The Best Unwritten Rules in Sports
There are a many rules in sports. A lot of them are really dumb.
For example, the delay of game rule in hockey. Dumb rule. The you-can't-push-your-own-player-forward-on-special teams rule. Dumb rule.
And it turns out, the teams, coaches and players don't need all of these rules to conduct themselves properly during games. They can figure out what's right and what's wrong all by themselves.
In spite of the fact that most sports are accompanied by a variety of tedious and unnecessary regulations, players and coaches have created their own set of rules—unwritten rules, but rules that are just as important as the ones in the official handbook.
Shockingly, these make a lot more sense than delay of game penalties in hockey.
Don't Bunt to Break Up a No-No
When you're on the wrong side of a no-hitter, it's probably pretty frustrating. As tremendous a feat as it is for the pitcher on the mound, it's equally embarrassing for the team getting no-hit. In nine innings, not a single person could get a hit? Just one?
But still, despite that frustration and despite that embarrassment, the team getting no-hit knows that there's one thing you can't do in such a situation: bunt to try to erase the no-no. Yes, a bunt is a legitimate hit, and sometimes, the situation may call for it.
But it's just one of those things you don't do when the pitcher staring you down is on the verge of one of the most illustrious accomplishments in baseball. It's a respect thing.
If Your Pitcher Hits Someone, You Might Get Hit, Too
Getting beaned with a baseball is no fun. It tends to leave a mark.
But as long as baseball exists, so will hitting batters with pitches. And just like hockey has its enforcers who hold you accountable when you administer a dirty hit, the opposing team also has a pitcher. And if your pitcher hits someone, that pitcher is also going to hit someone.
You may not like it, but it's the way it works.
If you don't like it, make sure your pitching staff has perfect control.
Don't Steal Signs
You could do it. It would definitely give you an edge. A-Rod has probably done it many times, but that's not saying much.
Stealing signs is just bush league, and fortunately, most of Major League Baseball seems to have an implicit understanding of that. Win on your own merit. Win because you have a good eye. Win because you have talent.
Don't win because you cheated your way into figuring out which pitch is coming. That's just lame.
Sitting on the Bench When You're Not Playing
Getting injured is tough. Not only does it obviously mean that you can't do your job, but it also can prevent you from feeling like a part of your team. It takes you out of your daily routine of practice, meetings and games.
It makes you feel like an outsider.
It's nice, therefore, that most guys still show up and sit on the bench (or up in the press box, or stand on the sideline) even when they're not playing. Not only does it still preserve the idea of being a part of what's going on, but it can never hurt to get an up-close-and-personal look at the game action.
Serious injuries can have some pretty terrible mental and physical consequences, so anything that keeps players somewhat in their routines is a good unofficial rule to have.
Don't Cross the Mound
Pitchers have tough jobs. They get all the glory when things are going well, but they also get pretty much all of the flack when things are going poorly.
So there are a lot of rules that have to do with respecting the pitchers. They deserve those rules.
Here is a shocker: One of the people most infamous for breaking this rule is—wait for it—A-Rod! Baseball's most storied pariah crossed Dallas Braden's mound during the 2010 season on his way back to first after a foul ball, and Braden was understandably enraged. Braden said it's common knowledge that you don't cross the mound in between innings or during the game.
"I'd never quite heard that."
Kick the Ball Out When Someone's Injured
This is one of those heartwarming reminders that even though two teams are supposed to hate each other when they're on the pitch, there's always room for a little bit of humanity.
Usually, when someone goes down with what appears to be a legitimate injury, you hear a whistle. On the off chance that you don't, though, you do the right thing and kick the ball out of bounds—even if the guy writhing in pain isn't on your team.
And even better, there's an unwritten rule that whenever play resumes, the team that kicked the ball out of bounds gets it back. So you see, there is fairness in sports. Sometimes.
Don't Yell to Distract Infielders
Hey, look! It's another unwritten rule, broken by A-Rod!
A-Rod created an absolute firestorm a few years back, when he was on second base with two outs in a game against Toronto. Jorge Posada hit a pop-up, and A-Rod, as he was rounding third, appeared to yell, "I got it."
Naturally, the Blue Jays third baseman let the ball drop, because that's what you do when you think someone on your team has it covered.
In the end, though, the joke was on A-Rod and his "bush league" shenanigans.
Tossing Back an Opposing Player's Home Run Ball
When you're a fan, catching a home run ball is probably one of the most undeniably awesome things that could happen to you. Ever.
So having the fortitude to catch that ball, admire it for a second, and then toss it right back onto the field because the guy who hit it plays for the other team—that's pretty baller.
It is a long-standing tradition that fans shall not accept souvenir home run balls (or hockey gloves) from the opponent, even if they could sell them for lots of money, or even if they could serve as a reminder of The Greatest Day Ever forevermore.
It's just one of those things you have to do if you're a fan. Street cred and everything.
Don't Walk Across the Green
If there's one way to sabotage your fellow competitors during a golf tournament, it's this (or talking during someone's backswing, but that's so egregious that nobody would even dare).
Walking across someone's putting line is such a huge no-no that players generally would rather walk around the entire circumference of a green rather than risk their opponent accusing them of such an offense. The reason is rather obvious: If a ball rolls across a footprint on the green, it is likely to change direction or slow down. And that's not cool when you're trying to win stuff like the Masters or the U.S. Open. You can't be three-putting if you want to win the big ones.
Also, if you walk through someone's putting line, it'll be pretty easy for that person to do the exact same thing to you on the next hole. And you probably wouldn't enjoy that.
Stand Up and Clap When an Injured Player Gets off the Field
Injuries are devastating. Injuries are even more devastating when they happen to a player who is on the road, away from home, away from his family, away from his own team doctors.
So make it easier for the guy slowly realizing, down there on the field, ice or court, that his season is over because his ACL is shredded. Absolutely don't boo him for staying down too long. That's just wrong. But when he finally does make his way off the field/ice/court and toward the locker room—whether it's by his own power or by a stretcher—stand up and give the guy a round of applause.
It's always nice to see the fans show the proper respect to an injured player by giving him a standing O when he makes his way off—even if he's a visiting player. It's just the right thing to do.
Don't Steal When You're Winning by a Lot
There's no reason to get obnoxious when you already know you're going to win. When you're leading by double-digit runs, stealing is just bad form.
No, there's no real risk at play when you're up by 10. But that doesn't mean you should do it. Those situations are not the time for your best base stealers to tune up their skills. Those situations are the time to make the game end as quickly as possible so your opponent can drown its sorrows.
Steal when the game is on the line, not when it's just about as out of reach as possible.
Don't Talk During the National Anthem
The national anthem doesn't seem as special as it might have in, for instance, the early 1900s. But there are some things you don't do. And one of those things is talk in the midst of "The Star Spangled Banner."
Sports are one of the best ways for people nationwide to unite over a common cause (Miracle on Ice, anyone?). In fact, there is little else that presents a similar opportunity. So it's important to take a moment during those games and appreciate your country and your comrades.
There's also the fact that these days, many a team takes the national anthem as an opportunity to honor those who serve our country, so respecting the tradition—and their sacrifices—is nice.
Don't Touch the Prince of Wales Trophy or the Campbell Bowl
As Forrest Gump might say, sports and superstitions are like peas and carrots.
No, it's unlikely that if a member of the Boston Bruins had touched the Prince of Wales Trophy after decimating the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Eastern Conference crown, they would have magically won the Stanley Cup instead of blowing it against Chicago.
But it's a fun little tradition, avoiding those conference championship trophies like they're the plague. It's also a nice way for NHL teams to say, "Being the best in the conference is nice and all, but we'd rather ignore that and focus on being the best in the league."
Yeah. If these guys won't even touch the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Campbell Bowl, you're probably not going to see them having a beer-and-champagne party in the dressing room until they've won it all.
Don't Run Up the Score
There are plenty of teams that do not abide by this credo. Sometimes, emotions get in the way: A coach remembers how much he violently hates the team he's going up against, so he lets his players keep right on scoring.
But it's not good form. Sportsmanship is underrated, and at times, it doesn't even seem to exist anymore.
There's something to be said for taking the high road, for looking across at your opponent and recognizing the fact that you detest that opponent and everything it stands for, but still abiding by the rules of sportsmanship anyway. And plus, you still get a win. It's a good deal.
Don't Talk to the Pitcher During a No-Hitter
Superstitions, man. They'll never die.
But this is one superstition that actually makes sense. When a pitcher is in the midst of a no-hitter, he is seriously in the zone. Everything is flowing, and anything could disrupt that flow. Including speaking.
Any measures that are taken to keep the pitcher's tunnel-vision intact are much appreciated. That could mean pretending you don't see him. That could mean steering a mile clear of him in the dugout. As his teammate, anything you can do to help him accomplish one of the greatest feats ever is a measure that must be taken.
Just let him do his thing, and let him do it from very far away.
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