As I was watching the Women’s College World Series game between OU and James Madison the other night, I was fascinated by how much enthusiasm and joy the players bring to the game.
They cheer and chant in unison in the dugout, they celebrate big hits, runs and good fielding plays. The OU players even came out of the dugout a couple times to lead fans in a cheer.
I fired off a text to a friend who was also watching the game on ESPN. “Softball needs some unwritten rules that suck all the joy out of the game just like baseball,” the text said.
I was kidding.
But it made me realize how much of a contrast there is between baseball and women’s softball. In baseball, it’s all about “respecting the game” or “respecting the opponent.”
No emotion allowed.
Translated, that means you never, ever act like you are enjoying the moment after a home run, a strikeout or a big fielding play.
Baseball has been losing fans by the millions in recent years, and I’m convinced that the ridiculous unwritten rules have played a role in that. Today’s fans — especially young fans — want to see games played with enthusiasm and emotion.
If you’re curious as to what the unwritten rules are that baseball lives by, here’s a pretty good description I found on the major league baseball website.
There is evidence of late that some of the unwritten rules are being rewritten. I’m talking about the way that big hitters like Fernando Tatis Jr. flip their bats and pause to watch their home runs go out of the park before celebrating as they round the bases.
So far, it appears that no one has retaliated by hitting Tatis in the head with a 98-hour bean ball. So far.
But baseball always wants to draw a line in the sand, and there seems to be a hard line drawn at emotion.
By contrast, the women’s game is such a breath of fresh air. I’m taking joy in their joy.
Their game is a celebration, and I’m celebrating along with them.