The Norman Transcript


June 21, 2014

Hate your date? Use the mercy rule

NORMAN — Have you ever heard of being “mercied out” of a situation?

When you know it’s over before it’s over, that’s when the “mercy rule” should apply. The term is entirely new to me and I’ve become obsessed.

I have a good friend whose daughter, despite being an excellent athlete herself, plays on a recreation softball team that’s defeated by its opponents in comically extravagant ways. This team can’t get a break; they end up with zero runs, and that’s on a good day. Such games, she explained, are often shut down early when the referees invoke the “mercy rule.”

The “mercy rule,” which was once called the “slaughter rule” (gee, I wonder why they changed the name) allows the team with an insurmountable lead to accept its win with grace and grants the losing side some dignity as they leave the field in defeat.

As I understand it, when a disparity in talent or performance is obvious and the outcome is not in question, you can be “mercied out” of the untenable situation. If it’s 91-0, for example, the referees can invoke the mercy rule.

“I’ve been on both ends of the mercy rule,” explains Sam Ytuarte, a young stockbroker who’s been involved with sports his entire life. “And it’s like putting down a pet: You get the same result without prolonging the torture.”

Sam thinks the mercy rule is, well, merciful: “Life is short. Spending an extra hour or two entirely annihilating the other team is basically pointless.”

In other words, when the field of dreams turns into the slough of despond, you can rely on the mercy rule. It’s sort of like the Kevorkian Clause.

And that’s when it occurred to me, like the light bulb going on over Bugs Bunny’s head, that there are any number of situations in life where being mercied out would offer the ideal resolution.

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