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The 10 Dumbest Rules in Sports
Considering the enormous popularity of world-wide sports, bringing in billions in annual revenue and with major events reaching more eye-balls than anything else televised, it's hard to believe some of the ridiculous rules that still exist across various sports. This list is a breakdown of the ten most illogical rules that are contained within the actual games (so no complaining about overtime formats, the BCS system, why a baseball closer can blow a save and get the win, or why the foul pole isn't called the fair pole). Also, because golf has more ridiculous rules than all of the other major sports combined, I've decided to leave it out altogether and will dedicate some time to unfair golf rules later.

10. Only One Foot Down for a Complete Pass (NCAA Football) - With the complete integration between college football and the NFL, why not have college receivers abide by the same reception rules so they can start working on getting both feet down years earlier? Catches where both feet land in-bounds are much more dramatic anyway (like Santonio Holmes' game winning TD in the Super Bowl).

9. Maintain Possession Through the Catch, Even Out of Bounds (NFL) - A receiver cuts towards the sideline, catches the ball while dragging both toes, then when he falls and hits the ground out-of-bounds the ball pops loose. No catch. Why not? He had possession when he was still in-bounds and what happens after that shouldn't matter, the same way there's an invisible plane at the end zone and whether the player loses possession or not after the nose of the ball crosses that plane doesn't matter because it's already a touchdown. Too many deserving catches have been negated.

8. Offensive Interference vs. Defensive Interference (NFL) - So a quarterback can chuck the ball 50 yards down field and if a defender holds the receiver they get the ball at the spot of the foul, yet if a receiver holds the defender to prevent an interception it's only a 15-yard penalty? This seems unbalanced, although the recent change to interference only being called if the ball was already in the air (otherwise it's just defensive holding) is a step in the right direction.

7. Trapezoid Behind the Net Rule (NHL) - This is where the goaltender can only play the puck within a specific area behind the net or in front of the goal line. But why? If the goaltender is leaving the net unguarded and has good puck handling skills, why not let him go where he wants? I say let him take the risk.

6. Ineligible Receivers (NFL) - Why can't the quarterback throw the ball to anyone on his team? I have yet to hear a scenario that justifies this rule in which my response is not, "well then the defense will have to prepare for that just like with any trick play."

5. The Tuck Rule (NFL) - While it makes sense that if the quarterback is attempting to make a pass and his arm is moving forward he can't fumble the ball, if he's trying to hold onto it and gets hit why should this be considered an incomplete pass? This rule was obviously made famous during the 2001 AFC Championship game when the Raiders knocked the ball lose from Tom Brady, but the truth is it's a horrible example of the tuck rule being enforced because the fumble should have been a moot point considering Brady was illegally hit in the head during the play anyway (sorry Raiders fans, it's true, just watch the replay a few times). Why no one ever seems to remember this detail is beyond me. Even so, the tuck rule remains convoluted and needs to be eliminated.

4. No Official Clock (Soccer) - The game is nearing the 90th minute of action and as the clock finally ticks down... everyone keeps playing. How much longer will it last? Only the referee knows, as he extends the match based on the amount of delayed action during regulation time. Why they can't keep track of this and broadcast the time in-sync with the ref's clock is dumbfounding. It wouldn't exactly require a technological miracle to fix this, or just stop the play clock during delays like in every other sport.

3. Down Without Contact (NCAA Football) - A player is in the open field with the ball and trips and falls to the ground without even being touched by the opposing team. Even in flag football he'd be allowed to get back up and keep running, but in college football he's down for good and the play is over. Why?

2. Red Card = Man Down for Remainder of Game (Soccer) - This one borders on a format complaint, but it's so irritating I'm keeping it on the list. While most sports allow the umpire or ref to eject a player based on his conduct, only in soccer is that player's team forced to play the rest of the game with one less player on the field. As a result, many games are completely ruined based on a judgment call from the ref, which is often questionable. It's one thing to lose one of your best players for the game, it's an entirely different situation to be down a player for the rest of the game (unless a player on the other team gets a red card, of course). Why not enforce a 5-minute power play like in hockey, at which point a different player can take the carded player's place on the field? I doubt many sports enthusiasts would object to seeing more games decided by the athletes instead of the refs.

1. Batter May Advance on a Wild Pitch Strikeout (MLB) - So the batter swings and misses for strike three at a pitch so bad the catcher can't even hang onto the ball, and he's then rewarded with the opportunity to run to first base? Who thought this rule made sense to begin with and why has it not been changed? If the batter struck out, he should be out regardless of what happens after that.

Oddly, no rules from the NBA made this list, as the problem with that league has more to do with the guys calling the rules than the actual rule book. What do you think are the dumbest rules in sports (other than golf) that I may have left out? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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By: Jay Tierney Comments Soccer, Hockey, Football, College Football, Basketball, Baseball

Reader Comments...
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
I would also add to this list the football rule where the offense fumbles the ball through the endzone and it becomes a touchback and the other team gets the ball. The ball should go back to the offense, at the 20 yard line if not the previous line of scrimmage.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
I agree with most of your selections. However, the two rules that you disagree with in soccer are judged a bit unfairly. The official clock is the clock on the referee's wrist. Most coaches and spectators will start their watches with the starting whistle of each half and have a good idea when the half should be over. The reason they wouldn't institute your suggestion is if one team is holding possession in the offensive third and stoppage time has "expired," the ref won't blow his whistle until they lose possession.

The other rule regarding a red card forcing a team to play a man down is a judgment call by the referee, but there are certain circumstances that must be in place in order for a red card to be given. Such as, a deliberate attempt to injure an opponent.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
College football: The ground CAN tackle you BUT, it can't make you fumble!
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
I don't think agree with any of these, except maybe #7. They all have their purposes which range anywhere from keeping players safe to making the game more challenging / exciting.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
Brad, please explain how advancing to first after striking out on a wild pitch serves any logical purpose...
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
@Dominic - but that's my problem with the red card. If you'll recall during the last world cup, there were a couple of very questionable red cards, particularly when the U.S. was dominating eventual champion Italy before a horrible call (on an obvious phony flop) made the U.S. play the rest of the game a man down. Too much of a game changer based on a judgment call, sometimes from a bad angle.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
I agree with Brad in that most of these serve a purpose. The most blatantly unfair rule I can think of (maybe because it is so fresh off my memory) is not on this list though- the NBA's "advance the ball rule." I'm referring to the rule that allows a team to advance the ball to half court late in the game (end of 4th only I believe) with the use of a timeout.

Lebron's shot against Orlando in game 2 was incredible- a sports moment I will surely remember for as long as I live. Looking back on it, however, it is hard for me to justify him even having a chance at it. Orlando had that game won fair and square, giving only an opportunity for a long lob and some kind of miraculous half court shot. But because of this rule, Lebron was able to inbound from half court and get a good look at his game winner.

The only purpose this rule fulfills is to add excitement and to generate more money for the NBA. How does this add in anyway to the fairness of the game? If Orlando is able to hit a shot and successfully leave minimal time on the clock for a Cleveland response, why is it fair to suddenly take away this earned advantage by giving Lebron the ball at half court? This rule just goes to show that the NBA isn't about pure basketball anymore- the monetary aspect has clear presence and shows it in examples like these.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
In the NFL, when a team punts the ball down near the goal line, it is a touchback if someone steps on the goal line or beyond it and then touches the ball, which has not crossed the goal line. This is a stupid rule, and it does not fall in line with the other line calls on the field. If an offensive player is running the ball out of the endzone and is tackled near the goal line. The ball would be marked at the one if the ball crossed the line when tackled, regardless of where his feet were.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
@SJD - I considered adding the timeout moves the ball upcourt NBA rule, but this does also make the conservation of timeouts a strategy during the game.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
Funny article but an interesting one. I didn't knew all those rules.
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
Nicely done list, I won't quibble with a well-versed fellow ranter so I'll just add a couple things you were gentlemanly enough to overlook. Meta-rants, if you like.

Flopping. I could never run with the guys in soccer, hockey, or basketball, but when they flop and then bounce up after seeing they didn't get the call, I most certainly could and would club them with an iron pipe to ensure they ACTUALLY suffer the injuries they play on TV. Ejection mandatory. Corollary: if your sport is so weak that half-blind, biased, and under-braincelled referees decide your outcome, it's time to change up the referees.

Fighting in hockey? I get why it's popular, but it's still disgusting. Dale Hunter started the only legit brawl in my lifetime, bless the man. For the rest: have local cops on skates right off the ice, and give them really powerful tazers. The instant a fight starts, they're out there tazing millionaire punks and taking them downtown to book them on aggravated assault, the crowd would love it. In the long term, the only fights you'd get would be the ones that really matter.

Have a rule that if the referees start calling something a particular way, the league rules HAVE to change within 1 full season of the event. I'm thinking of basketball here and the palming that's now allowed by point guards. But a deeper problem is the charge/block conundrum. When skill resorts to gaming the referee's call rather than beating an opponent on the floor, you've just sold yourself down the river. I think I actually witnessed (on TV) this happen to the NBA, probably around the time Jordan went for his second threepeat. I was rooting for the guy, but it just struck me as wrong that he was using the referees to decide the result of the action, and they were all for it.

There are some fine points made above, too bad I discovered this site tonight via and no influential sportscasters followed suit... sleep well. I look forward to meaningful sport again after Labor Day...
Posted 5 years, 3 months ago
Regarding the red card rule I would like to say that the game is never decided by the refs. In soccer there are 3 to 4 major keys to look for when giving a red card. First has this player been commiting dangerous fouls like this prior to this foul, second was the player fouled in a goal scoring position or as Real soccer fans would call it was the foul-e the last man of the defense, was the foul a dangerous blantantly obvious foul like a slide tackle about the shin or from behing or were the players cleats up. to slide properly the defender\'s leg should be on the ground before he reaches the ball. the final reason to give a red card would be the player already has a yellow card for a similar offense. And the fact that you have to play a man down after a red card is just another rule that makes soccer one of the more challening sports.
Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
aaron c
With soccer i think the introduction of a card with the severity between that of yellow and red would be a good idea, but still keep the red card. This card would eject the player in question but allow a sub to take his place. There are instances where a red card is deserved (the famous Roy Keane tackle versus Alfie Haaland- youtube it) and the team deserves to be a player down because of the malicious intent behind the incident, even if it was only one player's actions. But in situations like in the 2006 Champions League Final when Lehmann (Arsenal's keeper) got sent off harshly early in the game (again, youtube it), it ruined the rest of the game. This new card would have allowed Arsenal to use their sub keeper and still have 11 players, while Arsenal still suffer as they have to use their second keeper
Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
It is quite clear that you have not played soccer at any level if you find the red card rule 'dumb'. Some of the greatest matches I have played in and watched have been where a team goes a man down and goes onto win. It is true that in some situation a red card is rewarded wrongly, but almost every football match is shrouded in controversy and that's the way us players and watchers of the game like it.
Posted 5 years, 2 months ago
The strikeout rule only applies if first base is open. If the runner is able to reach first base before the catcher can retreive the ball and either tag the batter out or throw him out at first base, then the runner is safe on an error. This applies to any other error that is recorded. The batter does not get credit for a hit, his batting average does not go up and an out is not recorded.
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