you imagine what would happen today? The term "lifetime ban" comes to mind.

It also seems that suspensions are up in other sports too. Dwight Howard is the latest victim, receiving a one-game suspension for an elbow after the play on 76ers center Samuel Dalembert.

Yes, this was an uncalled for swipe, but there was no serious injury and a technical foul was called - the right call. This was not a planned attack, merely the continuation of gritty play under the hoop from both sides.

To me, it seems that this is the unfortunate outcome of leagues that are overly concerned with their image and the questionable benefits of "opening the game up."

For the NBA and NHL, it started with the rule changes that cut down on clutching and grabbing - the typical defense against skilled players - which led to four-steps-before-traveling is called in the NBA and talk of eliminating fighting in the NHL.

What this causes is more of a one-man show (please note: LeBron, Kobe and Ovechkin), rather than allowing teams to win games through hustle and unified defense.

Now football is trying it out too; passing new rules that prevent defensive players from making tackles from the ground on the quarterback, and offensive players from blind-side blocking.

Though these are plays that can cause serious injury, they can also be some of the biggest and most exciting game-changers.

Simply more ground gained for the parents who want to see their children to play touch football and use softer balls in baseball. I for one, pray to see the games we love stay the games we love, just like back in the day.

In