Posted by: mdegeorge | July 24, 2010

The latest in ESPN sham programming: Men’s slow pitch softball

I have just watched the most ludicrous pseudo sporting event in the history of almost athletics. It’s the Border Battle between the United States and Canada. In men’s slow pitch softball.

It wasn’t the cartoonish line score (that would be Canada- 30 runs, 32 hits, two errors; USA- 29 runs, 35 hits, two errors). It wasn’t that these guys were unnecessarily jacked to the point at which they risk crushing their kids trying to take them out of their car seats (provided there are women out there who can cope with the role of “softball wife”). And it wasn’t for a lack of drama (the Americans had runners on the corner with no outs in the seventh inning and the Canadians recorded three straight outs to earn the upset).

I expected a certain amount of sham to be inherent to any event in which men are playing a sport of girls. That, plus the stink of desperation in chasing athletic dreams long since past, I could overcome given the proper playing field.

But this isn’t it.

As I watched that final inning with the American’s threatening, two players in succession stepped to the plate and slugged what I thought to be—had I cared—game-winning home runs. Instead, both were called outs.Why? Because Rule 11, Section 1 of the United States Specialty Sports Association Slow Pitch Rule Book (they stepped away from the keg and the clear long enough to write down rules!?!?) stipulates that “the men’s major program shall permit only 16 home runs per team, per game”. The dingers the Americans hit beyond their limit of 16? Well, there about as good as a swing and a miss. Or an attempt to pick up a woman at a bar saying you’re a professional slow pitch softball players.

Among the other rules that slow pitch purists adhere to is a mercy rule after three innings, provided one team leads by 30 or more runs or members of the trailing team devolve into alcohol and narcotics use on the bench.

Then there’s this beauty, Rule 11, Section 7:

The Tournament Director has the option (for catch-up purposes) of permitting the following: On a fair fly ball hit over the fence for a Home Runs, the Batter and all Base Runners are credited with a score. The Batter and any Runner on base do not need to advance and touch the bases. They should go directly to the dugout area.

The speed up rule isn’t just to prevent teams from waiting or the base runners to cross the plate; it also prevents substantial grounds crew delays from when they have to fill in the tire tracks of the ambulance coming out to pick up the guy busting it around second who just had a coronary.

But my personal favorite is the Flip/Flop Rule (Rule 4, Section 3, Subsection F), which to my surprise has nothing to do with players’ sexual preferences:

In the inning when the Run Rule for that particular program is exceeded and the Home Team is losing, the Home Team will remain at bat and become the Visiting Team. If the Team (new Visiting Team) does not score enough runs to reduce the run difference below the Run Rule the Game is over. If they reduce the run difference to below the Run Rule then the new Home Team will bat. If they subsequently score enough runs to exceed the Run Rule the Game will be over, if they do not the Game will continue under that format. If the situation reverses, the Teams would flip/flop again.

So say Team A is hosting Team B. If Team B is up by 35 runs after an inning and a half two innings, Team A then gets essentially six straight outs (Bottom 2 and Top 3) without Team B batting again to close the gap under the mercy rule. Team B then gets to bat in the bottom half of the 3rd to mercifully end the charade. If they can’t though, they continue as the home team for the rest of the game unless they find themselves in the same position as Team A (and the run rule decreases as the innings increase to a minimum of 10).

So to review, that’s phantom home runs, bases that don’t need to be touched, and batting orders that change like John Kerry on the campaign trail. Anything that makes being addicted to Xbox in your forties look like a respectable and relatively innocuous consequence of a middle age (hey, at least it’s private) has my vote as a great ESPN programming.


  1. […] highlight was the Border Battle between the USA and Canada’s best men’s slow pitch players, which I would liken in […]

  2. […] never been shy to point out the lowest depths in ESPN’s shambolic programming […]

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