Sporting dominance that caused the game to be changed

Now there’s already a thread about athletes who dominated their sport. I’m curious to know if there are many cases where an athlete or team so thoroughly and regularly monstered the opposition that it caused a substantial rule change, or even the sport to be abandoned entirely - or at least fall out of favour, because it was boring. Plenty of sports have had rules changes, usually to speed up play or make things safer (or more appealing to television (for example)) but I can’t think of many where an individual player or team inspired the change.

There’s Formula One, where there have been several cases where a technological innovation was allowed to dominate the sport for a short while before being banned. The Brabham fan cars, for example, one of which won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix in its first and last race before the concept was outlawed, and to a lesser extent the Tyrell six-wheelers; and I suppose there were were turbocharged cars and all the driver aids that were in vogue in the 1990s. The technology is still advancing. In 1979 Dennis Lillee played a cricket match with an aluminium bat, but was prevailed upon to stop and use a wooden bat instead - after which the rules were changed so that metal bats were forbidden - but he doesn’t appear to have played any better with the metal bat than without it.

Presumably there’s a genetic limit to how much one individual can dominate a sport, and of course everyone grows old; and any traditional sport that has survived to the present day must be pretty resilient. I was thinking of the Women’s tennis at Wimbledon this year. Props to Serena Williams, but it’s awfully boring having the same person win all the time. Eventually the governing body will start to think about adopting a league system, like football - and just like football there’ll be a plethora of different leagues with confusing names, and people will stop paying attention, and television will relegate it to a footnote, and kids won’t have posters on the walls etc, and eventually people will wonder whatever happened to it.

The only concrete example I can find is Walter Lindrum, a billiards champion from the 1930s who seemed to spend his time tapping the balls in an odd manner. Makes no sense to me; probably Satanic, and he won again and again so (according to frustratingly vague internet legend) they changed the rules so that he couldn’t do it. At which point the World Billiards Championships collapsed, although whether that was because the public had given up, or there wasn’t a decent pool of new players, I have no idea.

I have heard, and this bio mentions it, that Wilt Chamberlain was so dominant that the NBA had to change the rules for both offensive goaltending and free throw shooting to counter him. I had heard the story that it was defensive goaltending he caused to be banned, but the link doesn’t mention that.

Basically, he out jumped everyone and swatted balls either into or away from the basket. He would jump from the free throw line on foul shots and finger roll the shot into the basket. I guess that was a higher percentage shot for him than simply making a free throw.

Actually, the narrator says at 1:44 that Lindrum is merely demonstrating the infamous “anchor” or “cradle” cannon, which had been exploited in a spate of increasingly ludicrous record-breaking stunts in 1907, shortly before the technique was rendered illegal.

http://www.eaba.co.uk/articles/tomReeceRecord/cradleCannonRecord.html

MLB lowered the pitching mound 5 inches in after the 1968 season dominated by pitchers, most notable Bob Gibson, who was 22-9 with a 1.12 ERAS and an opposing BA of .184. They also changed the strikes zone from the armpits to the jersey letters.

A number of golf courses were “Tiger-proofed” back in the early part of the millennium, but the game itself didn’t change.

In the 1980s the NHL changed the rules with how coincidental minors were penalized. This was done because the Oilers were so much better than everyone else when they had some open ice. The rule, which has since changed back, is usually referred to as the Gretzky rule.

I’m not sure if this counts but the NBA had to change the design of the backboards on every arena because Shaq kept tearing them down.

The NHL changed the rule about offsetting penalties in 1985, due to the dominance of Gretzky and the Oilers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Gretzky

The NCAA banned dunking in basketball games because of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). It’s back now, though.

The dunk was outlawed in college basketball from 1967-1976 because Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) so dominated the court with it.

In response, he perfected the skyhook, and basketball thereby became awesome.

ETA: Gaaah! Ninja’d!

I recall reading once, so it may not be true at all, but that in the NHL you used to have to serve the entire two minutes of a penalty regardless of how many goals the other team scored. But in the 50s the Canadiens were so good at scoring a man up that they changed the rule to allow the penalty to end after a goal is scored. I have no cites so I don’t know if that is true or not.

I’m going to go out on a limb here a bit, assuming that changes in strategy across a given sport are on-topic. I was a big Gretzky and Oilers fan during their dynasty, and for a decade teams struggled to find ways to stop them (or slow them down at least). But, from 1984 to 1994, scoring dropped by almost a goal a game (3.89 to 2.95, and then went down even lower by c. 1999, to 2.64), and part of it I think was in response to their freewheeling antics (and that of their sucessors, the Mario Lemieux-led Pittsburgh Penguins). Coaches given a choice usually prefer a more defensive-oriented game, it seems.

I watched the finals of the 1988 Stanley Cup on the NHL Channel a few weeks ago, and the differences between then and now couldn’t be starker. Players in their defensive zone were basically skating all over the place on the perimeter, leaving gaping holes in their coverage (which Gretzky and Co. were all too obliging to take advantage of). Nowadays players tend to collapse around their goalie more, causing a ton of blocked shots (and deflected passes), and more goals are scored on such deflections now against defenses which are light-years more disciplined. We also have the neutral zone trap of course; people like Jacques Lemaire basically did come up with ways to slow down the big offensive teams, tho they were several years too late w.r.t. the Oilers. I still think they would have won in any era, but it would have been more of a grind now than it was. Bigger goalie pads probably has something to do with it too, but not all of it.

When Don Bradman dominated cricket the English team came up with a tactic to try to counteract his brilliance. They bowled short-pitched balls on leg stump, then stacked the leg-side with fieldsmen. It became known as Bodyline.

The rules were changed to outlaw Bodyline, by limiting the number of fieldsmen allowed behind square leg.

(About now our US friends’ heads are exploding ;))

So in a roundabout way Bradman’s superiority led to a rule change, as a result of a tactic employed to try to stop him.

The icing rule hockey was established in response primarily to one game when the New York Americans iced the puck over 50 times in a game with the Boston Bruins to preserve a one-goal lead. A few week later, the Bruins retaliated by icing the puck 87 times. Fans hated it.

Daryl Dawkins in the NBA is credited for causing the requirement for breakaway rims, since he shattered too many backboards. Gus Johnson was also famous for breaking backboards and he led to a rule in the NBA requiring teams to have an extra backboard available at the game (which didn’t help when Johnson broke two of them in a game).

Great post.

I cannot think of a major sport that has so dramatically evolved in the recent past than hockey. If you watch a World Series game from 1982 it’s basically the same game as today; worse uniforms, but the quality of play will appear to be as gof as today’s game most of the time. (I pick up on some things they don’t do as well, but it’s not much.) Football looks very similar, as does basketball, as do, for that matter, golf or boxing.

But hockey is a wildly different sport now. The quality of defensive play is vastly higher, and the quality of goaltending is just ten miles better. The defensive discipline in the game today was unheard of 25-30 years ago.

Defensive goaltending was banned because of George Mikan, the first really dominant NBA player.

I think they also widened the free throw lane because of Mikan. Before that, it was shaped like a keyhole, which is why the free throw lane is still sometimes called the key.

The NCAA began requiring athletes to attend class because a super-talented corner back (who shall remain nameless) didn’t attend any classes his senior year at (school omitted).

It’s called the Deion Sanders Rule. (Oops! :wink: ). Does that count?

In response to Ted Williams’ prowess at hitting and his almost unwavering tendency to pull the ball, Lou Boudreau invented the Williams Shift. In essence, he vacated the entire left side of the field. Williams, being the stubborn jackass that he was, hit into the shift anyway instead of slapping a few to left and crushing it, something he almost certainly could have done.

The shift is still occasionally seen, but aside from groundskeeper shenanigans this is the most blatant response to dominating performance I have ever come across. They were willing to give him certain hits just to mess with his head, and he did it anyway just to spite them.

Actually the shift has come back in a big way lately, and results in people like Toronto 3B Brett Lawrie getting a ton of chances they wouldn’t otherwise get, because they are playing in strange places (against LH sluggers Lawrie is usually ensconced in short RF). To his credit Williams in his later years did go to left more.