It’s the 80th minute and the hooter has sounded. You’re glued to the stadium seat as the opposition kicker places his kick. He slots it through the uprights and the final whistle goes. The scoreboard reads 15-15. An entire day, from the agonising journey through the traffic and the insufferable queues for beer, to losing your voice as you urged on your beloved team – and it ends in a stalemate. There was never a more apt name. How stale the feeling of a match ending in a draw. But Varsity Sports is changing that, one event at a time.
Ever wondered what makes American sports so great? Capacity crowds flood stadiums week in, week out. Americans are the pioneers of driving entertainment in sport. They’ve managed to rethink everything from mascots to how players are drafted into squads. Half time is never a mind-numbing 10-minute period used for toilet breaks in the USA; it’s the one time you don’t want to be absent from your seat.
Is it the class of athletes? Perhaps. Is it the in-stadium entertainment and experience? That’s certainly a key element. What about the rules? When was the last time you heard about a baseball, basketball or American football game being tied? Well that’s probably because it doesn’t happen.
Americans love their sport. You’ll struggle to find a more passionate bunch. And sport and passion make for a prosperous marriage. Whether you leave a stadium bursting with joy or filled with disappointment – there should always be emotion present. One half of spectators grinning all the way home while the other half grumble about who they’d have substituted and how blind the referee was.
But nothing is worse for sport than both sets of fans leaving the stadium blank, emotionless. No loser, but no winner. There’s a reason you can’t have draws in World Cup finals and playoffs – America has realised that. Maybe it’s time for South Africa to do the same. Sport is a competition and there can ultimately only be one winner. But why should we wait until finals; why not always have a winner?
Well Varsity Sports lives by ‘sportainment’ and for Varsity Hockey they’ve kicked draws to the pavement. No match can end in a tie. When matches end all square, they immediately go to penalty shootouts. When Maties and Pukke ended goalless in this year’s group stages it was a relatively dull affair for 60 minutes. Typically the weekend would have ended that way. No winner in the biggest match of the weekend. A dull match and a stalemate in front of a capacity crowd. But that was not to be the case as the crowd was treated to a nail-biting conclusion and Maties emerged victorious in a shootout that would have had Clint Eastwood beaming.
In addition, the Powerplay rule allows each team to initiate a two-minute period where goals not only count double, but the the opposition lose two players.
“I think the Varsity Hockey rule changes have certainly had a positive effect on the game,” said Gregg Clark, former South African national player and coach. “Both attacking and defending teams have had to put a lot of time and thought into how they are going to play their hockey…both in and out of the Powerplays. I’m not sure we’ve hit the the winning formula with the Powerplay rule specifics – this is maybe backed up by the lack of Powerplay goals – but I think the rule changes made have taken us a step closer.”
Varsity Sports is constantly working to add entertainment value to sports, while encouraging the development of the sporting code. Keep an eye out for entertaining half time games, dancing mascots and best of all – know you will leave filled with emotion. There are are no draws, no unfinished business and nothing is stale.
I guess this is where we’re supposed to say ‘at the end of the day sport triumphs and everyone is a winner’. But that’s not true, is it? Sometimes there’s got to be a loser and secretly we love it. Here’s to putting stalemates where stale things belong.