Incredibly Dumb Sports Rules You Never Knew Existed

Eric NewmanCorrespondent IIIJanuary 24, 2013

Incredibly Dumb Sports Rules You Never Knew Existed

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    Sport rule books are living, growing things. New times bring new technologies, which bring new rules. 

    Old rules, though, can be stubborn little lines of ink that are not amenable to deletion. So, obsolete as they are, they hold fast to their rule book real estate. In today's world, many of these rules come across as utterly inane.

    But not all the dumb sports rules are so because they are beyond their years. Some are just inexplicably dumb. Perhaps it was a full moon when they were written. Perhaps the writers got daffy and decided to pen some screwballs in there just for kicks and giggles. Perhaps midway through the project there was a writers' strike and some kindergarten scabs took over the job.

    Whatever the reason, these rules exist. They lurk on the pages. They hibernate in the minds of stickler refs and crafty coaches. Ready to pounce and surprise us with their existence.

    Click on to discover the inanest of the inane, the obscurest of the obscure...

20. Substitute Base Runners

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    Although a homer is a homer, rules require the players to actually trot around and touch each base. And they must do it in the proper order! If the guy who was on first, passes the guy who was on second in the ceremonial trot, the homer is nullified.

    This rule is so steadfast that even if a player somehow gets injured in the trot around, a substitute base runner may be called upon to finish the deed.

    Some of you may remember this happened in 2005. Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler (pictured here) was on first base when a teammate hit a home run. Rounding second base, Kapler's achilles tendon ruptured.

    A substitute runner came out and finished the pony show for Kapler. Click here to see a video of the incident.

19. 8 Player Minimum

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    It's well known among NFL fans that a team cannot have more than 11 players on the field when the ball is snapped.

    What is not so well known is that an offense can play with as few as eight men.

    The rule is supposedly meant to help teams with multiple injured players. Yet today's NFL rosters are 53 players strong. So it would take a tragic fluke of nature to not be able to put out an offensive squad of 11.

18. Don't Shake the Hand That Feeds You

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    You're an NBA star. You make millions. Time to invest, to make that retirement portfolio grow and grow.

    As an athlete, why not put your money in athletics? Buy ownership in a team.

    LeBron did it.

    Kevin Garnett wanted to, as well. Last year, KG was eying ownership in the Italian soccer club AS Roma. He put in a bid, but it was denied.


    The principal investor of the team also boasts a slice of the Celtic pie in his portfolio. Apparently an obscure NBA rule disallows players from entering business agreements (other than playing service agreements, of course) with team owners.

    Sorry, Kev. But hey, I hear Chuck E. Cheese franchises can be quite lucrative.

17. Fair Catch Kick

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    If you are a big John Madden fan, then you might know this one. He's a bit obsessed with the rule—apparently always wished he had tried for one.

    Simplified, the fair catch kick rule is this:

    Signal for a fair catch. Attempt an undefended field goal from the spot of the fair catch.

    The play has probably only been attempted a couple dozen times in NFL history. The last time a fair catch kick actually put three points on the board, Gerald Ford was President of the United States.

    The video is of Neil Rackers' 2008 free-kick field-goal attempt from 68 yards out—a miserable fail.

16. No Advice!

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    Hey Bubba, why not go for the nine ball to corner pocket instead? It's a much easier shot.

    Oh good idea! Thanks, Herman.


    Sorry, Bubba, you lose a turn.

    That's right, all you barroom amateurs. If you're playing pocket billiards by the rules, receiving advice mid-game is a no-no. Noncompliance will cost you a turn.

15. NHL Unpaid Temps

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    The rule: NHL teams can hire a temporary player, as long as he plays for free.

    So if you've ever had a hankering to be out there on the ice with the home team, give the coach a holler and offer up your services. But if you enjoy money, don't quit your day job.

    Pictured here is 51-year-old Paul Deutsch, who nearly temped as a goalie for the Minnesota Wild one day in 2011.

14. Ball Stuck in the Mask

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    I present rule 5.09 (g)—straight from the pages of the rule book:

    The ball becomes dead and runners advance one base when a pitched ball lodges in the umpire's or catcher's mask or paraphernalia, and remains out of play.

    Hey batters, if you're not feeling up to a big swing, then duck or do a little juke as the pitch is heading your way. You might get lucky.

13. Backboard Shattering

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    Few things are more exciting in an NBA game than a backboard-shattering dunk. Crowds love it. Legends come of it.

    So do penalties.

    Yes, the cruel slaughter of an innocent sheet of plexiglass will get a player slapped with a "non-unsportsmanlike conduct technical foul."

    That phrase has too many negative prefixes for me to wrap my head around the meaning. Do the non and the un cancel each other out? Then we would be left with "sportsmanlike conduct," right? And isn't that a good thing?

12. NFL Drop Kick

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    Drop the ball. Kick it when it bounces. There you have it, the drop kick.

    According to Howard Cosmell, of Total Pro Sports, the rule hails back to an era when the football was rounder in shape. With today's severely oblong-shaped pigskin, the move is far less accurate and effective.

    The only successful drop kick in recent history was in 2006. In his last game as an NFL player, Doug Flutie, then a New England Patriot backup QB, drop-kicked for a post TD extra point (pictured here in the video). The opportunity was given, not for strategic reasons, but as a historic sendoff to a beloved player.

11. With Ref's Permission

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    According to a rugby union rule (9.B.2 (a)), if a ball falls off the kicking tee, a player can't just run up and put it back on; permission must be granted by the refs.

    Talk about a power trip. Sheesh!

10. Falling Hats

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    If you're playing tennis and want to wear a cap, might want to consider a chin strap. Because if your noggin decides to liberate itself from its gear mid-play, you have committed an illegal disturbance to the other player.

    The umpire may rule that the point must be replayed.

    It happened in a 2008 Wimbledon match between Ana Ivanovic and Nathalie Dechy (pictured here).

9. No South-Paws

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    Polo can only be played right-handed.

    Because as we all know, left-handed people are all evil Satan worshipers.

8. Out of the Box Early

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    According to USA Hockey rule 625(i), if a player leaves the penalty box early (of his own error or the score keeper's error), and a goal is scored by his team, the goal is disallowed.

    In other words, the offending player's presence on the ice renders this illegal ice time and any gains are negated.

    Makes sense, right? I think so.

    Now, if that same player commits a penalty during his illegal ice time, that penalty is still assessed.

    So the player doesn't exist if things go his way, but he exists if things don't.


7. NFL Practice Kicks

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    This one is not a rule, so much as a rule gap.

    Fans and commentators alike were surprised this January when, in between overtime periods, Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker slipped onto the field and took a few practice kicks.

    Tucker credits the practice with helping him to nail the winning field goal shortly thereafter.

    But the miffed twitter-sphere crackled with questions, accusations, cries of "foul" and "cheat."

    It turns out that no rule exists prohibiting practice kicks. However, according to rules guru Mike Pereira, refs are instructed to tell kickers to get off the field in such situations.

    With no consequences, folks. Just a run-of-the-mill, "Um, don't do that buddy."

6. But What Has It Got in Its Pocketses, Eh?

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    Umpires are more powerful than you ever imagined. Not only can they make play calls and eject players from games, but they can dictate what a player puts in his pocket.

    Well, kind of.

    This from the MLB official rules under rule 8.02(a): "In the case of rain or wet field, the umpire may instruct the pitcher to carry the rosin bag in his hip pocket."

    Chewing gum, condoms, loose change...well that's all up to the players. For now.

5. CFL Rouge

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    In the Canadian Football League, you can earn a single point—known as a rouge—if a missed field goal or a punt goes into the end zone and is not returned by the receiving team or if the ball goes through the end zone and out of bounds without being touched.

    However, if the ball hits the uprights, the play is dead and no points are awarded.

    In other words, if your field goal kick is way off, you get a point. If the kick comes within inches though, you get no point.

    So close gets you no cigar, but far...smoke up.

4. Polesitter at the Back of the Pack

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    By very definition, the pole position is the car and driver at the front of the starting lineup. But a screwy NASCAR rule makes that only sometimes true.

    Let's examine some facts from the 2011 race season:

    In 2011, Dale Earnhardt Jr. nailed the Daytona 500 qualifying race and earned himself a pole position.

    In a practice race a few days before the big race, Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a wreck

    The wreck wasn't his fault.

    The wreck put Earnhardt Jr.'s car out of commission, forcing him to make use of his backup vehicle for the big race.

    According to NASCAR rules, the car you use in the qualifiers must be the same you use in the race if you want to occupy your earned position.

    So Earnhardt Jr. kept his polesitter title (whoop-dee-do), but had to start at the back of the pack.

    Have I mentioned the crash happened at a practice race? Have I mentioned the crash wasn't Earnhardt Jr.'s fault?

    It's understood that the rule is an attempt to prevent drivers from using a better or more powerful car than the one they earned the pole with, but there needs to be some kind of amendment to avoid injustices.

    Rant over.

3. NFL Tuck Rule

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    Oh, that pesky tuck rule. In 2002, it saved Brady (seen here in video). Then it came up with Peyton Manning in the January 2013 playoff game against the Ravens.

    For those not familiar, here is the rule:

    NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.

    And here is the translation:

    An incomplete pass can still become a fumble if the ref wants it to.

2. The Towel Foul

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    In February 1987, Craig Stadler was disqualified from the Andy Williams open for violating this USGA rule:

    13-3. Building Stance
    A player is entitled to place his feet firmly in taking his stance, but he must not build a stance.

    So what exactly did Stadler do?  Use clubs like crutches to brace his legs? Construct a small scaffolding to stand on?

    No. He knelt on a towel.

1. Kickoff or Receive: The Choice Is Yours

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    The rule: Any team giving up a field goal or touchdown has the option to kick off or to receive the ball on the next play.

    I'm offering up 100 virtual smarty-pants points (no cash value) to the person who can provide a logical scenario in which a team just scored upon would opt to kick off to its opponent.