Now that both the collegiate men’s and collegiate women’s teams have had an opportunity to play an entire season under the new NCAA rules and spectators have had the opportunity to see a number of games played with the new NCAA rules, it is time to rake them over the hot coals of inspection and introspection to see if any rule or rules have captured the hearts and minds of anybody in the water polo community. Watching the game played under the new rules has not captured either my heart or mind, but it has certainly made my butt sore and my attention span small.
I know I sound similar to a broken record squeaking and posturing about how the new rules have ruined the game I love. However, I don’t think it is really the rules that have ruined the game, but rather, the way the referees have been told to interpret the rules that has made a macho mess of the game. For example, the interpretation that states there should be no off ball fouls called unless there is a two foot circle of blood in the water surrounding the two players that are fouling. Is that an exaggeration – yes? Is not calling off ball fouls an invitation to further bad deeds – yes, and is it a sight too make sore eyes and a boring game – you bet your five or seven dollar ticket to the game it is!
If I wanted to watch two people, the 2-meter players and the two 2-meter defenders, wrestle the entire game then I will go to a wrestling match not a water polo game. If I wanted to watch the ball almost continuously passed around a perimeter of a circle then I will go watch the Harlem Globetrotters warm up and unlike a water polo game I will be amused by the comical passing of these players. I never thought I would see the day where the primary purpose of the 2-meter player is to open, or should I say muscle open, a passing lane so the ball can be passed to him or her for an almost certain ejection? Now that is about as exciting as watching a real estate commercial on TV and as common as catching a politician in a lie.
Bring back! Bring back! Bring back my old dynamic water polo game to me! Let our game be the game that prizes quickness and skills over size and physicality and the game that rewards accomplishments over strength and good play over bad. Let the 2-meter player once again be the hub and catalyst of activity by allowing him or her to swim to and set on the 2 meter line without being held.
Does this mean there will be more scores from the 2-meter player? Yes, but this is good for the game. Does this mean the 2-meter player will pass to field players driving and doing rearbacks more? Yes, but this is good for the game. Does this mean that there will be more passes from the 2-meter player to the driver that has won inside water? Yes, but this is good for the game. Does this mean that field players that win inside water will be rewarded more? Yes, but this is good for the game. Does this mean all six field players will once again have to become scoring threats? Yes, but this is good for the game. Does it mean the 2-meter defender will have to rely more on skills and cunning rather than brute force to stop the 2-meter player from turning him or her and from scoring. Yes, but this is good for the game. Does that mean the defender will have to learn how to defend against the drive because he or she will no longer be able to hold the driver? Yes, but dad gum it these changes are good for not only the playing goose but also the spectator-ing gander!
In my opinion there is a beacon of light in the new rules and they are the new rules that pertain to the goal line. At first I thought these rules were confusing and against common sense but when I saw that these rules rewarded good play and punished bad pay I became one of their staunches advocates. Another bonus is that it helps speed up the game and it appears to create more counterattack opportunities. Finally, in today’s game I like the 30 second possession rule better than the 35 second rule simply because it gives the 2-meter player and the 2-meter defender 5 seconds less time to wrestle. If by some miraculous turn of events the Mr. Hyde of today’s static game with emphasis on physicality changes back into the Dr. Jekyll of yesterday’s dynamic game with emphasis on skills and smarts then I would prefer the 35 second shot clock so that both teams will have more time to strut their offensive and defensive skills.
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