Thursday, January 27, 2011

Running Up The Score - Respecting the Game

After Chip Hilton, the greatest inspiration of all time...

Carlton Fisk once chased Deion Sanders, an opposing player, down the first base line for not running out a ground ball. He was incensed that someone would treat the game of baseball with that disrespect. That’s not the way it’s done. That’s not how the game is played.

I absolutely understand that value, but from some angles I’m not sure it makes sense. I grew up on that, so Chip Hilton, so Frank Merriwell. It is tied in at deep levels to self-respect, respect for one’s opponent, and a whole array of concepts of goodness: Manliness as opposed to mere masculinity, fair play, adherence to the spirit of the law rather than the mere letter. One is to play as hard as one can, never give up, no matter how far behind you are. Which implies, though it was not said, no matter how far ahead you are.

And in fact, games do have unwritten rules that make clear that a certain amount of backing off is appropriate with a big lead. You don’t steal a base in late innings when you have a big lead. When the clock ticks down to appropriate levels, the QB takes a knee to run out the clock. Basketball teams with large leads don’t take that last three-pointer at the buzzer, they dribble out the clock. And even before that, coaches are expected to put in their second string, to not run trick plays, to not use the full-court press. Small things, which don’t make much difference in the final score, but they declare that the value is there.

This, significantly, is the norm in the professional game and DI college sports (but I repeat myself). Even at that level, where a take-no-prisoners approach is taken for granted, there are clear signs that too much is too much. “Respect for the game” includes respecting something else more than the game.

That, I think, is getting closer to the center, and will be my next post.

1 comment:

Der Hahn said...

Minor disagreement. While most of those tactics (taking a knee, dribbling out the clock) do pass up scoring chances, I'd say that they are primarily done to avoid risking a turnover that would allow the other team to score. Playing the second string and sticking to basic game play are closer to your mark in my mind.

I think there is also a certain 'graceful losing' expected of the team that's behind. While they will still be expected to make every effort to score, excessive roughness and questionable tactics that might be accepted late in a close contest would be frowned on when a single score isn't going to make a difference in the outcome.