Run It Up!

Because that’s how the game is played, of course.

Oh, sorry. I’m talking about the biggest sports story that many news outlets aren’t covering. Editorial departments are covering it, though…

Specifically, the Women’s World Cup is under way and the US team–the defending champions–are off to a hot start.

Ferociously hot, in fact, beating Thailand 13-0.

I imagine there will be more coverage on the Sports page of your local paper (if you still have one) eventually, but so far most of what’s seen print or electrons has been pontification.

“Why didn’t they ease up when it was obvious they were going to win?”

Which brings us back to my opening paragraph.

Blowouts are a fact of life in every sport. They may be rarer in soccer than in other sports–thirteen goals is a monstrously large number–but they happen.

Some sports do have unwritten rules against running up the score. In baseball, for example, some people consider it bad form to steal bases when you’re five runs ahead. Or seven. Or only if it’s the seventh inning or later. Maybe more people would follow the rule if everyone agreed what the rule is. But I digress.

It’s common to pull your starters out when you’ve got a big lead late. Not universal, though. And those replacements you put in are going to be playing hard, because putting up good numbers is the only way they’ve got to petition for more playing time (which–indirectly–means a bigger paycheck).

Other sports, not so much. I’ve never heard of a hockey team going easy on an opponent after running up a six goal lead. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I haven’t heard of it.

And soccer is more like hockey than baseball: continuous action, an opportunity to switch from defense to offense at any moment, a set length to the game, and so on.

Looked at from another perspective, letting up could be seen as establishing a bad habit. If you relax and lighten up after taking a five goal lead today, are you going to unconsciously do the same next week when you’ve got a four goal lead?

There are other reasons–off-field reasons–why the US Women’s National Team would want to make every game a major blowout if they can. That’s beside the point here.

Because most of the editorials I’ve seen start from an unstated premise that “women don’t act like that.”

I call bullshit.

Competitive sports are, by definition, competitive, and the people who play them–male, female, or decline to state–compete. Granted, in my experience, women are more likely to commiserate with a defeated opponent after the game. But the key word there is “after”.

Hey, last Wednesday the Mariners beat the Astros 14-1. Nobody said they should have stopped hitting home runs after the sixth inning. They lost 13-3 a few days before that, and nobody called for the Angles to take it easy after they scored their seventh run in the second inning.

In the moment, you play to win. If that means an occasional blowout, so be it. No matter what your sport or your sex.

2 thoughts on “Run It Up!

  1. Well, regarding baseball, I don’t have to tell you that five runs, even in late innings, is not enough to “ease up”, in this live ball, home run hitting era.
    I’ve seen (and heard) too many games that seemed put away, turn around, with a five-run inning.
    So, no: civility aside, anything less than a seven run lead, going into the ninth. requires a continuing all-out effort, until the last out. Rallies happen. Pitchers implode (and Managers leave them in too long). That’s why I love baseball. It can happen.

    Like

    • Which does re-raise the question of just what the unwritten rules are. But that aside, not everyone follows the rules (whatever they are) and that’s also one of the joys of the sport.

      Like

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