Have you heard of the so-called "mercy rule"?
It keeps youth game scores artificially low by preventing more powerful teams from winning by lopsided margins.
Squads in the Northern California Federation of Youth Football often ignored the mercy rule in years past and received only warnings after violations.
“We lose a lot of football players because their teams lose so badly,” Robert Rochin, deputy commissioner for the league, told KCRA-TV. “If they are constantly getting beat, who wants to play anymore? We lose kids all season long because of that.”
So from now on, mercy will prevail.
The NCFYF has added teeth to the mercy rule this season for its age 7 to 13 teams, instituting a $200 fine for squads that win games by 35 points or more and a one-week suspension for violating teams' head coaches, according to KCRA.
NBC Sports' Dave Briggs called the move the latest chapter in the "wussification of America" and a "ridiculous rule," saying it teaches "lesser teams that there's always someone there to cushion to blow."
But league brass beg to differ.
“It's teaching them compassion for the other team,” Rochin said. “It’s teaching them sportsmanship."
Proponents say it also helps "create a level playing field" when there's a disparity of talent between opposing teams, KCRA reported.
In addition to the penalties, if a team is leading by more than 28 points at halftime, KCRA reported that the first-string team from the winning squad must sit on the bench so the second- and third-string teams get more playing time (and presumably help to even out the score...or at least stop it from increasing).
But some players and parents says the newly aggressive mercy rule is hurting teams, undermining players' development, and actually increasing the chance for injury.
“Now they are afraid their coaches are going to get suspended and they are not going to have a coach to come out here and play football,” said parent Kelly McHugh, whose son James doesn't get as much playing time with the mercy rule.
Some parents said the mercy rule endangers players who hold back, making them more susceptible to injury.
“The kids who are in the position of trying to protect their coach are backing off and are at a higher risk of being injured,” father Brent Moore said.
After a player with the ball slows down to avoid scoring and possibly violating the mercy rule, he's grabbed dangerously on the rear of his shoulder pads and slammed to the ground. (Image source: KCRA-TV)
But while league officials say there were more than 30 mercy rule violations last year, there have been no violations so far this year, KCRA reported.
Here's the report from KCRA-TV, via YouTube:
And a rather opinionated take from NBC Sports:
(H/T: Yahoo Sports)