Wacky rules in sports can make your head spin

March 12, 2020 — by Benjamin Li

When rare circumstances occur in sports, oddly specific rules can come from them.

In basketball, teams are not allowed to score on their own basket. At a glance, this may seem like a pointless and redundant rule, but when taking a closer look, there is a specific reason that it was implemented into the game.

With only a minute left on the clock to play in the game, the Real Madrid basketball team sat tied with Ignis Varese. Their next decision would go down as one of the most unsportsmanlike, yet smartest plays in basketball history. It would also give rise to a new rule. 

The head coach of Real Madrid, Pedro Ferrandiz, had watched his team lose their 10-point lead over the last few minutes and also his three star players get injured. Now the score was tied at 80, threatening to go to over time where an extra five minutes would be added to the clock. With the game on the line, Ferrandiz had his players do the unthinkable: He ordered them to score on their own basket. 

His decision boiled down to a very peculiar Euro-league rule that was in place as a tie-breaker in case two teams had a 50-50 record against each other. This rule states that in the case of a tie, whichever team had won by more points in all their games combined would be considered advance. For example, if Ignis Varese won the game by two, but Real Madrid won the next game against them by four, Madrid would win the tie-breaker.

With this in mind, Ferrandiz knew that losing by two in this game would be better for the future than going into overtime and allowing the other team to possibly win by more than two.

This incident caused so much upset, that the day after, the rule preventing scoring baskets on a team’s own hoop was passed.

Besides basketball, many other sports have implemented weird rules for unlikely scenarios that rarely take place. Take the ambidextrous pitcher rule, for example: A pitcher must signal to the empire which hand he intends to pitch with before he throws. The pitcher must then throw at least one pitch before any switch is allowed. 

This rule was put into place after a near comedical scene took place in a minor league game on June 19, 2008. Pat Venditte, pitcher for the Staten Island Yankees, faced off against switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez.

Upon seeing Henriquez approaching the batter’s box right handed, he switched his glove to his left hand, giving him the advantage. Henriquez noticed and quickly decided to bat lefty, and the continual shifting caused a comical delay.

The empire eventually forced Henriquez to bat right handed, Venditte then struck him out in four pitches to win the game for the Yankees.

Football also has its fair shares of rarely used rules, such as the no-touch rule. This rule states that if a quarterback completely misses the snap, no player from either the offense or defense besides the quarterback can touch the ball without ending the play. If an offensive player touches the ball, it is ruled a false start while if the defense gets to it first, the play ends and a 5-yard penalty is given to the offense.

This scenario is exceedingly rare, as a professional quarterback and center rarely slip up so bad that they completely miss a snap. However, the rule was enforced in 2007, when Chicago Bears quarterback Brian Griese let the snap sail through his legs. Though the defense picked up the ball and ran for a touchdown, the offense was given back the possession with a five-yard penalty.

When rare circumstances just so happen to align, they can produce weird and downright silly circumstances. A lot of the time these rules had to be developed just for a few players; but when the strange are enforced, it becomes a one-of-a-kind situation, often a head puzzler even for die-hard fans.

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