Babblin' Brooks - Sports etiquette

Posted in: Sports
By Todd Brooks
Mar 21, 2013 - 8:38:26 AM

The scuffle between the Canadian and Mexican national teams at the World Baseball Classic a couple of weeks ago caused me to think about etiquette in sports, especially baseball, and how real life would be if it lived by these same “unwritten rules”.
It seems baseball has more etiquette and unwritten rules than all the other major sports combined except for maybe golf. The level at which it is being played seems to make no difference either. What is true at the major league level is true at the Little League level.
The following is not all the rules of etiquette of each sport, but what would be considered some major and common violations.
Two universal rules are to never leave your starters in after a game has been well decided, and do not intentionally run up the score.
In football, the etiquette is for a team is not to throw the ball late in the game when they have a big lead, and there is no chance for the other team to come back and win. My problem with this is, what if you are a run-oriented team and your running game is much better than your passing game? Are you running up the score then?
I suppose the one difference is when a team runs the ball the clock doesn’t stop if the ball stays inbounds. An incomplete pass will stop the clock, thus extending the length of the game and possibly the humiliation of the opponent. Plus, the opponent is expecting the other team to run and have prepared their defense to play the run.
In golf, talking while someone is swinging or putting is a major no-no.
In basketball, etiquette says not to press late in a game with a big lead. A team with a big lead late in the game is supposed to sag back in the zone and not put tight man-to-man pressure on the ball.
Baseball has more…a lot more.
In baseball, a player is not supposed to bunt to try to break up a no-hitter or bunt when his team has a big lead; a batter is not supposed to celebrate a home run if it is not the game-ending winner; neither is he to watch and admire how far a home run ball is going; a base runner is not to steal late in the game with a big lead; opposing team members are not to run across the pitching mound when they are thrown out on the base paths and headed back to their dugout; and a pitcher is not supposed to celebrate a strikeout.
I learned several years ago the latter even applies to church league co-ed softball. I was pitching for my church and was down three balls and no strikes to a female batter. There was no way she was going to take a swing, because she was going to force me to throw three straight strikes to get her out. I did. After the third called strike, I balled my hand into a fist and moved my hand with the same motion as I would knocking on a door. It was a matter of inches.
I was not trying to show her up as it was a very minor motion. I said nothing nor made any facial expressions. I was just happy I was able to come back and throw three straight strikes to get an out. That was the whole reason for it.
An eagle-eyed player in the opposing dugout saw me.
“What’s with the fist-pump?” he yelled. He would not drop it the rest of the inning, telling everybody who would listen about how I was trying to show the batter up.
The next time I came to bat, I was half-expecting to get a baseball-style throw high and tight. Remember this was church league.
So what great travesty started this brawl between Canada and Mexico? Canada bunted for a single late in the game with a big lead. Next there was a retaliation beanball, which lead to a five-minute scuffle between the two teams.
If the rest of the world worked like sports then there would be scuffles breaking out all the time all over the globe.
The closest in the real world this comes in my estimation would be road rage. If someone cuts another person off, the second person might honk their horn, return the favor by cutting them off, or give them a salute – and I do not mean a military one. Rarely does it seem to escalate to a physical altercation.
Can you imagine if breaking etiquette at a dinner party led to a brawl?
“Excuse me you ate your salad with the wrong fork. Just for that I’m going to have to bean you with my dinner roll.”
Fortunately, it is not like that, which is why sports really can be an escape for reality for a little while for those playing and for those watching.
Let us hope the line between escape and reality never gets blurred to the extreme.

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