Blowout games: a boon or a burden to competitive sports?

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Stephen Nazareth – Reporter

The hot sun beats down on the backs of a demoralized football team. The score: 45-0, and it is only halftime. This type of situation, while rare, is familiar for any person who has competed in sports at some point in their lives. Now, some schools are taking action to prevent these “blowout” games and provide a less discouraging experience for the losing team. The issue came to light in a surprise incident from Nassau County, NY, where the football team, the Plainedge Red Devils, beat the South Side Cyclones in a final score of 61-13. The game itself was not an unusual occurrence, but what happened afterward was. Nassau County has a policy in place to prevent such runaway games, where the winning coach has to explain to a committee why they won by more than 42 points. The official ruling from the committee following the Devils vs Cyclones game got Robert Shaver, head coach of the Devils, a one game suspension. Other counties across the country have also put in place “mercy rules” to avoid lopsided scores in the spirit of sportsmanship. These policies do help in bringing more balanced games, but sometimes hurt the winning team more than necessary. Because of this, there is a lot of controversy about whether or not mercy rules should be established to prevent blowout games.

Mild mercy rules, such as keeping the clock running in instances where it would be paused, allow for reasonable solutions that do not punish the winning team while preserving the spirits of the losing one. Blowout games are a part of sports, but trying to eliminate these games altogether is not the way to go. These games are a learning experience and help prepare athletes for similar, real-world situations. On the other hand, sportsmanship and empathy are an important part of sports. Many support adopting reasonable mercy rules to allow for a compromise between the opposing views and are more than willing to drop a more competitive mindset in favor of an end that is amicable to both teams. While these teams should be given the opportunity to face off against each other and perhaps achieve a lopsided result, a swift end is a mercy for both teams.

Hopefully, the actions at Nassau County are not repeated elsewhere and the balance between fair games and sportsmanship is maintained. But what matters at the end of the day is this: blowout games in and of themselves benefit sports as a whole.

 

Charlie Warren – Assistant Sports Editor

The score is tied. The clock is winding down. Ten, nine, eight… the fans are on the edge of their seats… seven… six. All eyes are on the point guard as he blitzes down the court at lightning speed. Five, four. The ball launches from the point guard’s hands to his open teammate in the corner and he lines up the shot. Three… two… the ball gracefully arcs through the air. One. The net is swept upward with the force of the ball’s impact and the victorious team is swept up by a mob of adoring fans charging the court. Outside of the stadium, millions of viewers rejoice with themselves, their families, and their friends as they watch their favorite team exult in their newfound glory. Fans are naturally drawn to games that come down to the wire. Seeing as how blowout games are the antithesis of all of the things that close games represent, it quickly becomes clear that they serve as a detriment to the sporting world.

The first key reason as to why blowout games are a detriment to sports is that they are mind-numbingly boring to watch. When looking back on some of the most famous games of all time, nearly all of them feature some tremendous comeback or a game where two teams exchanged blows, with a battered but elated victor emerging at the end. This scenario is nigh on impossible in a blowout game. This creates an interesting paradox in which fans, despite not wanting to see their team lose, oftentimes prefer to see a close match than one featuring their team with a commanding lead. This feeling of suspense is a crucial aspect of sports that blowout games completely mitigate.

The second reason that blowout games harm sports overall is that they drive away potential viewers and fans. From the perspective of a casual sports fan flicking through the channels on TV, seeing a team down by a large margin serves as a natural deterrent from watching the match. That same sports fan will then proceed to find a match more to their liking, usually featuring a closer, more balanced matchup. Even more die-hard fans of sports teams tend to shy away from watching their teams getting dunked on out of shame. Even if their team is up, watching their team on cruise control simply does not make for a pleasant viewing experience. This mentality feeds into a more serious underlying problem of modern sports: a distinct lack of parity between the best teams and the worst. Be it the continued dominance of the Alabama Crimson Tide in college football or the New England Patriots over the NFL, the best teams in most all professional or college sports tend to hoard all of the best players to themselves. The impact of that culture is this: the rich teams continue to get richer while the poorer teams stay poor.

Blowout games alienate both existing fans and potential new fans alike by ripping the fun out of any given matchup. If nothing is done about the sharp decline of parity in sports, then this situation will only grow more dire as time progresses.