(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Obscure Sports Rules We Need To See

Rob Joyce
October 17, 2019 - 3:20 pm

In the forever ongoing effort to grow the game, the second of four NFL games in London this season gave Brits and Americans alike quite the twist on Sunday, with one of the most bizarre, mostly unknown rules was put into effect. In the final seconds of the first half the Panthers called for a fair catch on a punt near midfield. That allowed Carolina to take advantage of the fair catch free kick rule, where on the ensuing play directly after a fair catch, you can try an uncontested free kick on the next play.

Though the Panthers missed the attempt, it lit up early-morning social media. It was the first fair catch free kick attempt in five years, and one hasn’t been converted since the 1970s. In short – we need more of this type of obscurity in our lives. What other rules are out there, just waiting to be used? We scoured the rulebooks and found these five:

“One-point safety” (NFL):

It’s chaos of the highest order. If a PAT try (extra point or two-point conversion attempt) winds up as a safety, it’s worth one point, not two. Imagine the scenario that would have to take place: the extra point is blocked or the two-point try intercepted and brought back all the way to the kicking team’s end zone.

From there, the defense would have to fumble the ball into said end zone, where it either goes out of bounds or the kicking team recovers and is downed there. Or, conversely, the defense blocks the attempt, tries to pick up the ball and is tackled in the end zone, or intercepts it in the field of play, backtracks into the end zone and gets tackled. All of that bedlam for what would be a two-point swing (6-1 as opposed to 7-0).

“The rouge” (CFL):

For anyone who follows the Canadian Football League this isn’t necessarily “obscure” but it would be an interesting adaptation to the American game. If either a punt or a missed field goal travels through the end zone without being returned, the kicking team receives a point. Though this could be tweaked for the NFL – say, if a kickoff goes through the uprights – imagine some of the league’s coaches get twisted into even more of a pretzel to crunch numbers if the rouge existed. Also, a 1-0 miracle game would be in play.

“Hit by pitch while stealing home” (MLB):

“Taking one for the team” can be a common adage this time of year, as the stakes of the postseason are high and wearing a fastball on the arm can sometimes be worth the impending bruise. This, however, is a whole different level. The theft of home isn’t exactly commonplace anymore, but it can theoretically come with a twist: if the base runner gets hit by the pitch, it becomes a dead ball and he is ruled safe, with all runners advancing. That would take Flash-like speed and (of course) not having the batter swing, but Trea Turner, don’t be afraid to try it this week!

“Players as referees” (NHL):

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

With the addition of video replay for things like offside, officiating a fast-paced, fluid sport like hockey is hard enough for the professionals. Now imagine the players being the officials for a game? The NHL rule book states that if the referee and linesmen are unable to partake in the game for any reason, and no replacements can be found, then a player from each team will act in their place. There are so many questions: what would they wear? Who do you pick? Are you sure everyone on your team even knows all the rules? It needs to happen ASAP.

“Six players on court” (NBA):

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

You don’t exactly need to be a basketball junkie to know that a regulation game features five players aside. But... what if you used six players? Obviously that would be illegal, but the onus is on the referees to notice. If a team trotted out six players, play could go on as long as possible and everything would count. Once the refs realize the error, of course, the offending team would receive a technical foul. Assuming the opposing team has eyes and can count – not to mention the fans – this likely wouldn’t last long. Still, add a sixth shooter on the Warriors for one possession and trade three points for two? Do it!!