‘Just Part of the Game’ Thinking is Stupid

Posted: June 1, 2011 in sports
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In the wake of San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey’s season-ending injury, suffered in a home plate collision last week, there has been a one-sided debate about whether or not Major League Baseball should change the rule that allows such collisions. Simply put, catchers can block home plate and runners can purposely collide into them to dislodge the ball.

I say a one-sided debate because few have agreed with me that such plays should be outlawed. The popular defense of such plays is home plate collisions are part of the game. Ah, the very popular “part of the game” card has been played once again.

Think about it. You hear that defense often, and not just when talking about sports. Another way of saying it is “because that’s the way it’s always been done”.


Let’s examine other “part of the game” arguments once used in baseball.

Once players could sharpen their spikes and slide into second and third bases with their feet high. Defenders who got in the way – and some who were trying to get out of the way – be damned. Ty Cobb was said to have sent many a player to the doc for stitches.

Once players didn’t wear batting helmets. The first who did so were considered soft or worse.

Once the spitball pitch was legal. That allowed pitchers to doctor the ball – sometimes actually using spit, other times defacing the ball – and, as a result, the ball did crazy things and was difficult to control.

What about other sports? Football has made the most changes.

Once forward passing wasn’t allowed. Once players wore leather helmets. Once no one wore a facemask and when the first were used the players considered less than manly. Once clothes-line tackles and defenders going for the head were part of the game. Once slamming into any body part of a defenseless quarterback was within the rules. Once defenders could bang on receivers down field. Once defenders could head slap offensive linemen. Once there was no “fair catch” for kick returners.

As for basketball, watch a game today and then watch one from 40 years ago. It doesn’t look like the same game. Somewhere along the way the “part of the game” that didn’t allow travelling, palming the ball and physical contact were eliminated.

Golf used to allow a player to leave his ball on the green even if it was between an opponent’s ball and the ball. It was called “stymied”.

I remember when hockey goalies didn’t wear mask. Most goalies’ heads looked like road maps because of all of the scars. The first hockey players to wear helmets were . . . well, you can imagine they were considered to be bigger sissies than the first baseball players wearing helmets and the first football wearing facemasks.

Of course, it was once “part of the game” for all sports that blacks not be allowed to compete with and against whites.

Once it is “part of the game” that families could afford to attend games. Once it was that “part of the game” athletes were property of a team as long as a team said so. Once athletes weren’t paid better than doctors.

I could go on but you certainly understand my point by now.

The games change for a lot of reasons. Safety is obviously the No. 1 reason. Another is to make the games more entertaining. Imagine football without the forward pass?

There is a business side of the story as well. Today’s pro athletes, as well as many major college athletes, represent big financial investments. Once a pitcher in baseball threw until his arm practically fell off. The pitcher then was discarded and another was sent to the mound. Now these pitchers have multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts. Teams have to protect those investments.


The quarterback has become the most single valuable and important player in all of team sports. The result is quarterbacks are protected as never before.

And now back to Posey. He was a major reason the Giants won the World Series last October. Their hopes to repeating took a major hit when Posey was injured. Will he ever be the same player? Will he have to change positions?

Injuries happen. The bodies break down. That is “part of the game”.

Not making changes to protect players and investments has long been considered stupid. I hope that “part of the game” never changes.

  1. Bryan LeBlanc says:

    Could not have said it better that!

    “Once part of the game”

  2. I was leaning the other way, but, dammit Uncle Dave, I see your point! PEACE.

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