I’ll start this piece off with a little personal anecdote.
I was in a jiu-jitsu tournament recently, and found myself matched up against someone 50 pounds heavier than me. Having worked quite hard to cut my own weight to qualify for a lighter weight-class, I was a bit frustrated that the tournament’s numbers required me to fight a grizzly bear in order to guarantee everyone a match. Fancying myself a gamer, however, I took the fight with a smile, and proceeded to battle him in a best of three series for the gold.
The first match was exactly what you’d expect. After we tiptoed around on our feet, I realized I would not be able to take him down and I pulled guard. After several minutes of very nuanced (read: boring) jiu-jitsu, my opponent finally managed to use his strength and weight advantage to pass my guard and ultimately win the match 3-0.
In our second fight, I managed an early takedown and found myself on top and ahead on points. With over 5 minutes left to go, and absolutely no reason to assume that anything else I could do would work against this enormous man, I did the only thing I could think to do. I got the tightest grips possible, sunk my weight in as deeply as I could, and held on for dear life.
Many in the jiu-jitsu community refer to this tactic as “stalling,” and think it is a shameful way to win a fight. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but I did what I had to do. Is it lame? Absolutely. But it worked. And most importantly, it was legal.
So now the part of this article that applies to everyone else.
We as sports fans are often presented with awkward situations in which teams or athletes use questionable, yet legal, strategies to win games. Think “hack-a-Shaq,” or taking a knee at the end of a football game. In some cases, we grumble about compromising the “spirit of the game” or being a big wuss, but in other cases we accept these techniques as simply how the game is played. So where do we draw the line?
Personally, I feel that if the rules allow it, that’s the end of the conversation. That is not to say, however, that the rules should not be adjusted to fix some of these more common abuses of non-competitive strategy. Award a second base if a batter is clearly walked intentionally. Make off-the-ball fouls automatically be taken out of bounds. Stand up a jiu-jitsu fighter who is stalling for dear life (unless there is a 50 pound weight disadvantage!). Whatever the case, we need to account for these situations as a part of the rules, or stop complaining about them.
What do you think about questionable strategies (intentional walks, hack-a-Shaq, taking a knee) in sports?