12 Sports Rules That Are Always Ignored

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Nene Hilario #42 of the Washington Wizards looks for a traveling call against the Miami Heat in the first half at Verizon Center on January 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Sometime a long, long time ago, people got together to make up the rules of a number of different sports, believing that, to even the playing field and keep the dignity of the game alive, these rules would be enforced till the end of time.

Whether by design or choice, though, we've seen a few of these rules sort of just disappear from getting called, as players have taken advantage of them and officials have, seemingly, just allowed them to go unnoticed.

There's no telling why that happened, but it did, so here are the sports rules that are always ignored.

 

12. Hand-Checking in Basketball

Unlike the old days where basketball defenders were able to hand-check offensive players to try to disrupt their rhythm, rules were adjusted so that, surprise, more points were being scored because it was better entertainment for fans.

That said, it's not as if refs always stick to that type of officiating, as hand-checking is prominent in every game, especially when the games matter a little more in the postseason or NCAA tournament.

Fans argue that no one plays defense during the NBA's regular season, with points being scored almost at will, but it's actually the refs who are dictating that pace of play, allowing on-ball defenders to return to light hand-checking once the stakes get higher.

In the words of current SMU men's hoops coach, Larry Brown, per NBA.com:

"You can't even touch a guy now," said then-Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown in 2009. "The college game is much more physical than our game. I always tease Michael [Jordan], if he played today, he'd average 50."

That may be true, but not when refs allow defenders to harass opposing players by letting this rule go. 

 

11. Double Play "Neighborhood" Rule in Baseball

For as long as baseball fans can remember, the "neighborhood" rule in baseball was one of the most lenient in the sport, as umpires often used common sense rather than risk an infielder getting injured by a runner caving in on him.

Of course, that's not always the case, as some umps have actually determined that a player didn't touch a base, but that was just the exception to the rule.

With MLB passing a new rule that will have umpires review a questionable double play, though, the neighborhood play of just tapping the bag may be gone forever. Then again, maybe the boys in blue stick to what they know best and call a runner out even if an infielder doesn't stomp on the bag beforehand.

As long as this is consistent both ways, teams probably won't complain.

 

10. Six-Second Rule for Goalies in Soccer

Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

In a sport with an undefined game clock, teams and players will do almost anything they can to get an edge in that department.

That's why soccer goalies aren't shy in testing their luck with officials when holding onto a ball longer than the six seconds that the rule calls for, hoping that precious seconds tick off the clock when his or her team holds a lead.

It's not quite an unwritten rule of soccer because, at times, goalies/teams are punished for trying to pull a quick one. When a ref does enforce the rule, it causes so much controversy that most officials would rather let a few extra seconds run off the clock than risk the ridicule.

 

9. Goalie Interference in Hockey

The NHL is trying to eliminate opposing players from shielding goalies, leaving it up to instant replay to determine what is and isn't fair.

That's good and all, but it creates a lot of controversy and unanswered questions, because, if the league were honest with itself, it would understand that goalie interference happens on nearly every single goal.

It's just nature of the sport, as players look to eliminate the vision of netminders by posting up in front of their net as a teammate sets up for a slap shot.

Rather than risk low-scoring games and stoppages with reviews, referees only call goalie interference in the most extreme cases, which, like others on this list, isn't always a bad thing.

 

8. 10-Second Rule for Free-Throw Shooter in Basketball

Once in a blue moon, NBA officials will actually call a 10-second violation when a player takes longer than he should to shoot a free throw, but, as I said, it's about as rare as a Stephen Curry air ball these days.

Maybe it's because refs understand how dumb the rule is to begin with, as players go through certain routines to mentally prepare themselves to shoot from the charity stripe, trying to visualize their stroke while blocking out any distractions like fans and opposing players.

In a sport where a single point can change the outcome of the game, no ref wants to be on the hook for costing a team a free throw because a player took a half-second longer to shoot one, so it's sort of a good thing this rule is ignored.

 

7. Pine Tar in Baseball

Brandon Wade/Associated Press

There's the legendary instance of Hall of Famer George Brett blowing up and rushing out of the dugout toward an umpire after being accused of overusing pine tar on his bat in 1983. But, other than that, there haven't been too many cases of umps enforcing the rule of how much can be used.

More than a batter using the sticky stuff, though, there's a ton of hypocrisy regarding if and when pitchers should be allowed to use it to get a better grip on the ball.

Sure, players have been punished for keeping it on the brim of their hats or hidden somewhere else, but if they're not caught, who really knows it's there?

Pine tar in baseball is necessary, but the guidelines have to be more cut and dry to determine what's acceptable and what umpires let slide.

 

6. Pass Interference in Football

If you asked a football ref to define what pass interference was based on in the rulebook, there would be a good chance they would all have different answers.

That's not necessarily a knock on the officials, but a sign that the rule is always open for debate and can easily go unnoticed during a game—which it often does without much consequence.

There are times when the rule is called way too often and other instances where refs are probably using eagle eyes to see any little thing that might warrant a flag, but the rule isn't always called all of the time, and that can be a problem.

 

5. Official Game Clock in Soccer

The Chairman of the Hublot company Jean-Claude Biver holds a football timer during the presentation of the King Power UEFA EURO 2012 watch's official presentation in Kiev on March 26, 2012. Biver presented two exlusive King Power UEFA EURO 2012 watches, o
SERGEI SUPINSKY/Getty Images

More than a rule that is ignored, the fact that soccer doesn't have a universal clock is just stupid, as players don't know how much additional time will be added onto a half other than a subjective little number held up at midfield—which isn't always accurate anyway.

In most cases, players know that injury time will hover around two or three minutes. That doesn't mean it's always going to happen, though, as I've seen games have as much as five or six minutes of added time.

To give a referee the power of choosing a number to go with is actually insane. FIFA needs a rule that has no wiggle room in order to make sure refs don't get too generous during a match. If the federation doesn't, this rule will continue to be unclear.

 

4. Strike Zone in Baseball

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Like others on this list, the strike zone in baseball is such a subjective rule that it's impossible to really get an idea of which umpires call it correctly based off of the written rules, and which ones are flat-out inconsistent.

 

Look, to be frank, there's a reason why so many people have questioned using live umpires and have wondered if a robotic type would be better for the game, and that's because there's no way to fully determine whose call is right and wrong.

One ump may call higher strikes and give leeway on the outside of the plate, while others may prefer the low strike and be stingy with the inside corner—which makes this a rule often overlooked.

 

3. Diving in Soccer

When a soccer player goes down in a heap of pain, grabbing his or her ankle and crying for help, a referee's first instinct is to think that the player is acting and just trying to get a free kick. That's what the official has been told to think. It's not always the case, though.

That's unfortunate, but it's the way the beautiful game is being officiated due to the rule that prohibits players from diving without consequence.

However, like others on this list, determining what is truly a dive and what's an actual foul is subjective, leaving refs to swallow their whistle more often than not when it comes to players falling to the ground and acting as if they just snapped their leg in half.

 

2. Holding in Football

Let's be honest here, on almost every single play in football, there's some sort of holding going on. Now, whether it's seen or called by the refs is another story.

Of course, a lot of that is determined by the fact that some players are holding to protect their quarterback from getting flattened to the ground—which, if it affects the play, is usually called. Others tend to go unnoticed, though, as refs give some leeway on how much a player can tug on an opponent's jersey.

There will always be holding calls on the gridiron, but to keep the game's flow and not become stagnant, the penalty isn't called nearly as often as it could be.

 

1. Traveling in Basketball

You just knew that this had to fall on top of this list, right? I mean, let's be real, unlike holding in football or diving in soccer, traveling in basketball isn't subjective.

That doesn't mean refs don't turn a blind eye to players who do it, as they allow ballers to switch pivot feet or take an extra half step or more without any reason.

There are few occurrences where a travel is so blatant that it impacts the outcome of a game, but still, James Naismith wrote the rules of basketball clearly outlining what is and isn't a travel, yet officials seem to have forgotten what that really means.

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