Top 15 Dumbest Rules in Sports

Rules are essential for any kind of game or sport, as without them it would be pure chaos. The majority of rules in sports around the world are logical and help keep the game both entertaining and fair, but there are also a whole host of rules that seem to make no sense whatsoever. Many of these strange rules are from when the game was first created, so as things have changed and developed over the years these rules now seem redundant, but they are still used to stay traditional. There are also a few newer rules brought in to improve games, but have in fact had the adverse effect. You find these odd rules in sports all around the world, and they leave many of us sports fans screaming at the television in frustration. It is not just the fans that these dumb rules aggravate; they are also infuriating for the players and even those that the rule benefits as they disrupt the flow of the game.

When these rules pop up you will often see the referees getting an earful, but it is not their fault and they are just doing their job. It is rare to see the rules being changed (although occasional alterations have been made), removed or added to most sports, but perhaps it is time to dust off a few of the rule books and make some much needed changes. Each major sport has millions of fans around the world that love both playing and watching the sport and this will never change, but games could be much improved with a few tweaks. These alternations would make proceedings more entertaining and fair, and they may also help to keep the flow of the game going. For example, basketball is a fast-paced, free flowing game which can be highly entertaining, but due to certain rules it means that this is often disrupted with dozens of free throws (the most boring part of the game).

Here are some of the dumbest rules in sports.

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15 Baseball managers in uniforms

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It is not a rule that baseball managers have to wear their team’s uniform, but according to rules, the dugout is reserved for those in uniform. Although it is not disruptive to play at all, it still seems a bit absurd. They are not playing, so why should they have to wear what the players are wearing? It is also often not a pretty sight, with plenty of managers looking quite silly in their team’s uniform being much older and no longer in the best shape of their life. Can you imagine Gregg Popovich patrolling the sidelines in San Antonio shorts and a jersey?

14 Puck-over-glass rule

The puck-over-glass rule was brought in following the 2005 lockout, and was introduced to speed up play and stop delay of games from occurring. The rule states that a minor penalty is enforced if a player in his own zone shoots the puck over the glass. This is something that rarely happened, and it was often the result of bad luck instead of a blatant time wasting tactic. Instead of a minor penalty, there are calls for any shots over the glass to be treated the same as icing. In 2006, this rule determined the outcome of a Game 7 between the Sabres and Hurricanes despite it being a clear accident from Brian Campbell.

Referees often call penalties on judgment, game situations, etc... but ALWAYS call this penalty when the infraction occurs. Headshots are sometimes missed, hooking infractions can slide but THIS always has to be called? There's no logic to it whatsoever.

13 One foot down

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

College football having significantly different rules to those of the NFL seems particularly strange, as it does not prepare players for the pros and can make adjusting to the league a challenge. In college football, a player only has to have one foot down and control of the ball for it to be legal, whereas the NFL has a two feet down rule on catches. In addition to better preparing players that will be going pro, it also helps college QB’s to improve as they need to be more accurate on any play along the sidelines.

12 Pine Tar

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was ejected from the game for having pine tar on the back of his neck. Pine tar can be used to add grip to wooden bats, but only up to 18 inches, otherwise it is deemed excessive. Pitchers are not allowed to apply a foreign substance to the ball, but it is known that everyone uses it and this is to give better grip on the ball and so that it won’t go flying out of your hand. The only reason Pineda got ejected was because it was so obvious, suggesting that umpires are aware of the substance being used but turn a blind eye. More or less everyone in the game is okay with it being used, so it should be made legal or they should at least become more consistent with the rule.

11 Down without contact

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In college football a player is considered down if any part of their body other than their hands and feet touch the ground, so even if a player were to momentarily slip and their knee hit the ground, they would be deemed down. Players should be able to get up and run if you go down under no contact. In the NFL a player is active until he is tackled or forced down, and this means that the two games differ quite heavily. The down without contact rule is supposed to protect players from unnecessary contact, but it is a contact sport and players should be able to continue after slipping.

10 30 Minutes of Extra Time

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

Ninety minutes is a long time to play football, so the decision to play a full half hour extra in games that must be decided seems a bit much. By the time the second half of extra time is being played the quality of football rapidly deteriorates, many players go down with injuries or cramp and both the players and fans are only thinking about one thing; penalties. This means that if a goal is scored in this period (and they are often very sloppy ones), fans almost feel disappointed they don’t get to see penalties which are one of most tense moments in all of sports. An extra time session of 15 minutes would be enough, and if a winner was not determined then it should go to penalties.

9 Designated hitter

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The DH rule is one that has been hotly debated over the years, and will polarize many baseball fans. This rule allows teams in the AL to have one player on the team that bats in place of the pitcher (who is generally the worst hitter); this player is known as a designated hitter. The rule was brought in to increase scoring, but many fans feel it is detrimental to the game. It seems unfair that pitchers in the AL get a lot more rest than NL pitchers, and many fans do not like the creation of classes of players which divides the team. The DH rule has also created an entire generation of “batting cage players”, who instead of working to improve each area of their game they simply excel at the plate, which is just one aspect of the sport.

8 Jump Ball

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’m all for a jump ball to determine possession instead of the possession arrow (more on this later), and this is because it encourages players to dive on the floor and earn the ball. When two players have the ball tied up, a jump ball seems a fair way to determine which team gets the ball. Not when these two players are a 6-foot point guard and a 7-foot center however, and when this happens you will often see the smaller player not even jump to contest the ball. Instead, once a jump ball is called each team should be able to nominate a player to go in for it (their tallest/most athletic) like at the start of the game.

7 Booking for over the top goal celebrations


Football (soccer) is a low scoring game, which makes any goal scored in the game highly important. This is evident by how passionate the players are, and also how the fans react both in the stadium and at home. Players will often react to scoring a goal with a passionate, instinctive celebration. If this celebration is deemed excessive by the referee, the player is given a yellow card. This seems absurd, as scoring goals is what football is all about and players will always celebrate wildly. “Excessive celebrating” includes shushing the crowd and taking off your shirt after scoring, which is an automatic yellow. Football players like celebrating wildly and of course taking their shirts off, and a yellow card isn’t going to stop them from doing it.

Ditto for American football.

6 Possession arrow

via favero.com

If a team wants the ball, they should have to earn it. The possession arrow is used in college and high school, and is used to determine possession after the ball is tied up or in a few other situations. The loser of the opening tip is awarded the possession arrow which will then alter with each usage. This is used to speed up the game, but the possession arrow is certainly not the best solution. Towards the end of the game the team on defence may make a stellar defensive play, but the arrow may determine that they remain on defence whereas they should have a chance to gain possession. As determined earlier, the jump ball is also flawed as it favours the taller or more athletic, but if teams could nominate a player to go in for the jump it would be the best solution in these situations.

5 Point for a loss in overtime

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Although overtime games are always exciting, a team should not earn anything from a loss. In the 90’s a rule was introduced in the NHL where teams that lost in overtime would be awarded a point, which means that teams could climb the standings and gain important playoff spots even through losing.

It was also possible for teams to tie, where they would both earn a point if no team prevailed after overtime. Shootouts were introduced after the lockout to ensure that there was a winner and that teams would not play for a draw, but they decided to keep the point for overtime losses rule. It means that games vary in how many points they are worth, when really every game should be worth the same.

4 Boxing Scoring

Chris Farina - Top Rank

The boxing scoring system is hugely flawed, and there have been countless fights which have ended very controversially. The way points are scored is subjective, so there will always be heated debates as well as accusations of match fixing. This clearly does the reputation of the sport no favours, so something needs to be done to ensure that it is fair and free from suspicion. Open scoring (where judge’s scores are made public after each round) has been criticized, with another option being forming an organization for judges where they can be trained and developed. It is a much discussed topic, and hopefully one day we will see a change which will make bouts fairer, more objective and free from scandal.

3 Lack of intentional walk rule

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This entry is not a rule, but instead a lack of one. There are few things as frustrating in sports as an intentional walk, where a quality hitter is deliberately put on base by the pitcher. It goes against what makes competitive sport so great, which is seeing people use their athletic ability and intellect against one another. With an intentional walk, it completely avoids this and deprives the fans of seeing a team’s best player in action. “The avoidance of baseball”, as it has accurately been called, should be eradicated from the game, but how to go about doing this is not so clear.

2 Winner of All-Star game gets home field advantage

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Although entertaining (at times), the All-Star game is little more than a fun exhibition game, so it should not be used to determine something as crucial as home field advantage come the World Series. This is especially true when you consider how many of the players involved in the game are not there based on their performances, but instead based on their popularity despite having a mediocre season, such as Derek Jeter last July who was voted in as he was retiring at the end of the season. Regular season record is used throughout the league playoffs, so why change it for the World Series?

1 NFL overtime coin toss

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When a game in the NFL goes to overtime, if the first team to score a touchdown wins the game. Or, if the first team with possession merely kicks a field goal, then the other team gets one chance with the ball to match it, or win the game with a touchdown of their own. From there on, it becomes sudden death.

This gives a huge advantage to the team with the first possession. Possession is determined by a simple coin toss, meaning it could all come down to luck after a hard fought 60 minutes of play. It seems a slightly prehistoric approach, and particularly when all kinds of fantastic technology is being used to improve games. A better alternative would be to give possession to the team with the most yards in regulation, or alternatively to give the loser of the toss a possession even if the other team scores a touchdown on their opening drive.

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