Recently I heard someone describe Spring Training as “real/fake” games.
Nothing embodies that quite so much as the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles playing in Florida to a 4-4 tie on the opening day of Spring Training.
While I of course understand the concept of sudden-death overtimes in other sports, I submit that one reason baseball is so inherently American is because it’s the one sport that two teams can just play until there’s a winner, whether it be nine innings or 19 — at least in the regular season.
But playing to a tie, that’s downright weird in baseball.
To be honest, I’m not actually opposed to a game ending in a draw. Hockey and soccer have had games and matches end in a tie for years, and football has had ties off and on throughout history, depending on the league. Golfers can finish with the same score. Swimmers, runners and other racers can finish in a dead heat.
But it’s not very practical in the real world.
When was the last time you heard of a company hiring two candidates to fill one job opening just because both applicants scored the same number of points on the evaluation sheet? In what alternate universe do you get a Beto’s breakfast burrito and a Denny’s Grand Slam for the average price of the two because you can’t decide which to order?
Even when there’s no direct competition, and no real earth-shattering consequences of picking one or the other, people need a clear winner if for no other reason than making a decision and getting some closure.
Thus, mankind has developed a myriad of methods to make decisions — an extra period in a wrestling match, shootouts, sudden-death overtime, March Madness playoff brackets, a breakfast menu pros vs. cons list, etc., etc.
Seeing a tie reported as the final score of a Major League Baseball game was the biggest sign the universe could have sent to warn people that spring games really don’t matter. Not even the managers really care who wins, as long as they all get a decent shot to scout the players vying for an Opening Day roster spot and see their veterans get back into regular season form.
And for the fan who heralds the beginning of Spring Training as the end of the Utah winter inversions and six-hours-of-sunshine days, it’s OK for the games to end in a tie. Having the games available at all means the dog days of February are over and its socially acceptable again to wear shorts in Northern Utah. It’s a small price to pay for these baseball games to be more fake than real.
Besides, when the regular season rolls around, I’m sure the Braves would love to have a few ties, because that would mean this year’s prospects-only team will have scored enough runs and/or had decent-enough pitching to keep opposing scores close in the first place.
Tavin Stucki is a sports writer from Midvale, Utah, who hasn’t found a sport he doesn’t like. Send any comments to email@example.com.