“Ve Git Too Soon Oldt, Und Too Late Schmart”
Pennsylvania Dutch saying
My late, wonderful, Grandmother, Helen Hirshland, had that astute Pennsylvania Dutch bit of wisdom on a trivet in her kitchen. I saw it when we visited and laughed with her when she would repeat the saying in her Pennsylvania Dutch accent. I’m reminded of that old saying today because it applies to the powers that be who are running, dare I say ruining, my favorite sports.
The United States Golf Association, along with the R & A, just released some revisions to the Rules of Golf. Tweaks and changes that, proponents say, were a long time coming and will, according to the governing bodies, “bring the rules up to date and fit the needs of the game globally.” It’s the culmination of an initiative that began in 2012 and the end result is, among other things, changes to rules that involve hitting a ball out of bounds, removing the penalty for a “double hit”, how players can drop a ball when taking relief, and the ability to repair “spike marks and other imperfections” on the putting green.
In the announcement the word “relaxed” was used several times and the prevailing thought from many is that this attempt to “modernize” the rules of the greatest game of all is part of an effort to “make the game more attractive and accessible to newcomers’. The rest of us be damned.
I am a 62 year-old man and I have been playing golf for 58 of those years. I learned the game thanks to my mom and dad, who both played until mere months before they passed away. My first set of clubs were a cut down set of Louise Suggs, Wilson Staff woods and irons. My first, of many, lessons came from a kind, caring, gentleman we called “The Old Pro” named Pete Marich. I loved it from the get go and never once; as my game progressed and the shafts in my clubs went from steel to aluminum to graphite, back to steel, and now again to graphite, did I ever say I wanted, or needed, golf to be “easier”. In fact, the fact that the game was so hard was the reason I fell in love with it in the first place and one of the reasons I still love it today.
When something is hard, and you have a modicum of success doing it, the sense of achievement is more profound. “More accessible” I get and I’m all for finding ways to do that. Let folks play 6 holes, or 12. Have those scores count toward a handicap. Reinstitute or develop more caddy programs. Continue the efforts undertaken by the USGA, the PGA of America, and Nick Faldo to empower young people to play the game. But take your “need to make the game easier” and hit the road!
And that brings me to baseball. Let me start by saying this to Commissioner Rob Manfred and whichever “advisors” are bending his ear with their brilliant ideas to “improve” Americas pastime. “Cut. It. Out!”
I am wracking my brain trying to figure out a dumber idea than the one I heard about today. Minor League Baseball is going to experiment with an extra innings rule that allows a team to start the inning with a runner on second base. In the immortal words of Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, “WHY?!?!?!” Because it will speed up play? Because “nobody wants to see games last 15, 16, or 17 innings”? Because you can’t just leave well enough alone? How many “new eyeballs” will this bring to the sport? How many youngsters, not already interested in playing youth baseball, will this bring to the park?
Speed up play? In fact it might just have the opposite effect. Starting the inning with a runner on second base just might mean the skipper of the team at the plate will now have his hitter attempt to bunt that runner over to third. If that mission is accomplished the manager of the team in the field will intentionally walk the bases loaded and then it’s game on. Not to mention the sad fact that we will reward two teams who haven’t been able to gain an advantage over the course of nine innings by “gifting” them a runner in scoring position. If that isn’t a comment on today’s society, I don’t know what is. Why not take a page from soccer or hockey and have a 10 pitch home run derby if a game is tied after nine innings. Or better yet just give each team 1/2 a win and call it a night. OR, OR, OR we could just let these professional athletes JUST PLAY BASEBALL!
“We” need to stop trying to fix everything because “we” think things are broken, or not quick enough, or not appealing enough, or heaven forbid NOT EASY ENOUGH. Some things aren’t meant to be fast or easy. Golf and baseball are among those things. Lets just hope it’s not too late to get schmart.