Absurd Rules

On the day after the NBA champion is crowned and speculation begins on byzantine labor rules, Chuck Klosterman waxes poetic about a completely irrational NBA rule that somehow ends up making better games despite its inherent (depending on your philosophy) unfairness. Sports strive for balance; they are designed to be non-exploitable. That a minor rule has acted like an exploit for the entire modern history of professional basketball seems absurd.  What is more important: a rule that dovetails with the accepted mores of the game or a rule that makes for more exciting play, even if it is generally unfair?

4 thoughts on “Absurd Rules

  1. I don’t know much about sports, but here goes:

    Is it the only rule that violates time and space? Lots of football penalties move the ball around, or skip/reset downs.

    Is it really that arbitrary? How is his proposed absurd baseball rule different from ‘the current batter can advance to first if the pitcher throws four balls’?

    And, I disagree with the dichotomy you present. The important part isn’t whether you focus on accepted mores or exciting plays; the important part is whether you’re consistent in your focus.

  2. The reason it is arbitrary is that penalties, walks, etc. are usually a punishment for something or other. You are guilty of holding so you lose 10 yards. Or you are guilty of throwing four balls, so your opponent gains a base.

    The difference with this is that in every other possession, the team has to advance the ball the whole length of the court. Just by calling a time-out*, they can advance the ball 47′ or so when there is little time left on the clock. It isn’t a penalty for something the other team did or a bonus for what the possessing team did.

    *The purpose of the time-out is to let players catch their breath, manage the clock and/or make coaching changes. This rule gives the time out an odd fourth use in a very specific instance.

  3. Oh! I just thought of a similar rule: the lucky dog rule in NASCAR gives drivers laps that they never actually completed for simply being the first one off the lead lap.

  4. Hey, I just started your class (Design Tools 1) last night and the intro video led me here.

    Anyways, the half court rule is a bit odd in that it helps a team in crunch time by stopping the clock and advancing the ball for them…but they still need to avoid a 5 second violation on the inbound pass. Also, a team may not put itself in such a position to take advantage of the rule if the coach employs poor clock/timeout management throughout the game.

    Does it invite exciting basketball in the waning moments of a game? Certainly. But it also shows proper clock management and other factors that precede such a situation. Players can also be at fault by not knowing how many time outs they have remaining. For example, a couple seasons ago the Orlando Magic were down by a possesion with a chance to tie. While playing defense, J.J. Reddick came up with a steal along the sideline. However, he either forgot or did not know he had one time out remaining with the game clock showing about 7 seconds left. By racing up the floor and not calling a timeout, he robbed his team the opportunity to easily advance the ball sans pressure as well as the chance for his coach to call a set play.

    In another instance this past year, leading back to an earlier point, the Miami Heat had to play one more possesion of solid defense to put the game away. I can’t recall who they were playing but the opposing team called a timeout in order to advance the ball to the half court mark. Thanks to Miami’s strong defense, the opposing team was struck with a 5 second violation because they had no time outs reamining. Even though they were able to put themselves in a prime position to win/tie the game, poor execution ultimately played a part in the outcome of the game.

    Back to the original point, sure the rule is rather quirky in that it gives a team a somewhat unfair advantage, but it also lies on the team and coaches to A) put themselves into that position and B) Execute properly down the stretch to take advantage of the situation.

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