While Aussies might find it easy to explain such questionable AFL rules as why there are a set of second chance goalposts, and why the shorts need to be so short (OK, not a rule as such, but seriously, why?!), we might find it harder to reconcile some slightly odd US sports rules. Why do American football players feel the need to wrap themselves in so much padding that they can barely move? And why is it called the Baseball World Series when only the United States (and occasionally Canada) plays? Here are a few more weird and wonderful rules from the US that might help you get your head around the games this season.
1. Ice Hockey
The players are actually allowed to beat the crap out of each other in a game of ice hockey. There’s a comically long list of fighting regulations in the official National Hockey League (NHL) rule book, but referees have a lot of flexibility in imposing penalties. Fights are generally consensual - if you don’t want to fight, you simply turn your back, and the “enforcers” have to drop their sticks and gloves before a fight. Rules are rules though - helmets must stay on or the refs jump in.
In the National Football League (NFL), the quarterback (QB) has a radio inside his helmet so he can receive instructions for the next play directly from the coach. It’s a one-way radio so the QB can’t talk back, and there is a guy whose sole job it is to cut off the radio communications 15 seconds before the play clock ticks down to zero. For those last 15 seconds, the QB is on his own. Sadly the emergence of headsets have cut down on the amount of sometimes comical signals that pass between the coach and QB to telegraph the next play. Luckily, signs and signals such as arm patting, ear pulling and nose tapping are still alive and well in baseball.
Remember the movie A League of Their Own and the scene where Madonna’s character miraculously caught a fly ball in her cap? In real life, no can do. The official rules of Major League Baseball (MLB) state that if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person, the runner is awarded three bases, and can attempt to run home.
We could go on and on about the excruciating, endless timeouts in the National Basketball Association (NBA) that make the final two minutes of the game extend for an extra hour and a half (we’re exaggerating, but just barely). But the silliest rule in basketball is if a player accidentally tips the ball into his own net, the nearest offensive player from the opposing team gets the credit for the basket. We get that the basket needs to be counted, but does a particular player have to take the points? Apparently yes. Because, statistics.
Would you believe that the ball does not actually have to touch the ground for a touchdown to be scored in the NFL? In 1889, the provision to touch the ball to the ground in order to score a goal was removed and now a touchdown is scored the instant the ball crosses the goal line. If they feel the urge, the player can somersault over the line or dance a jig all the way to the goal posts, just so as long as they have full control of the ball. Maybe they need a new name for it then?!
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