Watching sports is one of the few pastimes left that brings people together; even if people don’t agree on the teams, they still want to see a good game. It’s an enjoyable time that gives people a reason to forget about their problems and be part of a larger collective. That’s why it’s such an odd conundrum that major sports leagues keep changing the sports—little by little.
Last week, MLB announced that it will be changing the intentional walk rule next season. The rule change will take away what little anarchy is left in the intentional walk. Previously, a pitcher would be able to throw four very obvious pitches to intentionally walk a batter who was considered dangerous, or for a strategic advantage. Now, thanks to the MLB rule change, the manager of the team, from the dugout, will give a signal to the umpire, resulting in an automatic walk. No more throwing pitches.
The change was purportedly enacted in the hope that the length of a professional baseball game would be somewhat shortened. Personal note: If you’re watching baseball on a time constraint, you are watching the wrong sport. Baseball is an inherently slow game, and the people who watch the game know this; more so, they expect it.
The change has drawn criticism from both players and pundits alike. Their question: why? What was broken and who was complaining about the intentional walk? The intentional walk leads to some great moments, and is always a good way to add some tension to a game.
And it’s not even employed every game. So good job MLB; you shaved about a minute off select games.
This is a common occurrence. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell—when he takes time off from trying to ruin Tom Brady—has continually tried to change football. In 2016, the NFL made a few rule changes that, as with the MLB, no one was calling to change. The NFL voted on various rules, but the biggest one was to move the touchback spot to the 25-yard line, move the extra point attempt to the 15 yard line and to make all chop blocking illegal.
Now, the latter change will probably lead to a few less ACL tears due to dangerous chop blocks, but the other two changes seem unnecessary. The extra point rule change was implemented to make extra point attempts more exciting, with a higher chance of a kicker missing. No one was really calling for the extra point attempt to be more exciting; fans understand what it is.
Moving the touchback to the 25-yard line was a small attempt to make players safer, but the minimal relocation just doesn’t make sense. If the interest was to make players safer, how does a 5-yard move accomplish that goal? The offense still has to go 75 yards instead of 80 yards to score.
No one was calling for these rule changes (granted, the chop block one was alright, depending on how you view player safety). This is just an attempt to change sports for no reason.
The NBA isn’t blameless either. Starting in the 2006 draft, the NBA no longer allowed players to be drafted out of high school. Allowing high school players to enter the draft created great players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. There are high school players who are good enough to enter the NBA draft. There are still 18-year-olds in the draft who come from college. The rule change also messed with college basketball, creating one-and-done players—players who go to college for a year and then enter the NBA draft. Sometimes, what is supposedly “best” just creates more problems.
Watching sports is one of the last bastions of fun left for many people. It’s a way to get away from reality.
There is no reason to fix what is not broken. To the various sports leagues changing rules: Stop ruining sports. Just let people enjoy them.
Assistant opinion editor Jorden Smith is a political science and creative writing junior and can be reached at [email protected]