As I’m watching the Mets seemingly lose to the Red Sox Saturday night (this is pre-Santos heroics), my wife asks, “why is the 7th inning stretch in the 7th inning? Why isn’t it at the halfway-point of the game in the middle of the 4th?” Good question, I never thought about it as a question of when the break is positioned, just that a break happens. As a matter of fact, Wikipedia also fails to address the origins of when, other than saying that people were hot, and Brother Jasper decided to randomly call a timeout when his charges were restless. Wikipedia entry:
The origin of the seventh inning stretch is said to be in the story of Brother Jasper of Mary, F.S.C., the man credited with bringing baseball to Manhattan College in the late 1800s. Being the Prefect of Discipline as well as the coach of the team, it fell to Brother Jasper to supervise the student fans at every home game. On one particularly hot and muggy day in 1882, during the seventh inning against a semi-pro team called the Metropolitans, the Prefect noticed his charges becoming restless. To break the tension, he called a time-out in the game and instructed everyone in the bleachers to stand up and unwind. It worked so well he began calling for a seventh-inning rest period at every game. The Manhattan College custom spread to the major leagues after the New York Giants were charmed by it at an exhibition game, and the rest is history.
Is this the ultimate User Centered Design Approach? Observing the fan’s (user’s) needs, the rules of a system (baseball game) were altered to accommodate. In this case, that people could sit and relax for only so long without growing restless and requiring a short break – and that the time intervals fell at an odd time in relation to the length of the game in innings. The rules of the system (game) weren’t altered to provide symmetry or balance to itself. This is an important distinction. Often times in what we do we try to design the perfect design system, often taking the opportunity to make the system itself as beautiful and as balanced as possible. And that’s good, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes an imbalance or asymmetry in the system itself is necessary to provide balance and a better user-experience for the end-user.