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Sports rules confuse sense with nonsense
VITAL TRIFLE, BY LAURI GROSS
Sports rules confuse sense with nonsense
I try to pay attention. I try to understand. I ask my husband and my son to explain the NBA draft, the voting for the MLB all-star game, the politics of the Heisman, the reality of the salary cap. I listen. I ask questions. We discuss it. I read a few stories in the sports section. And then I realize I am more confused than ever.
At 13, my son has a head full of sports information. He seemingly knows every player on every NBA, MLB or NFL team -- and a few hockey players, golf players and tennis stars thrown in for good measure). He knows the rules, the strategy, the records, the contracts, the psychology, the history, the owners, the coaches, the mascots, the fight songs, the commentators and the schedules.
I, on the other hand, know perhaps a little more about sports than someone wholly unconnected and uninterested but so much less than most men and teenage boys. In fact, I have put everything I know about sports in this column. It will be easier to spot the few things that I might have actually gotten right than to spot all the things I have wildly misstated. OK. Here goes.
Let's start with the Yankees. They make all their players keep their hair short. They have the largest payroll in baseball. Sometimes they win it all, and sometimes they stink, despite that massive payroll. I think A-Rod plays for them. He was caught up in a steroids scandal, and I think he is married to someone like Eva Longoria, although Cameron Diaz was feeding him popcorn at the Super Bowl.
The infield fly rule confuses even those who know baseball. Here is my version: It has something to do with the fact that, if a fly ball is hit to the infield, there are certain circumstances in which it would be beneficial to the team in the field to deliberately misplay the ball. It has something to do with how many outs there are. Anyway, to remove the incentive for a team to deliberately make a bad defensive move, the infield fly rule says the runner is automatically out, regardless of whether the fielder makes the play or not. Or something like that.
The words "trading deadline" have always confused me. I think there are several trading deadlines in a given NBA season. No one wants to be the first to announce a trade, because that would somehow screw up their chances of trading for the guy they really wanted to trade for. Then the trading deadline comes and goes and there is much gnashing of teeth and discussion about who made out well. Then after the trading deadline, trades are still made, so I don't know why they call it a deadline. When it is all done, as long as Cleveland teams end up with worse players than before they made any trades, then everything seems to be considered OK.
Sometimes the Indians have an actual good player on the team. And then they trade him. Something about needing to get rid of his big salary before he gets good enough to actually help our team. And here I thought the point was to have good players on your team.
A salary cap means that no team can have a payroll over a certain limit. It is supposed to keep the talent on each roster somewhat evenly matched. There is a payroll cap in the NBA. That must be why the Cavs were so evenly matched this year with other NBA teams. People say that Dan Gilbert's deep pockets mean that we can attract big talent to the Cavs. But they also say we need to get rid of people like Antawn Jamison, because he costs too much money. OK, now I get it. Not really.
Some sports allow a referee's call to be overturned if the instant-replay cameras show the call to be wrong. Some sports don't. So, even if the whole world can see that a football player's foot was inside the line when he caught the ball, the pass might be still be ruled incomplete if the ref says so.
In basketball, there is a rule that says, if your feet are stationary when a player on the opposing team runs into you, then it's his fault, and the foul is called on him. But if your feet are still moving and you run into him, it's your fault, and the foul is called on you. Many other NBA rules also seem to be decided by matters of inches.
Goaltending is when a player swats the ball away from the basket when it was so close to going in that he really shouldn't have done that. Blocking is shot is when a player swats the ball away from the basket when it was maybe an inch farther away from going in. Goaltending is bad. Blocking shots is good.
During the NBA draft, the people being drafted are represented by Ping-Pong balls in a bingo-type hopper. There are rounds and rounds of draft picks. A complicated algorithm decides the order in which the teams pick their players. The worst teams get to pick first and have the most Ping-Pong balls in their hopper, so they have the best chance of picking the ball that says, "You get to pick first!"
And then you can get a haircut and play for the Yankees, unless you stepped outside the line while you were goaltending and doing steroids. But, as long as you do it before the trading deadline, you'll be fine.
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