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Port Orange Observer Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2018 2 years ago

Is it time to do away with the mercy rule?

Its intended effect is to prevent teams from being humiliated. But does it actually hurt feelings even more?
by: Ray Boone Sports Editor

Most high school and youth sports have some version of a mercy rule. In basketball and football, games with wide margins in scoring have a running clock. Softball and baseball games implement the mercy rule in its truest form: After a certain scoring margin is reached, the game ends.

The intention of the mercy rule is simple: to prevent one team from humiliating another. But does the mercy rule actually harm more feelings than it protects? Are there negatives to having such a rule?

For starters, I believe the rule punishes children who play sports because they love it — not just to win. It also punishes good teams for their success. I don’t think it’s necessarily a great idea to force teams to play fewer minutes or innings because of a large lead. And what about the bench players on those good teams? By cutting a game short, those players miss out on a chance to play.

To be fair, I must say that there are certain aspects of the mercy rule that I do appreciate. Who wants to watch a full game where one team has no chance at winning? The mercy rule is definitely efficient and time-saving to a degree.

But I absolutely disagree when proponents of the rule contend that it prevents humiliation.

Is it not humiliating in and of itself to be mercy-ruled? Is there no negative, hurtful stigma to teams that are consistently put in this position?

I’ve covered multiple games across a variety of sports where a mercy rule was put into effect. Most recently, in youth baseball. In every single circumstance, the players on the losing teams had similar reactions: flowing tears, heads between their knees and looks of utter dejection.

Instead of a mercy rule, I think teaching young athletes to play on — despite the score — is the best solution.

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