clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

RBR Question of the Day: What is the best unwritten rule in sports?

New, 105 comments

Or do we need to be rid of the unofficial rule book?

It’s the 25th anniversary of Nolan Ryan’s masterpiece

All major sports have voluminous sets of rules. The NFL perhaps has the longest — topping out at 318 pages. Baseball, America’s game for the past 150 years, has some of the most detailed and aberrant rules, no doubt written in response to cheats, loopholes, exploitation, and a long history of weird situations.

But, just as there are forests worth of rule books out there, the unspoken etiquette of games could fill even larger volumes — “the unwritten rules.” Every sport has them. And, how you feel about the unwritten rules will probably depend on your view of sportsmanship and/or how superstitious you are.

Many of the unspoken protocols are little more than benighted silliness, where grownups in a 21st century technological society behave like medieval peasants at the notion of talking to a pitcher during a no-hitter; a rule that expanded into not even looking at pitcher past the 6th or 7th no-hit inning.

And then there are the unwritten rules that seem to come down out of a sense of fair play to the opponent. These strike me as the “good unwritten rules,” and they go to the heart of sportsmanship more than the game situation. Taking the same example of a no-hitter, there is a corollary unwritten rule that the opposing team does not (or should not) attempt to lay down a bunt to break up a no-no...not even in a competitive game.

Perhaps one of the most egregious case of this occurred in 2001, when the Padres’ Ben Davis laid down a bunt during the 8th inning of a perfect game attempt by Curt Schilling.

Not even Schilling and his bloody sock deserved that.

Then, a decade later, in a game where the Nats held six-run lead in the 9th with two outs, the Pirates’ Jose Tabata one-upped Davis — leaning into a pitch to break up the perfect game.

Yes, the ump could have ruled Tabata was crowding the plate / interfering with the catcher and called it a strike. But, this seems a case where the players should have enforced the unwritten rule -- especially in a noncompetitive game where Scherzer had earned the chance to throw the 24th perfect game in MLB history. (Or, ya’ know, the 25th, but for Ben Davis’ antics in San Diego.)

So, today’s question is:

What is the best unwritten rule in sports? What is the silliest unwritten rule, one that we should scrap entirely?