Ottawa has a new rule on the books for kids playing league soccer. Any team that goes ahead by more than five goals loses.
Yes, dear reader, your eyes do not deceive you. Parents who used to shout “You can do it!” will now be required to yell, “Equality! Equality!”
Kidding! I’m kidding—but only about the cheering. Ottawa club director Sean Cale said “the league’s 12-person board of directors is not trying to take the fun out of the game, they are simply trying to make it fair.”
How could this have happened? Well, Ottawa is the home of Canada’s capitol, and therefore has the highest per-capita density of bureaucrats in the country. Plus, the rule change is a necessary consequence of the obsession with equality.
Now, in baseball—in real baseball, not Ottawa’s no doubt upcoming re-imagining of the game—everybody knows that you should not stand at the plate like an egomaniac admiring the flight of your ball. You must not saunter towards first or stall along the way just because you hit a home run. You must run it out.
Why? Running it out shows respect. But if you grandstand, you’re likely to be beaned by the pitcher on your next at bat. This is only right and proper.
Everybody also knows that you must not steal when your team has a big lead and it’s late in the game. The reason this rule holds sway is the same as the previous rule: respect. Your team is going to win anyway, and the men on the other side just want to go home.
Your needless stealing shows you care more about your stats than camaraderie. Steal and you’ll pay the price. It might be by a beaning; or if you’re an infielder, you might see a pair of spikes from somebody sliding into you when he doesn’t really have to.
When I played for Bartz Standard in 1973, our coach would bench our best batters if we were up by more than six or eight runs, especially if it was late in the game. The rule had two consequences: we saved the other team from undue embarrassment, and I finally got a chance to bat.
Some of these coaches, it was true, wanted to win more than the kids did, but these coaches also knew that anything could happen. A team that was down seven in the ninth could score eight runs: it happens. Coaches followed the slacking-off etiquette, but cautiously.
Now, none of these rules—not in Little League, not in the Majors—are written. But everybody knows them and everybody plays by them.
This lack of codification is important. How many runs do you have to be up not to steal? Well, it depends. Could be as little as four if it’s the ninth. But it could be much higher if your team must win the game to stay in contention for the playoffs.
Everybody understands that there are circumstances when the unwritten rules can be broken. But if the unwritten rule becomes written, then all freedom to maneuver is removed. Decisions are taken away from the players and coaches and put into the hands on some pinhead busybody sitting in a cubicle. The game itself is changed.
The feminization of sports didn’t begin with Ottawa. It started even as far back as when I was playing, when leagues were forced to adopt “mercy” rules that went something like, “If a team is up by more than seven runs and it’s at least the sixth inning, then that team shall be declared the winner, and the game shall end.” Ottawa used to have a rule like that for soccer, when goals stopped counting after the lead grew “too large.”
But like nearly all bureaucratic meddling, these rule have the opposite of their intended effects. Instead of salving or saving the self esteem of the losing team, after the game and at the schoolyard the next day, the players on the losing teams face merciless taunts: “Ha, ha! You’re so bad that you had to have your parents stop the game.”
It’ll be the same in the Great White North with this new rule. Young Canadians will learn that one must not excel, that what used to be laudable is now worthy of scorn. They will learn that if you do too well, those in charge will punish you.
Come to think of it, with the way society is heading, these are good lessons to teach early.
Update massgopguy, over at Free Republic, offers a way around Ottawa’s rules: If your team is up by five, kick an own goal to be sure you win. Or, much worse, if you are down five goals, then kick an own goal, which causes the other team to lose!