Stop changing sports rules

By Spencer Tracy, Guest Writer

Over the past three years, professional sports leagues such as the NFL and MLB have been making ridiculous rule changes in an attempt to “help” the sports. Rather than saving their sports, these rule changes are either ineffective or destructive. 

I have been watching football since my toddler days and picked up a bat for the first time at two years old. Following both games closely through years of fantasy football — addictively watching analysts break down the inside moves of games — and playing baseball since I was six, I can say without question that both games have changed drastically. 

On the football side, we are seeing more Michael Vick-type quarterbacks and bigger passing plays ever since Patrick Mahomes started in 2019. In baseball, we are seeing more moonshot home runs and whopping strikeout numbers.

The NFL recently implemented new rules to protect the players. However, these rules have made an impact in the wrong way. 

The league noticed that  superstar quarterbacks missing out on their seasons due to injuries was causing them to lose views and money. Because of this, they improved the “roughing the passer” penalty to better protect the quarterback. 

The rule did not receive criticism until fans’ teams started losing games because 15-yard penalties were given to the offense after a defensive sack. The question then became how to tackle a quarterback.

With the quarterback position developing, we see more dual-threat quarterbacks, meaning they can throw and run the ball successfully. It’s reached a point where the only players who can’t run the ball are the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 18-year veteran Ben Roethlisberger, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 22-year veteran Tom Brady. 

It’s hard enough to tackle these superstar athletes running around the backfield like dogs off-leash, but to add a specific way to tackle quarterbacks makes it unnecessarily difficult to stop an offense. I credit the NFL for attempting to make the league safer, but the rule needs to be modified.

Brady recently spoke out about how the game of football has changed over the years, saying, “If you’re a quarterback, you’ve got to protect yourself and your players. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of your opponent to protect you.” 

The game has become soft, due to fans criticizing the game as “too rough” or “dangerous.” These are true statements, but football will be a dangerous sport unless they start playing flag football. If there is nothing you can do to stop the physicality of the sport, it’s not worth making the sport worse to moderately protect players.

The MLB’s rule changes have been effective overall despite statistics presenting a different idea.  A time clock was added to give the pitcher 15 seconds from the time they receive the ball back from the catcher to throw their next pitch. The idea is to keep the game moving at a quicker pace in an attempt to keep fans engaged.

Statistics show that baseball games have improved to finishing 30 minutes quicker. Prior to having the time clock, baseball games averaged around three hours and 30 minutes. After the time clock rule was implemented, a baseball game hovered around three hours. Thirty minutes may seem like a lot, but a three-and-a-half hour game crunched down to three hours is a minor change to a sport like baseball.

Similar to football, it doesn’t matter what you do to the sport of baseball. The game is slow and always has been. Make changes to the game to improve the game — not to change the game.

Once a sport has its identity, all you can do is make modifications. Football is a physical sport and will cause injuries for all positions. If it seems necessary to make changes to football, change the overtime rules rather than forcing players to change how they play  the game. 

Baseball is a slow game that is only watchable and playable when you understand the game. Rule changes like timing between pitches won’t make the game less boring, but changing how extra innings are played might cause more scoring and situational baseball, which could improve views. 

The NFL  needs to accept that football will never be safe to play, and the MLB needs to accept the tempo of the game of baseball.