Is it time to do away with the mercy rule?
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?
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.