Speaking Kurtly: Sports, clocks and adaptation

Seems everywhere I looked this past weekend, I saw clocks.

In one case, the newly-added timing feature added value to my enjoyment of sports. For years, since I started covering high school sports in Utah, I have advocated for the addition of a shot clock. Now that it’s finally here, I can understand why.

The Richfield High girls basketball team faced Morgan Friday night in a state semifinal game at Southern Utah University. The Lady Wildcats had a tough night shooting the basketball, particularly early, and fell behind by double digits.

They remained in that predicament for most of the night, and about midway through the fourth quarter, Richfield was down 55-41. In past years, that 14-point deficit generally meant the Trojans would take the air out of the ball, go into a stall game, and let the clock run out, with the only remedy being four minutes of clock-stopping fouls and a parade to the free throw line.

The addition of the shot clock this year instead allowed the Lady ‘Cats to play good defense, get stops, and rely on the fact that Morgan had to take shots. By the two-minute mark, an 11-0 run had Richfield in possession of the ball, down just three points.

For me, as a basketball fan, it’s so much more enjoyable to watch the game when that deficit can be overcome by playing good basketball.

As it turned out, the constant chase of trying to come back from that large margin took its toll on the Wildcats, and they came up just short that night. The existence of a shot clock, however, increased the pace of the game and created an element of excitement.

With that said, I have to admit that I’m not always a fan of clocks, or rule changes, in sports. I got my first taste of baseball’s new pitch clock Saturday and had an entirely different reaction.

Unlike the sports that run on time, baseball has always been something I enjoy because the game lends itself to the absence of a clock. That is especially true when I’m at the ballpark enjoying a game in person.

I get that the people who make the rules are trying to appeal to a larger fan base by speeding up the game, but for me, at least, I don’t understand ending the game by calling a batter out because he didn’t look at the pitcher within seven seconds from the time the last pitch was delivered.

I’m all for getting some of the gyrations and scratching and spitting and equipment adjustments out of the game, but there’s something about that new pitch clock that doesn’t work for me. Part of the appeal of the game, at least for me, is that few seconds in a tense game when a pitcher is staring down his catcher trying to gain any advantage he can over a batter who is trying to decide if he wants to ask for a timeout to impact the pitcher’s timing and get in his head just a little.

I suppose I’ll get used to the fact that some that intrigue is gone, and just as the Utah prep basketball players and coaches have adjusted to their new clock, baseball players will make the necessary changes so that the calling of automatic strikes or balls based on a clock running out will no longer be a thing.

It’s another reminder that life is about adaptation to our environment. Eventually, what once seemed strange becomes commonplace. Let’s just hope it’s the good changes that remain for the long haul.